Roll Away

by the editors

Bozeman hasn’t always been a hotbed for mountain biking, but over the past decade, our trail systems have evolved to offer tons of options for two-wheeled enthusiasts, thanks largely to the efforts of the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA). No matter your style or what kind of challenge you’re after, you’ll find it on our local trails, from the rolling hills of Triple Tree to crushing climbs like Garnet Mountain and daunting descents at Copper City.

Where to Go
Bozeman has a bounty of trails. From beginner to expert, there are plenty to match your style and help you learn.

Beginner
If you’re a newbie, head to the old logging road up Bozeman Creek, also known as Sourdough. This all-dirt trail steadily climbs for miles with options along the way, but you can turn around wherever and coast effortlessly all the way back to your car. Note: if you take the left fork just before the bridge (about 5 miles in) toward Mystic Lake, the trail shrinks to singletrack and increases in difficulty. Next, check out Copper City. With its low elevation and drier climate, this destination is excellent for fall or spring riding, and has a huge variety of trails from beginner to expert, to help you progress as a rider.

In town, you can hop on the Main Street to the Mountains trail system at any point and go until the sun sets. Mosey along the Gallagator to Peets Hill, then onto Highland Glen where the trails are packed into a small area, and multiple figure-eights make for fun beginner looping.

Intermediate
Once you’re comfortable riding singletrack, head over to South Cottonwood. This creekside trail has gradual climbs, mellow descents, and loads of technical rocky sections to test your skills. It’s another out-and-back, so you can ride for two miles or ten, depending on your energy level and available time.

Up in Hyalite, the Moser Creek area has several options, all of which feature shorter climbs than some of Hyalite’s burlier rides like Emerald Lake. While Moser’s trails are on the map, there are some confusing junctions, so do some research and figure out loops that work for you.

Advanced
South of town in the Gallatin foothills is Leverich, Bozeman’s most popular mountain-bike trail. During the summer, the parking lot overflows with vehicles, so make some biking friends to carpool with. Leverich is a directional trail and is meant to be ridden clockwise, so you’ll take a left at the first junction. Then, climb a series of relentless switchbacks before topping out along a ridge. This is a good spot to take a break—there’s more climbing ahead. After about an hour of slogging uphill, get ready for a smile-inducing downhill full of flow, berms, and a few small drops.

For a true Bozeman classic, head to the Emerald Lake trail up the East Fork of Hyalite Canyon. The climb has several brutal sections, full of loose rock and steep grades. But your reward is an alpine setting rivaled by few anywhere. Even if you have to walk parts of this trail, the effort is well worth it.

Essential Gear
First things first: you need a bike, and it’s best to try before you buy. Most shops have a variety of rental options, and they’ll help you find a ride to fit your needs. Brand representatives often come to town with their whole lineup in tow, giving you a chance to demo and decide what kind of bike you want—cross-country, downhill, etc.

Bikes are expensive, so you’ll need to overcome the initial sticker-shock. That being said, as a mountain-biking mecca, our town runneth over with deals on gear. If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, start at a second-hand store, pawn shop, or the annual GVBC Bike Swap. If you’re willing to shell out for a new set of wheels, hit the bike shops. Remember that rear suspension is ideal, but expensive—if you’re a casual biker, you can save a grand or more by sticking with a hardtail.

Next, you’ll need a helmet, pack, and multi-tool for those likely mechanical failures on the trail. Plus the standard outdoor equipment: extra layer, rain shell, first-aid kit, and bear spray. Padded gloves are a great option, as are sunglasses. Total newbies might want knee and elbow pads until the awkward always-crashing period has passed.

Etiquette
With most of our bike trails designated as multi-use trails, save for the downhill-specific trails at Big Sky, it’s especially important to consider other trail users, whether they’re on foot, horseback, or motorized equipment. The general rule of thumb is for bikers to yield for hikers and horses, but use your discretion and pay attention. If you’re approaching a hiker, make eye contact as early as possible. There’s a good chance they’ll step off the trail to let you pass without interrupting your ride. If not, pull off to the side, give a polite nod, and carry on. Always give horses a wide berth to avoid spooking them; it’s best to stop early, and on the downhill side. If you’re traveling with a four-legged friend, make sure to keep your pup under control. Be prepared to clean up after your dog, and dispose of waste properly—not in a bag on the side of the trail. Avoid biking off-trail to limit damaging sensitive vegetation.

Events
There’s no reason not to immerse oneself in the Bozeman biking scene at the many fun events throughout the year. Meet biking buddies, enjoy a few beers, and talk shop at these classic get-togethers.

Ongoing
Group Rides – various locations. Several local organizations host group rides around Bozeman. Check out Alter Cycles, Owenhouse, Pedal Project, SWMMBA, the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club, and Bangtail to get in on these fun social events.

Bike Kitchen Hours – Bozeman. One way to get a bike cheaply is to work for it. Donate hours to Bozeman’s nonprofit bike shop and your time could earn you a free bike. bozemanbikekitchen.org.

May
GVBC Bike Swap – Bozeman. Your chance to score sweet deals on used biking gear and last season’s models. Go early and get in line—the best stuff flies off the shelves. gallatinvalleybicycleclub.org.

June
Bike to Work Week – Bozeman. Commuting by the power of two legs is good for us and the environment, and it cuts down on traffic congestion, too. During this fun week, you’ll be treated to free coffee, breakfast, and beer at select locations around town, just for riding your bike to work. gallatinvalleybicycleclub.org.

June-August
Dig Days – various locations. Get your hands dirty and help maintain our trails with dig days hosted by the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association. These events are a great way to meet like-minded bikers, and you’ll get to sample all of the Bozone’s best trails. southwestmontanamba.org.

July
Moser Shake ’N’ Bake – Hyalite. Choose either the 40- or 20-mile race and enjoy a combination of singletrack, double-track, and roads, with spectacular views. facebook.com/mosershakenbake.

July-September
Montana Enduro Series – various locations. If you’re serious about mountain biking, tackle some serious summer competition. Four towns, four races, plenty of grueling uphill, and always a wild ride down. montanaenduro.com.

September 24
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Before the season winds down, join the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association for a day of giving back to the trails. southwestmontanamba.org.

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

 

Lace ‘Em Up

Lace ‘Em Up

by Corey Hockett

Bozeman-area trails are a treasure, no matter where you come from. Like a spider web from city center, hundreds of miles of dirt paths lie at our fingertips—we only need to hop on and take off. Our town’s trustworthy trail whisperer—the Gallatin Valley Land Trust—manages 80 miles (and counting) of foot and bike routes, connecting in-town locations to deep wilderness settings. There are options for all seasons and all inclinations, so no matter your passion, Bozeman’s got you covered. 

If you’re new—and we won’t judge—you’ve got a lot to learn. But even more importantly, you’ve got a lot to explore. One of the best things about being in Bozeman is that you’re likely never further than 10 minutes from the nearest trail. Once you get ‘em mapped out, you’ll be commuting to work, biking at lunch, and going on ridge runs at sunset. And believe us, it’s just as great as it sounds.

In Town
The Gallagator
Every good town has a trail that runs through the heart of it, and the Gallagator is Bozeman’s. Named after an old railway line, the Gallagator is one of our finest commuter trails. Located on the east side of town, with access to both the top and bottom of Peets Hill, this path will take you from downtown through Langhor Park and up to campus. Along the way, you’ll pass community gardens, a climbing boulder, and many a smiling citizen.

East Gallatin Rec Area
On the north side of town, the East Gallatin Rec Area offers a web of trails and amenities starting from its centerpiece, Glen Lake (a.k.a., East Gallatin Pond). For solitude, meander through cottonwoods and willows along the river. If you don’t mind some company, saunter around the pond for a lap or two. When the weather’s nice, so is the water—Glen Lake is great for paddleboarding, fishing, and a good ol’ fashioned swim. Near the parking area, you’ll find beach volleyball and a climbing boulder.

West-Side Trails
While the west side of town is seeing the fastest growth, patchy trails weave through the sprouting neighborhoods and offer a quiet escape to what the locals refer to as the Bozeman bustle. Follow them intermittently from the Bozeman Pond down Cattail Creek to Oak Street. From there, the Gallatin Regional Park is just a stone’s throw away with more trails, water bodies, and a sledding hill during the winter. Other trails shoot through neighborhoods in all directions.

On the Outskirts
M Trail
Like many Montana towns, Bozeman boasts an emblematic hike leading to a popular overlook. It’s a bit over a mile (via the easy route) from the parking lot to the big white M. For folks who want a more demanding hike, take the right fork at the trailhead and head straight up the right side of the slope. Cutting off half the distance, as well as all of your shade, this route will get your heart pumping.

Drinking Horse
On the opposite side of Bridger Canyon Rd. from the M, Drinking Horse is another close-to-home classic. The mostly-shady jaunt (around 2.2 miles) takes you up through lodgepole pine and Douglas fir to a knoll with panoramic views of the valley and up into Bridger Canyon. This one’s great for an after-work run, or, if you happen to be on a first date, our advice is to head here near sunset.

Triple Tree
Just south of town, with parking off of Sourdough Rd., Triple Tree is a favorite with hikers, runners, and bikers. The trail to the overlook and back is around 4.5 miles, with great views of the Bridgers and Tobacco Roots at the top. Along the way, you’ll pass through prime habitat for deer, elk, moose, and bear, as well as a number of bird species. A fair stretch of trail zigzags Limestone Creek, a handy water source for your canine companion.

Higher Ground
Sacajawea Peak
The Bridger ridgeline is home to a number of named peaks, but the one that trumps them all (in elevation at least) is Sacajawea, or Sac as the locals call it. Drive the long, bumpy track up to Fairy Lake, in a vehicle with high clearance, and start your hike at the end of the road. You’ll be greeted with great views at the pass and even better ones at the summit. Give a wide berth to the mountain goats you’re sure to encounter along the way.

Storm Castle
From Hwy. 191, Storm Castle is arguably the most prominent feature rising above Gallatin Canyon. The trail begins near Storm Castle Creek and climbs 2,300 ft. over 2.5 miles through forest and sage to the top of the multi-tiered rock formation. It’s a Bozeman staple, and on a good day will grant you a dramatic perspective of Gallatin Peak, as well as the flowing river below.

Lava Lake
On hot summer days, nothing beats working up a sweat on a hike and washing it off with a swim in a mountain lake. Around Bozeman, you won’t find a better place to do so than Lava Lake. The trail begins at the 35mph bridge on Hwy. 191 in Gallatin Canyon (slow down as you approach the bridge or you’ll miss the turn-off). Hike three forested miles to a rocky basin filled with emerald-green water. A good cliff-jumping spot can be found on the north side of the lake.

Essential Gear
One of the best parts of hitting the trails with your own two feet—be it walking, running, or hiking—is the dearth of necessary gear. For the most part, so long as you’ve got a solid pair of shoes (or tough feet) and proper clothes (read: layers) you should be good to go. Of course you’ll need to bring food and water; other considerations should include sunscreen, ball cap, a first-aid kit, and bear spray. There’s griz in these hills—learn where to expect them, how to avoid them, and how to fend off an attack.

Etiquette
We’ve all seen the triangle signs: bikers yield to hikers and the both of them yield to horse riders. This is a good starting point, but do not let it fly in the face of rationality. As hikers, it’s often easier to jump off the trail to let a biker pass. Use discretion and be respectful.

The issue of loud music is becoming more prevalent in our outdoor spaces. Remember, trails are shared by all. If you like to listen to music while outside, keep in mind that many of us do not. Don’t be the guy who blasts music on an exterior speaker on your hike up Sourdough. Other folks are looking for quietude—don’t ruin their experience.

Finally, the dog poop thing. Pick up after your pooch. Period. And putting it in a bag and leaving the bag on the trail does not count—you’ll forget and someone else will have to deal with it later. Bozeman’s outdoors are great because everyone does their part in looking after them. Do yours.

Events
Bozeman’s outdoor calendar is full of trail-related events year-round. There are always ways to get involved and give back, not to mention dozens of races, community hikes, and weekly fun runs. Here are some highlights (a comprehensive calendar can be found at outsidebozeman.com/events).

May
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. After a long winter, Hyalite needs some love. Pitch in for a morning, bagging trash and tidying trailheads. hyalite.org.

May-June
GVLT Discovery Walks – Bozeman. Meet new people and make new friends on these one-hour guided walks along the Main Street to the Mountains trail system. 80+ miles await, all of which are right here, in and around town. gvlt.org.

June
Summer Trails Challenge – Bozeman. Every mile you log on area trails earns real money to support GVLT and its mission. gvlt.org.

June 5
National Trails Day – Bozeman. This is the best day to give back to the trails that give us so much. Almost every trail-related nonprofit in town has a workday scheduled, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. gvlt.org.

June-August
MWA Wilderness Walks – SW MT. When you’re ready to go deep, sign up for a guided hike into a Wilderness Area near Bozeman. Naturalist-led, these outings instill a greater appreciation for our protected landscapes while imparting useful information about wild nature. wildmontana.org.

August
Hyalite Fest – Hyalite Canyon. Head up to Bozeman’s favorite backyard rec area for a fun run, day hikes, and a general celebration of all things Hyalite. hyalite.org.

September 24
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Around here, we use public lands all the time, which means they need a little TLC every year. Use this last Saturday of the month to go for a hike, do some trail maintenance, or find a new trail run. gvlt.org.

October
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. Summertime is hard on Hyalite, so help give the place a facelift by picking up trash at trailheads. hyalite.org.

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

 

 

 

Take Me to the River

by Corey Hockett

If you haven’t noticed, Montana is home to a unique and dynamic web of water. It’s likely one of the reasons you’re here, to some degree or another. Be it a meandering stream or furious, technical whitewater; a committing excursion deep in the backcountry or a casual float after work; in Bozeman, there are paddling opportunities galore.

Booze Cruise
Come summertime, nothing beats shedding the shirt and floating down a river, relaxed as can be. Maybe you want to cast a fly or lure, or maybe you just want to sit back, have a few laughs, and enjoy a cold one or three. Regardless, the carefree floater enjoys plenty of options.

The Madison is most notably known for its trout fishing or rowdy whitewater in Bear Trap Canyon, but further downstream the river mellows into a meandering channel before meeting up with the Gallatin and Jefferson to form the Missouri. If you’re looking for calm water on the Madison, check out the stretch between I-90 and the Headwaters. Mind you, most of the surrounding land is private, so stay within the high-water mark.

Another peaceful waterway is the Jefferson—you won’t find anything but flat water. There are a number of stretches popular with paddleboards, inner tubes, and rafts. Our favorite is Sappington Bridge to Williams Bridge.

At the top of the list is one of Bozeman’s most famous chill floats: the renowned Bikini Hatch on the Madison. This lies between Warm Springs and Black’s Ford, near the town of Norris. Over July and August, thousands of folks tie together inflatables and caravan to the takeout. Enjoy the water and company, but find yourself a designated driver ahead of time, as with the rest of these floats.

Boogie Water
Whitewater comes at many levels and consistencies, and if you’re learning a new craft, or don’t want to soil your wetsuit, it’s nice to have some boogie water to play in. Lucky for you, there’s no shortage ‘round here. Check out these spots when you’re feeling a little spicy, but want to keep it within reason.

Over in Paradise Valley, the Yellowstone is a lively river with sections ranging from Class I-IV, depending on levels. The Gardiner Town Stretch between downtown and Corwin Springs is an excellent intermediate run. While nothing too serious, the waves are consistent and playful. Further downstream, east of Livingston, you’ll find more of the same, albeit bigger water and less regular. Between Springdale and Greycliff, there are a number of places to put in and take out, and each comes with its own set of intermittent rapids. For surfers and advanced kayakers, the Springdale wave offers supreme surfing at higher flows.

For some smaller water, but just as bumpy of a ride, the Gallatin between Deer Creek and the Lava Lake trailhead is a zone to relish. In this 10-mile section, there are over six Class II/III wave trains. This is a popular stretch among rafters, advanced canoeists, and intermediate kayakers. 

Meat Hungry
If you boat long enough and enjoy provoking your adrenal gland every now and again, big whitewater is sure to scratch your itch. Around Bozeman, there are three fabled runs that are proper Class IV during high water. While each is different in its own way, enter any one of them underprepared and you will come out humbled—or not at all.

The first is Yankee Jim Canyon on the Yellowstone. This four-mile section contains three burly rapids that have flipped rafts, swallowed kayaks, and sent many folks on long, cold swims. At flows over 15,000 cfs, expect big laterals, haystack waves, and swirly eddy lines.

The second is close to home and Bozeman’s most popular after-work run: the Mad Mile. While most folks will link this up with a longer section of river up or downstream, the actual mile starts at the 35mph bridge (Lava Lake trailhead) and ends at the Upper Storm Castle turnout. Smaller and more technical than Yankee Jim, the Mad Mile will have kayakers bracing, rafters high-siding, and the unfit swimming.

Last but not least is perhaps Bozeman’s most treasured. Bear Trap Canyon below Ennis Dam on the Madison offers boaters a one-day Wilderness experience with excellent fishing and some stout whitewater to boot—none of which is more famous than the legendary Kitchen Sink. Put in just below the dam for Double Drop, the other Class IV, and take out at Warm Springs on Hwy. 84. While not the most direct shuttle, the remoteness of the river and quality of the paddling is well worth the longer drive.

Gear
With every activity comes a spread of accessories, some of them necessary, some of them not. Before even asking yourself which type of craft you’ll be using, acquire a life jacket. Even if you don’t plan on using one, Montana law mandates that you have one in possession. A PFD should be number-one on your checklist.

Then figure out how much time you’ll be spending on the water and in what form. If the answer is on a raft, infrequently, you might not need a lot. But if you’re looking to paddle whitewater multiple months of the year, your gear list is going to grow. Along with paddles or oars, helmets and throw bags should be next on the list. For smaller crafts such as kayaks and packrafts, consider getting a drysuit or dry top. It won’t feel good to spend the money, but staying warm in frigid waters is a beautiful thing. If you decide you’re really into it, look into getting some river booties for your feet and pogies (paddle gloves) for your hands.

Etiquette
As with all outdoor activities, there’s an etiquette to river life. One of the biggest things to remain conscious of is clogging up the boat ramp. On popular stretches, we can have dozens of boaters looking to put in at the same place on any given Saturday. If you have a larger craft (raft or driftboat), be efficient with your time on the ramp. Unload your vessel and get out of the way. Putting on sunscreen can wait.

On the water, be mindful of everyone else you may encounter. If you see someone wade-fishing downstream, do your best to stay out of his way. Unless there’s something to be avoided, like a strainer or a big hole, paddle or row to the other side of the river when you pass. As well, be cognizant of other watercraft not in your party, especially in or above rapids. If your group is traveling faster than another group downstream and passing them seems natural, that’s fine. But give a judicious berth or at least communicate, and definitely don’t surprise them in the middle of a rapid.

If something happens between you and another group that rubs you the wrong way, let it be known, but don’t get worked up about it. At the end of the day, we all share at least a little common ground—we all want to be on the water and we’re lucky enough to enjoy that water in Montana. With basic respect and communication, we can all get along just fine.

Events
One of the best ways to get immersed in the world of paddling is to surround yourself with people who know best. Check out some or all of these events to meet, greet, and get out on the water with like-minded folk.

June
Gallatin Whitewater Festival – Bozeman. Head down Hwy. 191 for some of springtime’s finest action. Suit up and race for time over waves and through holes down the renowned Mad Mile. facebook.com.

Wednesdays
Community Paddling Day – Bozeman. Meet like-minded folks of similar skillsets and paddle a section of choice down the Gallatin. wavetrainkayakteam.com.

Mondays & Wednesdays
Intermediate Classes – Bozeman. Join Wave Train Kayak to work on your bracing, edging, and dialing in your roll before amping it up on the big stuff. wavetrainkayakteam.com.

Tuesdays & Thursdays
Advanced Classes – Bozeman. Test your pucker factor with Wave Train Kayak through some of Bozeman’s testiest water. wavetrainkayakteam.com.

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

 

Rockin’ Out

by Jack Taylor

Climbing has a long, rich history in Bozeman’s outdoor culture. The adventurous ascender will find a lifetime of opportunities to explore different types of stone in a variety of environments, from roadside limestone clip-ups to soaring granite ridges in the alpine. And despite our northern climate, the season here runs relatively long—we even have a few crags that are warm enough to climb on a sunny day in mid-winter (if you’re not into ice climbing, that is). You’ll find solitude at all but the most popular crags, so don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. Just make sure you’ve got a good pair of approach shoes or hiking boots—we are known for having long approaches, but the walk is always worth it.

Where to Go
No matter what kind of outing you’re after, you’ll find it within a short drive from town. If you’re looking for boulder problems, in the warmer seasons, check out the Nunnery and Cascade Creek up Gallatin Canyon, or the Overhangatang boulders in Hyalite Canyon. For the colder seasons, a near-limitless expanse of boulders spans between Pipestone and Homestake Pass.

For sport climbing, Allenspur and Bozeman Pass offer a wide selection of routes from 5.7 to 5.12 on quality limestone, highlighted by hard climbs on the Training Wall like Black Russian (5.11d) and China Crisis (5.12a). Scorched Earth is also easily accessible, and while you won’t find anything easier than 5.10 here, it’s a great place to soak up some sun in the colder months. If you’re willing to walk a bit farther, Wolverine Bowl in the Bridgers has the best limestone around, and a bit farther north, Ross Peak offers soaring multipitch sport climbs on rock of variable quality, such as Trial by Fire (5.11a, nine pitches). Just make sure you’re up for the challenge—this can turn into a big day.

Options open up even more for trad climbing. Practice Rock has climbs of all difficulties, with sun or shade, and is the closest crag to Bozeman. Depending on your ability, check out Strawberry Crack (5.7), Rosebush Crack (5.9), Theoretically (5.10c), or Tough Trip Through Paradise (5.11c). Any of these climbs can be top-roped by walking to the top of the cliff and building an anchor. Next up, Gallatin Canyon is the crown jewel of Bozeman rock climbing. With hundreds of single- and multipitch climbs on solid gneiss, this is a great place to progress as a climber. Make sure to start out easy—grades here are often sandbagged. Not to be missed are Skyline Arete (5.6, six pitches), The Waltz (5.8, four pitches), Standard Route (5.8, three pitches) on Gallatin Tower, Sparerib (5.8, two pitches), Orange Crack (5.9), Diesel Driver (5.9+), Tigger (5.10a), Blackline (5.10b), 18-Wheeler (5.10c), Sky King (5.11b), Stigmata (5.11d), and The Fugitive (5.12b). For shoulder-season climbing when the Canyon can have cold temps and wet rock, head out to Spire Rock in Pipestone for tons of crack climbing in a drier environment.

If you’re after an alpine experience, southwest Montana’s high peaks offer tons of big climbs in remote settings guarded by burly approaches. Be prepared to encounter route-finding challenges, loose rock, and complicated descents. Beehive Peak has a few routes that’ll test your skills. The Cowen Massif has some serious alpine rock climbs if you’re feeling up to it, including the Standard Route (4th class with one pitch of 5.4) to Mt. Cowen’s 11,206-foot summit, and the ultra-classic Montana Centennial Route (5.11b, 12 pitches) on Eenie Spire. Beyond that, the Beartooth Mountains hold many obscurities that’ll challenge even the savviest alpinists—we’ll leave the research to you.

Essential Gear
To start out, you’ll need a well-fitting pair of rock shoes. For new gear, Uphill Pursuits is our premier local climbing retailer, while Spire Climbing Center has a full pro shop. Both Spire and Second Wind Sports carry a large selection of consignment shoes. If you need a cheap chalkbag, Spire sells lost-and-found languishers for pennies on the dollar. With these two items, you’ll be ready to tag along with a buddy who has more gear—though having one’s own harness is an important step on the way to self-sufficiency.

If you want to take things to the next level, there are a few different options to consider. For bouldering, pick up a crash-pad or two and you’re all set. If roped climbing is what you’re after, get a rope around 9.5-10mm in diameter—relatively thick for extra durability as you figure things out. Next, pick up a comfortable harness and helmet; it pays to try them on before you buy. A belay device, cordelette, and a couple of locking and non-locking carabiners will let you set up top-ropes at crags where you can walk to the top, such as Practice Rock and Pipestone. Add in a dozen quickdraws and you’re ready to tackle all the sport climbs on our expansive limestone cliffs.

When it’s time to get more adventurous, invest in a selection of cams and stoppers for traditional climbing. These can get spendy, but you can save by splitting the cost with a climbing partner.

In general, be cautious of buying used climbing gear. Metal items like carabiners, cams, and stoppers are generally okay because they last a long time and are easy to assess for damage, but never buy a used rope, harness, cordelette, or quickdraws unless you trust the previous owner with your life and know that the gear has been well taken care of.

Etiquette
We all have an obligation to care for our recreation spaces, and climbing areas are no exception. Though overcrowding is generally not an issue at most of our crags, some places such as Practice Rock, Gallatin Tower, and Allenspur can get busy. If you find yourself at a busy crag, be courteous to fellow climbers and respect their space. If a climb is occupied, politely wait for the party to finish, or find another route—no one wants to feel pressured. Don’t play music if other people are around. As with any outdoor activity, follow “Leave No Trace” principles to keep our crags as close to their natural state as possible. If you have a dog, make sure he’s well-behaved and isn’t bothering any other climbers—or other dogs, for that matter. And please, for the sake of us all, have a plan for when nature calls. Keep human (and canine) excrement far away from the base of climbs. If there isn’t an outhouse at the trailhead, take a long walk and dig a hole, or pack it out.

Events
Climbers form a tight-knit community in Bozeman, and if you get out regularly, you’re bound to start running into familiar faces. Here are some events where you can get involved in the happenings of our climbing world.

Tuesdays & Thursdays
Climbing Clinics – Bozeman. Learn the fundamentals of belaying, communication, rope management, and climbing movement, then progress to more advanced skills such as leading and anchor cleaning. spireclimbingcenter.com.

Thursdays
Speaker Series – Bozeman. Swing by Uphill Pursuits on select Thursdays throughout the year for talks by local experts on everything in the mountains, from first aid to expedition reports. uphillpursuits.com.

May-August
SMCC Stewardship – various locations. Help maintain the crags we love and their access trails with the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition. As a bonus, you’re bound to meet some like-minded climbers to rope up with. swmontanaclimbers.org.

April
Spring Fling – Bozeman. Before you head outdoors for the summer, have one last hurrah at the indoor wall to celebrate climbing and watch the best throw down

Gone Wrong

by Corey Hockett

The air was cold. A chilly breeze wafted through the canopy, expunging the energy of the early-morning sun. I sat against a tree sipping coffee, eyes fixed on Michael, who was nearing the crux. He’d looked smooth and confident for the first part of the route, but now the wall was a lot steeper. He was 15 feet above a ledge on a lengthy runout and getting visibly nervous.

Shifting to and fro, trying to figure out the sequence, his technique crumbled with each passing minute. Pretty soon, with frantic breaths, he clung statically to the wall, clearly unable to solve the problem. Ashley, his belayer, stood firm, attentive, and ready to catch him.

Eh, ahh, shit! He struggled. Then he came off.

His fall ended in an abrupt foot-first collision with the ledge, sending a harrowing crack echoing across the drainage. By the time Ashley lowered him to the ground, both of his ankles were black and blue and abnormally swollen—one was the size of a softball. Aside from his upper body, he was completely immobile.

In a flurry, my mind raced back to the Wilderness First Responder course I’d taken a few months prior. ABCs, check the spine, stabilize the injury. With the help of a few others close by, we splinted his ankles with sticks, shirts, and an ace bandage. Then we created a carrying system to haul him off the mountain. Luckily, it was only a half-mile to a lake with boat access. We called the professionals, and by the time we reached the shore they were there to take him the rest of the way.

It was a humbling experience, a reminder that things can go wrong in the blink of an eye. But all things considered, they could’ve gone a lot worse, and for avoiding that fate, we had our wilderness-medicine training to thank. If you want to maximize safety while off the beaten path, you too will sign up for a backcountry medicine course. In Bozeman, there are plenty.

Wilderness First Aid
If you need to know anything at all, it’s the basics. This quick, two-day course runs the gamut of all outdoor emergencies. Covering everything from spine injuries, to heat illness, to anaphylaxis, a Wilderness First Aid course lays the groundwork for how to act when things go wrong. Additionally, CPR certifications are usually offered with most programs. Local courses are offered through Aerie, Crossing Latitudes, MSU, and the Peak in Butte.

Wilderness First Responder
If you’re looking to gain a little more knowledge than just the fundamentals (and you should) then consider taking a Wilderness First Responder (WFR). Typically around 80 hours of classroom and field time, a WFR dives thoroughly into patient assessment. Learn how to identify specific types of trauma, deal with medical ailments, and build makeshift litters to evacuate the injured. Aerie, Crossing Latitudes, and MSU provide instruction locally.

Wilderness EMT
If becoming a guide or medical professional sounds enticing, you’ll likely need to take a Wilderness EMT. This intensive 200-hour program covers and combines both urban and backcountry medicine practices ensuring you leave the course a medical expert. Study anatomy and physiology, practice vehicle extrication, and spend full days working through intense backcountry rescue missions. Look for local programs through Aerie and Crossing Latitudes.

In the backcountry, when things go bad, they can go terribly wrong. The best we can do is prepare for the unexpected ahead of time. As Shakespeare said: All things are ready, if our mind be so. If you like to get after it outside, do yourself—as well as your adventure partners—a favor. Get some wilderness medicine education.

Study Up

by Jack Taylor

You’ve made it to Bozeman, and you’re ready to explore southwest Montana’s endless expanses. But where to go first? Start out by doing some research—it pays to have a plan for every excursion. Thankfully, you have a wealth of resources at your disposal to find the best trail, mountain, or stream for your next outing. Here are some of our top picks for getting the lay of the land.

Printed Guides
Nothing beats a quality, dedicated guidebook. Build a bookshelf collection for your favorite outdoor activities, and make sure these are included:

  • Day Hikes around Bozeman (Day Hikes Books, $16)
  • Southern Montana Singletrack (Beartooth Publishing, $30)
  • Bozeman Rock Climbs (High Gravity Press, $25)
  • Paddling Montana (Falcon Guides, $25)
  • Cast: Fishing Southwest Montana (Outside Media Group, free)
  • The House of Hyalite (Joe Josephson, $36)
  • Peaks and Couloirs of Southwest Montana (Chris Kussmaul, $45)

Printed Maps
Even in the age of digital everything, a good ol’ printed map is an invaluable resource. For close-to-home outings, start with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s map, which covers all the trails in and around Bozeman proper. It’s available from retailers around town for $3. (For a digital version, download one for free at gvlt.org/trails/trail-map.)

For Bozeman’s premier backyard playground, Hyalite Canyon, the nonprofit Friends of Hyalite makes a great fold-out recreation map in two versions: winter and summer. Pick one up around town for $5, or view it digitally at hyalite.org/recreation-maps.

Beartooth Publishing is our go-to for detailed topographic maps of southwest Montana, complete with roads, trails, and usage restrictions; order print copies from beartoothpublishing.com or find them in local stores. Our favorite all-around option is Bozeman Area Outdoor Recreation Map, which sells for $14.

For general trip planning throughout the state, pick up a copy of the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer (DeLorme, $25). For more detail, order zoomed-in, area-specific, waterproof maps from MyTopo (mytopo.com), a custom-mapping outfit in Billings. A large-format wall map of southwest Montana from Basin and Range Mapping (basinandrangemap.com) will help you see the big picture and make planning that much easier.

Apps
For hunters and anglers, there are only three apps you need on your smartphone or GPS: Montana Fishing Access, Montana Hunting Access, and OnX Hunt. The first two are activity-specific and produced right here in Bozeman by Mountainworks Software (emountainworks.com); the latter is the leading map for property-ownership boundaries and is based in Missoula (onxmaps.com).

Websites
You’ll find plenty of information online to learn about local outdoor opportunities. For a collection of general resources, head to outsidebozeman.com and poke around—all day, if you’re not careful. Looking for specific trail descriptions? Check out outsidebozeman.com/trails, hike.wildmontana.org, gvlt.org/trails/featured-trails, or trailforks.com. For updates and news in the world of mountain biking, including suggested rides, take a look at southwestmontanamba.org. Climbers, head to swmontanaclimbers.org for access information and stewardship projects. If you’re heading for the rivers, check out waterdata.usgs.gov for water levels, bigskyfishing.com for angling info, and fwp.mt.gov for fishing regulations. In the winter, if you plan on heading into the backcountry, stay updated with avalanche forecasts from mtavalanche.com. For general tips & tricks regarding outdoor safety and skills, check out outsidebozeman.com/skills.

Stores
Nothing beats a well-stocked retailer for hands-on gear comparisons, along with free advice from local professionals. Southwest Montana teems with outdoor shops; stop in and hit ‘em up for tips and guidance. Just be sure to buy something while you’re there; Montanans are a friendly, helpful lot, but nobody likes a freeloader.

Hyalite Expectations

As Bozemanites, we have our pick of the litter when it comes to public-land access. If we feel like fishing, there are five rivers within an hour of Main Street. Hiking? We can see five ranges from our downtown office. Biking? Hundreds of miles of trail jet off from town into vast expanses of forest. But our crown jewel is Hyalite. The access is unparalleled, the sights unrivaled, and the recreation endless. And in order to keep it that way, it takes a little bit of chipping in. From everybody. Here’s how.

Pack It In, Pack It Out
There are no garbage services in Hyalite, meaning you should come out with just as much as you went in with, if not more. By all means, take advantage of the fire rings, campsites, and trailheads. But realize that this isn’t your bedroom, and Forest Service employees aren’t your servants. Pick up your trash.

Respect Other Users
Hyalite supports hikers, bikers, climbers, anglers, and campers. Whatever your passion, leave the judgment at home and realize that everyone enjoys nature differently. Bikers, slow down on busy trails and yield accordingly. Fly anglers, get off your high horse and acknowledge that some folks just want to spin-fish from a slow-moving boat with a motor.

Respect Wildlife
Even with all the human pressure, wildlife still abounds. Elk, deer, bear, coyote, and moose are all common, along a plethora of bird species—and most of the animals are pretty comfortable around people. Give them space, keep campgrounds clean, and obey speed limits.

Adhere to Regulations
Due to the high pressure, Hyalite has specific regulations to mitigate problems. The latest is a restriction on target shooting. The short of it: it ain’t legal. There are also timeshare regulations for specific trails, and some are closed to bikes and motorcycles certain days of the week. Another one to note is that Hyalite Canyon Road closes for a month in the spring. For all the beta (that means information), visit hyalite.org.

Become a Steward
Friends of Hyalite (FOH) is an all-volunteer nonprofit that raises awareness about the area’s current issues. They also pay for winter plowing of the road, which means the fun doesn’t stop once the snow flies. Donate some money, or if you’re broke, consider giving some time. FOH hosts cleanup days, and several local nonprofits organize trail-maintenance outings.

Bozeman Bucket List

by the editors

It’s impossible, even in a lifetime of living in Bozeman, to do it all. That being said, there are a few must-dos to tick off as soon as possible, for a proper enrollment into the outdoor life of the Bozone. Here’s a starter list to accelerate your initiation.

Spring/Summer
Hike the M

Bike to Mystic Lake

Run whitewater on the Gallatin

Rock climb at Practice Rock

Join the bikini hatch on the Madison River

Catch a trout on the Yellowstone

Hike, run, or ride the Main Street to the Mountains trails

Enter a classic local trail race (Baldy Blitz, Bridger Trail Run, Ridge Run, etc.)

Fall/Winter
Hunt elk in the mountains

Stay in a backcountry cabin or yurt

Soak in the Boiling River

Sled down Peets Hill

Cross-country ski in Hyalite

Ski the Ridge at Bridger Bowl

Ride the Big Sky tram up Lone Peak

Know the Code

by  Ej Porth

A few rules for Bozeman area trails.

We’re pretty lucky to have the 80-mile Main Street to the Mountains trail system right outside our back door. From campus, you can get downtown or to the top of a mountain—the options are endless. Bikers, runners, dog owners, commuters, and walkers keep the trails busy, making it everyone’s responsibility to follow the rules so we can care for our community trails and respect fellow users. Being a good trail user is a big deal here in Bozeman. Nothing gets you more glares and frustrated sighs than bad trail etiquette. But don’t worry—we’ll give you the lowdown on how to fit in and do your part. Here’s what you can do to be an A+ trail user.

Obey the posted signs and trail regulations. If a trail is closed, it’s closed for a reason. If a sign tells you to slow down on your bike, hit the brakes.

Stay on the trail. It might seem like a good idea to take a shortcut between switchbacks, but this can actually create serious damage to the trail. We need to respect the natural areas around the trail as well. On that note, don’t pick the flowers.

Don’t bike or walk on the muddy trails. Especially In the springtime, using muddy trails can cause serious damage and may require significant repair later on. Follow some of the Bozeman trail conditions on Facebook to see what trails are dry and ready to use.

Stay right on the trail. Just like when you’re driving, pass on the left.

Don’t litter. Duh.

If you’re a biker, yield to walkers. They have right of way. Slow down, use a bell, or call out “On your left!” before passing.

Downhill bike riders yield to uphill bike riders. It’s safer and easier for everyone.

If you bring a dog, PICK UP THE POOP! There are dog-poop stations with bags and trash cans all along the trail system. Don’t just pick it up and leave the bag on the side of the trail. You’ll forget about it. Ignoring your dog’s poop will bring very bad trail karma your way.

Obey leash rules. You’re representing all dog owners—help us look good. And no, your dog is not an exception to the rule because it’s “really well-behaved.” We all think that about our dogs, but it isn’t always true.

Pick up a Main Street to the Mountains trail map at the Gallatin Valley Land Trust office (212 S. Wallace, #102) or at local retailers.

Practice Makes Perfect

by David Tucker

Picture this: you and a couple of friends have been touring all morning, leisurely approaching your objective as the sun swings around the southern sky. You checked the report and conditions are moderately dangerous, but the terrain you’ve selected is relatively low-angle, so you and your partners decide the coast is clear, full steam ahead.

Once your team is above the bowl you plan to ski, and ready to drop in, everyone double-checks gear and confirms one final time that the slope is good to go. The gentleman you are, you let a friend drop in first.

And then the slope slides.

Your team is experienced and prepared, so everyone switches quickly into rescue mode. Once you pick up a signal from your buried partner, you hone in on her location. But you got a new beacon for Christmas and haven’t taken the time to learn its ins and outs. You’re now useless. I’ll dig, you think, but your shovel is old and the handle sticks, meaning it’s half as long as it should be and inefficient. As a last resort, you reach into your pack for your probe. But you’re carrying more gear than usual and with gloves on, have trouble removing your probe from your overstuffed pack.

Luckily, the rest of your team was on point. Your partner’s only partially buried, so she’s dug out and safe in a few short minutes—time to debrief. Even though you had all the gear, your lack of pre-trip preparation rendered it useless when the shit hit the fan. Here’s what you should have done.

Practice with New Gear
Or old gear, for that matter. If you upgrade your safety tools, make sure you know how to use them. There are great new options on the market today, but they only work as well as their rescuer. The more you know about your equipment, the better. The Gallatin national Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) buries beacons at Beall Park in Bozeman, and Bridger Bowl ski patrol does the same below the South Bowl. These are great resources to take advantage of. The next time you’re up at the hill, take an hour to practice using your equipment in zero-consequence terrain.

This goes for your shovel and probe as well. Even small changes in materials and design can confuse a new user, costing a buried victim precious seconds. New gear might have features your old stuff didn’t, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, you might be exposing partners to unnecessary risk. Practice, practice, practice.

Dial in Your Kit
This is important and usually overlooked. Even if you are familiar and well-versed in your gear, the way it is arranged in your pack might have consequences. For instance, I recently started taking more pictures in the backcountry, meaning I carry a camera and case now. This takes up a lot of space and impedes my ability to efficiently remove items from my pack. I was recently practicing with some new gear and removing my shovel and probe turned into a total junk-show. I got frustrated and lost focus. When you’re packing gear, make sure the rescue tools slide out easily and are at hand, not buried deep. Most packs have tool-specific pockets now, but even so, a tightly packed bag can make retrieval difficult. Run at-home tests before venturing into the backcountry.

Take a Course
Even if you have already. Do yourself a favor and take refreshers every winter. Even if you just stop by a free hour-long presentation, you’ll get new information and learn about current conditions. Protocols change, technology develops, and trends shift—stay up to date. GNFAC runs seminars all over town, and MSU hosts multi-day intro and advanced level courses for cheap. If you’re ready to take the next step, local guides like Montana Alpine Adventures and Beartooth Powder Guides have courses all winter long.

It’s never too early—nor late—to refresh skills, procedures, and education. We’ll be skiing well into May (hopefully), so you have more than enough time to get the experience you need to stay safe.