Ouzel Falls- Madison Range
Ouzel Falls, located in Big Sky, Montana, offers the opportunity for a quick hike to a scenic waterfall. The South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River (which is a mouthful, to say the least) plunges over the falls, on its way to the Gallatin River. Ouzel Falls is located just .75 miles from the trailhead, making it a short hike after a long day of skiing, or an attractive detour on the way to Yellowstone. The low grade of the trail is easy for most hikers, although there are many side trips along the way if you want to stretch your calves. In winter, the trail to the falls, and the falls themselves, are the most scenic.
Starting from the trailhead, the trail immediately leads downhill, through an evergreen forest. This trail can be slick in the winter, so wear good boots or snow cleats if you’re concerned about falling. Given the close proximity of this trail to Yellowstone and Big Sky, you should expect to see other hikers on this trail, but these hikers won’t distract you from the beauty of this trail; the entire trail is forested, helping to muffle the noise of other hikers.
Hiking along the Ouzel Falls Trail, you will pass by many smaller water features, and beautiful views of the valley below. This trail has an easy grade, gaining a total of less than 30 feet. What few hills there are on this trail immediately lose any altitude they gain, keeping the short hike interesting. As you approach the falls, a fork in the trail allows you to either cross the river to view the upper falls, or to walk down to the lower falls. I recommend taking the fork to the upper falls, which leads either to an overlook of the valley, or up the South Fork West Fork Gallatin River to the bridge on Ouzel Falls Road. Whether or not if you hike to the upper falls, you will want to hike to the main attraction, the lower falls.
As you descend to the base of the falls, a metal handrail allows you to keep your footing. Although the handrail is not needed in the summer, it is nice to have in the winter, where snow pack and ice make scrambling down the hill comical, to say the least. Once at the lower falls, the scenery is impressive. Evergreen trees line the falls and river, adding to the perceived drop of the falls. Waterfalls are popular hiking destinations, and it’s easy to see why Ouzel Falls is especially popular. Hiking to the Ouzel Falls takes less than 30 minutes, and it is a quick trip that anyone passing through the area should take the time to visit and enjoy.
More Pictures of Ouzel Falls
Directions to the Trailhead
From Four Corners, take Highway 191 South for 34 miles. At the sign for Big Sky, turn right onto Lone Mountain Trail (Highway 64). After 2.9 miles, turn left onto Ouzel Falls Road. The trailhead is roughly 2 miles ahead, and on the left. If you cross a bridge over the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River, you’ve driven just slightly too far down Ouzel Falls Road.