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Big Sky on a Budget

How to have an amazing summer vacation in Big Sky without going broke

I’m generally a frugal person, so for my first trip out west I was determined to have a great time, just not at the (literal) expense of my bank account. Luckily there are lots of ways to bypass outrageous spending on fun local activities in Big Sky.

Here’s how to enjoy summertime in the “Biggest” mountain town in the west if your wallet is…not so big.

Forego the Tram
Big Sky is all about those views; the massive expanse of the clear blue sky and tremendous scope of the Montana landscape make my puny East Coast mountain ranges look like baby mountain wannabes. The Lone Peak aerial tram is highly regarded as the ticket to the best views in the state, but at a whopping $80+ a pop, my group was looking for a more financially gentle alternative.

You don’t have to sacrifice the quintessential Big Sky experience to save money—opt instead to let your feet take you where the tram can’t. There are any number of terrific area hikes that take you through stretches of unspoiled terrain, with the occasional passerby of the elk variety. Our favorite was Storm Castle, a mildly challenging journey that offers views which easily parallel the 360 degree experience of the tram,

Also be sure to visit the Lower Falls (I’m admittedly a little obsessed with waterfalls) in the park—just a short yet steep hike through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but you can also drive right up to the viewing area.

Choose an economical excursion
One of my favorite views throughout the trip was the one that found me staring into the eyes of a lounging moose on the banks of the Gallatin while we rafted down the river. We went with Geyser Whitewater (whose charismatic guides were worth the cost alone, keeping us in stitches the whole time) and tackled some Class IV rapids that were some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of riding. The half-day trip was only $65—a great price for the quality of the guides and all-around experience. 9/10 Jessies would recommend this to a friend (the tenth Jessie can’t swim).

Take advantage of your sweet house
Many of the amazing homes in Big Sky offer outdoor hot tubs with stunning mountain views, so you really don’t even need to leave the house to feel close to the Big Sky environment. No matter where you go in Big Sky, you’re in the mountains—there’s no other way to describe it. Hang at home with your crew and soak in the tub, no wallets necessary.

Okay, maybe splurge a little bit
If you’re going to put money behind one thing on your trip to Big Sky—just one unforgettable, totally-worth-it thing—make it a customized Yellowstone Tour. Luxury Yellowstone Tours are private (so you don’t have to share your guide with anyone), completely tailored to fit your needs, and they’ll even feed you a picnic lunch! My Yellowstone tour was absolutely unbelievable, and seeing Old Faithful erupt with the vibrant green of the mountains in the background was really magical. I can’t stress enough how exceptional the entirety of the Yellowstone experience was for a first-timer like me.



Jessie is a graphic designer living in Waynesboro, Virginia. To go on a trip like Jessie’s, call the Xplore Team at (888) 451-0156

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