Looking for something the whole family can enjoy? In about 30 minutes, you and your brood can be side-hilling up Storm Castle Peak, aka Castle Rock, a massive mountain of limestone that rises to 7,170 feet just inside the mouth of Gallatin Canyon. Featuring a five-mile out-and-back, this trail consistently stays dry in the spring. After heading down Highway 191 toward Big Sky, watch for the Storm Castle Creek (form. Squaw Creek) Bridge; it’s just a few miles from the mouth of the canyon. Turn left to cross the Gallatin River and take a right. Follow the river awhile, then bend left alongside Storm Castle Creek; after you pass the Baptist Bible Camp, the trailhead will be ahead and on your left.
Perfect for shaking the rust off those winter-weary legs, this hike switchbacks gently up the southern aspect of the mountain, affording you views of huge limestone cliffs as you hike ever upward to the summit. Make sure to stretch those calves beforehand—unlike the gently rolling trails of Bozeman Creek or Bear Canyon, this trail always creeps gently uphill, no matter what. When you finally conquer the 2,300 feet of vertical gain and reach the top, you’ll be greeted by impressive 360-degree views of the entire valley.
The gate to the trailhead is locked until mid-spring for cross-country skiers and snowmobilers, so anyone who gets bitten by the hiking bug early will have to park just behind the Shenago helipad—this can add two miles of flat hiking down the access road. And while the south-facing aspects will be snowless (but probably muddy), the shaded spots can hide a little snow and ice, so snow spikes—or at least decent hiking boots—can be a good idea. One last word of caution: this area is notorious for ticks in the spring, so double check pets, kids, and your own nooks and crannies when you get back home.