Outside Pony

Pick your poison near Pony.

The area around Pony overflows with outdoor opportunity—whether you’re a hiker, biker, climber, skier, or angler, there’s tons to keep you busy for a day, for a weekend, or all summer long.  

The Tobacco Roots are full of trails, and the best biking can be found on the Curly Lake Highline Trail, a 24-mile beast starting near Mammoth. For a shorter ride, check out the “Pony Loop,” which combines fun, technical trail with long, winding downhill, and offers a 10-mile tour with around 2,300 feet of elevation gain. Start at the North Willow Creek trailhead and climb about three miles up to the junction—to the right is a daunting and fun rock garden leading up to Hollowtop Lake; to the left is a more relaxed loop through marshy meadows. 

If two wheels aren’t your jam, your feet can get you plenty of places near Pony. Head up into the ‘Roots for strenuous uphill and beautiful views. Nearby lake options include Albro, Hollowtop, and the twin Sureshot lakes. Peak-baggers can head up Bradley, Hollowtop, or any other mountain that beckons—there are plenty. Keep in mind that many trails are multi-use; expect to share certain sections with dirtbikes and ATVs.

T-Root rock is some of the coolest around, but there’s not much beta or bolting, let alone a slew of established routes with anchors. No matter—the convenience-minded can head down the highway to Revenue Flats, for drive-up sport routes and abundant bouldering, while the ambitious can lace up approach shoes and head in virtually any direction for sheer walls, stunning views, and, most likely, first ascents. 

Anglers rejoice—the waters near Pony are typically uncrowded, relative to Bozeman. Both Willow Creek drainages—North and South—hold small rainbows and browns in abundance, and the mountain scenery is spectacular. Alpine lakes abound in the Tobacco Roots and many can be accessed by 4WD. For bigger quarry—and less solitude—head down the highway to Harrison Lake or the Jefferson River.

A dozen 10,000-foot-plus peaks rise high above Pony, and most years, thin white lines wind down their visages well into August. Drive as far as you can, then bike as far as you can, then hoof it up Hollowtop Mountain, Mount Jefferson, or Potosi Peak, and find a skiable chute—or, more likely, series of chutes—to take back down. The only thing better than skiing in shorts is drinking a cold beer in those same shorts, hours later, while bellied up at the Pony Bar.