How To Enjoy The Gallatin River In Big Sky, MT

The mighty Gallatin River that flows through Big Sky is one of Montana’s most iconic rivers. The Gallatin River is wild and scenic with one of the best whitewater runs in the Yellowstone region, world-class flyfishing, free-roaming wildlife, and captivating Big Sky Country landscapes that will leave you in absolute awe! 

The Gallatin Canyon was first discovered by Native American tribes who survived by fishing the trout-rich waters, hunting wildlife, and trading with other tribes. The Gallatin River was originally named “Cut-tuh-o-gwa”, a Shoshone name meaning “swift water” and renamed in 1805 by Meriweather Lewis in honor of Albert Gallatin, the US Secretary of Treasury. 

The Gallatin River carves a channel between the Madison and Gallatin mountain ranges from Wyoming’s Gallatin Lake in the high peaks of Yellowstone National Park north through Big Sky and on to form the headwaters of the Missouri River in Three Forks, Montana. 

The river descends 4,800 feet between Wyoming and Montana with a wide variety of water changing from meandering trout streams to rapid whitewater and is a world-class recreational hub for hikers, bikers, rafters, anglers, and nature lovers of all ages.   


Scenic Drive on US191

The scenic drive from Bozeman or West Yellowstone into Big Sky is an awe-inspiring introduction to Montana’s mighty Gallatin River. US Route 191 follows the Gallatin River from Bozeman south to Big Horn Pass near the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park with many pull-outs and trailheads to access the river. Plan to take your time! The Gallatin River Canyon is a wilderness corridor for bighorn sheep, black bears, elk, and moose so expect wildlife encounters! The drive to Big Sky, MT is beautiful.   

World-Class Fly-Fishing

The Gallatin River is world-renowned for its blue ribbon trout fishing. If you’ve watched Robert Redford’s classic movie “A River Runs Through It”, then you know all about the world-class fly fishing experience that awaits on the trout-rich Gallatin River. The Gallatin River hosts hovers of rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout for year-round flyfishing and is best fished with waders, from the river banks, or with a professional, local guide that knows the secret fishing spots on the Gallatin River. A Montana Fishing License is required!   

Scenic Float Trips

The Gallatin is one of the best rivers for whitewater rafting in Montana and most Gallatin River trips leave right here from Big Sky! The upper stretch of the Gallatin River between West Yellowstone and Big Sky features gentle waters and easy Class I-II rapids for a scenic float trip with stunning views and endless opportunities for wildlife sightings.

Wild Whitewater Rafting

The wild whitewater stretch of the Gallatin River is between Big Sky and Squaw Creek Bridge about 15 miles north. The lower whitewater section ranges from Class II-III rapids for a fun cruise through the cliffs to wild Class III-IV rapids with big waves, big drops, and extensive whitewater. Whitewater enthusiasts will find never-ending thrills on famous wild waters like Screaming Left, House Rock, and Mad Mile. For the wildest whitewater rafting experience, the Gallatin River reaches its peak flow in June with spring runoff.

Hiking & Biking Trails

If you prefer your feet on the ground, the Gallatin River is best explored on the riverside hiking and biking trails. There are endless trailheads along US191 accessing the Gallatin River. Our favorites are the Ousel Falls Trail, a short, stunning hike from the heart of Big Sky, and the Gallatin Riverside Trail which follows the river from the Lava Lake trailhead near Big Sky to Storm Castle Creek, an easy 5.5-mile round trip along the Gallatin River. Big Sky is bear country! Always carry bear spray and be on the lookout for our local wildlife sharing the trails.

Horseriding on the Gallatin River

During your stay in Big Sky, you can even experience the Gallatin River on horseback! The Original Paddle and Saddle Tour with Geyser Whitewater Expeditions includes a two-hour trail ride through the mountains followed by an afternoon of river running the Gallatin River. Saddle up for another unique outdoor adventure in Big Sky, MT.  


Gallatin River Guides

Location: 47430 Gallatin Road, Big Sky, MT
Contact: (406) 995-2290

Take your Gallatin River flyfishing experience to the next level with Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky, MT. Serving visitors to the Gallatin Canyon for over 30 years, Gallatin River Guides know when, where, and how to fish our world-class blue-ribbon trout waters and offer a wide variety of professionally guided fly fishing trips for every angler, year-round! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, you’ll find a fly fishing experience with Gallatin River Guides. Choose from flyfishing lessons, half-day and full-day walking & wading trips, full-day floats, three rivers in three days, or a flyfishing package customized just for you and your crew!

Gallatin River Trip Options
Winter Fishing Trips
Family Fishing Trips
Half-day & Full-day Walking & Wading Fly Fishing Trips
Duration: 1-hour to 8-hour trips 

Geyser Whitewater Expeditions

Location: 46651 Gallatin Road, Big Sky, MT
Contact: (406) 995-4989

Geyser Whitewater Expeditions are the local whitewater experts for rafting trips on the Gallatin River departing from Big Sky, MT.  Situated minutes from Big Sky, Geyser Whitewater Expeditions offers half-day and full-day trips on the gentle sections of the upper Gallatin Canyon and the raging rapids in the lower whitewater. 

Geyser Whitewater Expeditions also offer great combo packages like the Rafting & Zipline Adventure Park and the Rafting & Horseback Adventure. The Yellowstone Pass is another great value package for families with Gallatin River whitewater rafting, a pass to Zipline Adventure Park, unlimited entry to the climbing wall, savings on Yellowstone Park tours, and unlimited boat rentals at Big Sky’s Lake Levinsky

Gallatin River Trip Options
Half-day Gallatin River Rafting Adventures
Full-day Gallatin River Rafting Trips
Daily Kayaking Trips on the Gallatin River
Whitewater Rafting & Zipline Package
Saddle & Paddle – Horseback Riding & Rafting Package
Duration: 3-hour to 7-hour trips 

Grizzly Outfitters

Location: 11 Lone Peak Drive, Big Sky, MT
Contact: (406) 551-9470 or (406) 995-2950

Located in Big Sky Town Center, Grizzly Outfitters has everything you need to adventure outdoors in the majestic Montana wilderness alone! They offer friendly local service and a wide selection of winter ski and sports equipment, hiking gear, mountain bike and e-bike rentals, and all the fishing gear required for the ultimate Montana flyfishing experience on the Gallatin River. For all your self-guided outdoor activities in Big Sky, stop by Grizzly Outfitters in Big Sky Town Center.


The charming mountain town of Big Sky Montana sits high in the Madison Mountains above the Gallatin Canyon and is the ultimate base camp to adventure and explore the wild and scenic Gallatin River. 

However you choose to experience the Gallatin River, you’ll find the perfect place to relax at the end of the day with Big Sky Vacation Rentals. Our elite collection of 125+ Big Sky vacation rentals ranges from classic cowboy cabins in the alpine peaks to luxury mountain lodges for large groups in the heart of Big Sky Town Center.   

Let the Gallatin River be the backdrop to unforgettable Montana memories with Big Sky Vacation Rentals! Search our selection of mountain-inspired homes, find travel inspiration in our Big Sky Travel Guide, or call our team at (888) 915-2787 to customize your vacation in Big Sky. 

We live here, we play here, and we know Big Sky!  

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