Hiking Beehive Basin Trail Near Big Sky, Montana
Location: Beehive Basin, Spanish Peaks, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Madison Range, Montana
Type: Out and Back
Rating: Grade I Class 1
Trailhead: Upper Beehive Basin Trailhead (7,900′)
Distance: 6.6 to 8 miles (Depends on far you go!)
Time: 2 to 6 hours
Total Vertical: 1,625′
Maps: Lone Mountain
One of my favorite hikes close to Big Sky is the Beehive Basin Trail. It offers quick access into the pristine alpine environment of Montana. The trail meanders through a near picture perfect, glacially carved alpine basin. It makes me smile. I have no idea how many times I’ve explored in Beehive Basin, but I’ve always enjoyed hiking, climbing, skiing, and mountaineering in this cool playground. Year round I’m happy to have such amazing terrain in my backyard.
Don’t just take my word that Beehive Basin is something special. The always reliable Fox News, ranked Beehive Basin as one of the “World’s 10 Greatest Hikes.” They claim that it’s on par with legendary locations like Alaska’s Exit Glacier, Patagonia’s Laguna Capri, and Zion’s Angel’s Landing. That’s a bold statement, but go and hike Beehive Basin and make your own opinion. You will be impressed.
Beehive Basin is a fantastic starting point for hiking, climbing, skiing, backpacking, fishing, and other backcountry adventures. For every activity, you follow the Beehive Basin Trail. This makes the trail quite busy and you’re bound to see other people seeking their own adventure.
To access Beehive Basin, turn off of MT highway 191 onto MT Highway 64 and head toward Big Sky Resort. You’ll pass the main entrance to Big Sky Resort and continue for about 1.5 miles. Take a right on Beehive Basin Road. It’s well marked. If you end up at the Moonlight Basin gatehouse, you’ve gone too far.
Beehive Basin Road continues uphill and soon becomes a one lane road. Drive slowly through here as the corners are sharp and blind. As the road passes a house that looks like a spaceship, it drops steeply downhill. FYI – the uphill driver has the right away. At the bottom of this steep section is the always busy Upper Beehive Basin Trailhead and Parking Area at 7,900′.
Grab your stuff and hit Trail 40 – the Beehive Basin Trail. Bring bear spray. Watch out for moose. Be nice to fellow hikers. Take your camera. Have fun. It’s a very straightforward hike.
Almost immediately you’ll cross a log bridge over Beehive Creek. The trail meanders through meadows filled with a bonanza of wildflowers (especially in June/July) and groves of fir and spruce trees. If you’re lucky you might see a moose near the creek. Stay on the trail through this section as it’s technically a Forest Service easement through private land. (If you’re interested in real estate in the Beehive area contact Mia Lennon).
In about a mile, you’ll reach Beehive Meadows and the beginning of forest service land. The trail switchbacks several times here. At 1.3 miles, Trail 40 intersects with another trail. As the sign directs, turn left for Beehive Basin and turn right for the North Fork and Ridge Trails. At this point the Beehive Basin trail is closed to mountain bikers.
As you continue up the trail, you’ll be able to spot Lone Mountain over the ridge line to the south. A bit farther up the trail and Peak 10742 aka Beehive Peak overtakes the skyline. It’s impressive.
The trail crosses a massive meadow and starts to ascend. You’ll soon enter the Spanish Peaks of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Continue to follow the well worn trail as it ascends through more forests and meadows and passes a seasonal lake. Eventually you will come to a large, crescent shaped, unnamed lake.
The lake is located at approximately 9,275′ and 3.3 miles from the trailhead. It takes about 1 to 2 hours to reach it. This lake is often mistaken for Beehive Lake, it is not. Beehive Lake is located on the north side of Beehive Peak and is accessed via the Spanish Creek Trailhead. It can be seen in the image below, which was taken from Beehive Peak, not Beehive Basin.
Splash around in the lake. Let the dog take a dip. Get a drink of water. Enjoy a snack. Try your luck and go fishing. Pretty much any day of the week you’ll see people enjoying this alpine playground.
The majority of people don’t venture past the lake. I always do. Follow the trail around the lake. It continues underneath the towering granite formation called The Prow. The trail climbs steeply to about 9,600′ where the trail dead ends, but the views are in a league of their own. It’s approximately 3.9 miles from the trailhead to this point.
If you’re feeling adventurous and you’re properly equipped and skilled you can rock hop to the Beehive/Mirror Saddle to the northwest to get views of Gallatin Peak or summit Peak 10,602′. You can also follow the faint climber trails to climb Beehive Peak via the Standard Route (scramble), Follow The Swarm, What’s Left, 4th of July, or one of the other technical climbing and skiing routes. Choose your own adventure. Always be safe.
Today, my dog, River, and I opted to head home from here. We scurried back down the trail the way we had come. Before we knew it we were back at the Upper Beehive Basin Trailhead and heading home and back to work. Car-to-car our hike in Beehive Basin took 2.75 hours. We covered 1700 vertical feet in 8 miles.
Beehive Basin will always be a popular destination. Once you’re there, you’ll see why. If you’re seeking the solitude of the mountains and the quiet of the wilderness, you’ll be better off on a different hike – there are plenty to choose from near Big Sky!
View Route On HillMap:
Here are some additional photos from hiking Beehive Basin Trail:
This trip report is from August 11, 2015.