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Try Before You Buy

by Jack Taylor

With so many activities to try around the Bozone, it’s hard to get fully outfitted for everything. Not to worry—there are plenty of stores in town (and in our surrounding towns) that can set you up with rental gear. This way, you can see if the activity is worth investing in, or try out a specific piece of equipment, before committing to a purchase. Sometimes, you can even apply the cost of the rental toward a purchase from the same store.

Want to try mountain biking? Check out Chalet SportsRound HouseOwenhouse Cycling, or Arc’s Bike & Ski. In Livingston, Dan Bailey’s also rents bikes.

Heading for the river? Round House rents watercraft, as do Northern Lights and Big Boys Toys. Dan Bailey’s, Montana Troutfitters, and River’s Edge can set you up with fishing gear.

If you’re seeking a high-octane outing, Big Boys Toys rents ATVs and UTVs; or try Yellowstone Adventures down in West Yellowstone. Both of these outfitters also rent snowmobiles in winter.

Speaking of winter, of course we’ve got plenty of options for ski rentals. Bridger Bowl has its own rental shop, and Round House has a satellite shop on the mountain. Dan Bailey’s and Uphill Pursuits have top-of-the-line backcountry-skiing equipment if you want to venture beyond the resort. Chalet Sports and Round House stock the full gamut, from basic rentals to high-end demo skis—the latter you can also find at Ph.D. Skis.

Most of the aforementioned ski shops rent Nordic skis, too. You can also get set up at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky or Freeheel & Wheel in West Yellowstone.

If you want to get your feet wet (read: cold) with ice climbing, Montana Alpine Guides can set you up with ice tools, boots, and crampons.

Though not outdoor equipment per se, for some, camera gear is an essential part of the kit. Bozeman Camera rents professional-grade cameras and lenses at friendly prices, plus it offers a 20% discount for students and military. It also has an extensive inventory of used equipment, when you’re ready to make a purchase.

No matter what new activity you want to try, Bozeman has it all. The beauty of renting is you can hang it up after one go, or dive down the rabbit-hole of a new hobby—we can’t say it hasn’t happened before. Get out there, be safe, and have fun.

Bargain Bins

by Jamie Rankin

Self-control. Responsibility. A savings account. If you live in Gallatin County, aren’t a trustafarian, and have a gear closet, you’re probably lacking one of these former attributes. Outdoor recreation can be expensive. Take a stroll around town and you’ll likely come across a garage where the value of the gear inside exceeds your net worth.

But if you’re just starting out, it builds character (and even skill) to make use of budget-friendly equipment offerings. To spare yourself the inevitable hit from buying brand-new gear, Bozeman has a great selection of places to pick up secondhand outdoor items.

GVBC Bike Swap
In May, the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club hosts its annual fundraising swap. With hundreds of bikes for sale and local experts volunteering their services, this is a great spot to find the right bike or accessories.

BSF Ski Swap
Update your winter-sports arsenal while simultaneously supporting a local nonprofit. In November, Bridger Ski Foundation holds its annual ski swap. Local skiers and snowboarders clean out their gear closets, selling all manner of snow-sliding equipment—alpine, backcountry, and Nordic.

MSU Outdoor Rec Sale
If you’re an MSU student, staff, or alum, head to the MSU Outdoor Recreation Center’s annual sale. Every October, they retire gear from their rental fleet. You can score hefty discounts on gear for camping, climbing, boating, skiing, and more.

MSU Bike Auction
Believe it or not, some poor bicycles really do get left behind. MSU Parking Services makes the rounds after spring semester to scoop up abandoned bikes, and auctions them off the following September.

Play It Again Sports
Water sports. Snow sports. Land sports. You name it and you’ll probably find it. This is a great spot to pick up new or used gear year-round. The shop is well organized, so you won’t spend hours searching around. They also buy gear if you’re looking to put some cash in your pocket.

Second Wind Sports
Entering Second Wind is like beholding the ultimate gearhead’s garage. They’ve got just about everything, and you’ll most likely leave with something you didn’t come for. If you’re looking to refresh your outdoor wardrobe, this is a solid spot.

Pawn Shops
These small, local stores often have great selections of outdoor gear. Debos on N. 7th Ave is one of our favorites—they take the cake with used guns, but they also have a wide assortment of other equipment.

Thrift Stores
Don’t overlook Bozeman’s thrift stores. Finding outdoor apparel, shoes, and accessories is a breeze at Four Corners Thrift and Cash 4 Clothes, among others. It’s hit-or-miss, so don’t be dismayed if you strike out. Head back in a few days and try again.

Giving Back

by Cordelia Pryor

Although you may not be a longtime local, while you’re in Bozeman, you’re part of this community. What better way to say thanks than to volunteer your time at local nonprofits? Throughout the year, they need your help doing the important, altruistic work that they do. Whatever gets you out there, remember there are few better feelings than contributing to a cause that’s making a difference.

Cleanup Days
At different points throughout the year, local groups get together to tidy our trails, clean our rivers, and keep Bozeman beautiful. Give back by joining them and learn about proper outdoor etiquette while you’re out there. Friends of Hyalite hosts two cleanup days—one in the spring, one in the fall—to tidy Bozeman’s backyard playground. The Gallatin River Weed Pull keeps our valley’s namesake river clean, and Cleanup Bozeman is a city-centered service day before summer. Poke around the internet to learn more.

Big Sky Youth Empowerment
BSYE pairs mentors with 8th- through 12th-graders to participate in activities such as skiing, rock-climbing, and hiking to build confidence, create connections, and teach teens how to overcome challenges in both the outdoors and their own lives. By becoming a mentor, you’ll provide a role model for young people as they navigate life’s sometimes-muddy waters.

Eagle Mount
Eagle Mount is another powerful organization right here in Bozeman that has made a huge impact. Every year, more than 2,000 volunteers serve over 1,700 youth participants who are disabled or battling cancer. Volunteering for Eagle Mount gives you the opportunity to empower young people who otherwise might not have opportunities to ski, horseback ride, or otherwise spend time under Montana’s big sky.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust
Our public lands get plenty of use, which means they need a little TLC from time to time. Every spring, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust hosts maintenance days on the in-town trails to prep them for the long summer ahead. And every summer during the Trail Challenge, Bozemanites take to the trails and log miles, each one donating real money to GVLT and its mission.

Warriors and Quiet Waters
At Quiet Waters Ranch, volunteers aid post-9/11 combat veterans and their families, military caregivers, and active-duty special-operations personnel. By eliminating physical barriers, they promote healing and resilience through participation in a therapeutic fly-fishing experience.

DIY
Acts of service don’t have to be big or even organized, really. One of the best things you can do for our community is small acts of TLC around town and on the trails. If you see trash, pick it up. Reassure a nervous or exhausted hiker, help a fellow biker fix his chain, pull a stuck vehicle out of the ditch. One of the things that makes Bozeman so great is the people—you’re one of us now, so take that seriously.

Get Hooked

by Adam Brown

Congrats, you’ve made it: you now reside among some of the most renowned fishing waters in the world. If you’re new to the sport or the area, the first thing you’ll want to do is grab a copy of the Cast fishing guide. This publication is crammed with everything you need to know about angling in these parts. With a little practice—and plenty of patience—you’ll be hooking into beefy browns and beautiful ’bows in short order. in the meantime, here’s some basic information to get you started.

Where to Go

Gallatin River
The valley’s namesake waterway is a great option, thanks to its abundant public access, proximity to town, and high numbers of fish. The lower stretch holds larger fish and can provide good dry-fly fishing, especially on cloudy days. Farther south, Hwy. 191 follows the river through Gallatin Canyon, where numerous pullouts provide access to the river. The salmonfly hatch can be impressive here.

Lower Madison River
Head west and reach the fish-filled lower Madison in less than 30 minutes. Wade in at any one of the dozens of pullouts and work the shallow river, focusing on channels, pocket-water, and weed beds. This section of river can be tougher for dry flies unless you catch it during a hatch, Mother’s Day Caddis being one of the best. However, nymphing can be productive all year long. Spoons and spinners tend to get hung up on weeds, but careful casts can produce fish.

Hyalite Creek
After you’ve tried some of the staple big waters in the area, it’s time to hit a smaller stream. The road to Hyalite Reservoir follows a creek, and there are many pullouts to access it. Small rainbow trout are plentiful, and a well-presented dry fly—or a small spinner pulled through a pool—will often entice a strike. You may even find a grayling or brookie on the end of the line. For larger fish, head up to the reservoir.

Fairy Lake
Want to give alpine-lake fishing a go? Head up Fairy Lake Road. Once you arrive, dangle some midges or strip a streamer to trick a cuttie on the fly. Spin fishers will do well with the classic spoons and spinners here, too. Patience is key because you’ll likely watch the fish close in on your hook while they consider a strike. You don’t want to set the hook too soon or you’ll pull it right out of their mouths.

Essential Gear
To the novice, the quantity, diversity, and variation—not to mention prices—of fishing gear can be overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t need to fill a whole garage with gear or take out a loan to have fun and catch fish.

For fly fishing, you’ll need a rod, reel, line, leader, and tippet. A nice 9-foot 5-weight should handle everything from lightweight dry flies to heavier streamers. Match it with a 5-weight reel and a WF5 (weight-forward 5-weight) fly line. A 9-foot 5X leader and a range of tippet, from 2X-6X, should accommodate most scenarios. Confused? Don’t worry; it’ll start to make sense once it’s all in your hands.

If you plan to fish in late fall, winter, or early spring, you’ll need waders and wading boots. Be sure to use a wading belt, so your waders don’t fill with water in the event of a slip. Polarized sunglasses are great for spotting fish, and for eye protection from the sun and flying hooks.

Get a small pack or vest for your smaller gear, and organize your flies in a fly box. Other useful additions include nippers, floatant, and forceps for removing hooks.

Spin anglers can keep it simple. A medium-weight rod and reel, 6- or 8-pound test, and few spoons and spinners—you’ll be catching fish in no time.

Catch & Release
On most Bozeman-area waterways, it’s legal—and perfectly ethical—to keep a few fish for supper. However, catch-and-release fishing is the norm around here. But this ethic only works if you do it right, and many people don’t. If you’re going to release your catch, make sure to follow the rules, so it doesn’t go belly-up a few hours (or minutes) later.

  • Land your fish as quickly as possible; don’t fight it to exhaustion.
  •  Use a landing net made of soft, smooth material to reduce the time required to land a fish.
  •  Wet your hands before handling a fish. Dry fingers damage a fish’s protective slime layer.
  •  Avoid the gills. Gill filaments are sensitive and easily injured.
  •  Remove the hook quickly. Use forceps or needle-nose pliers for small or deeply-embedded hooks.
  •  Keep ’em wet. A wet fish is a happy fish. You can lift it up for a quick photo, but only for a few seconds.
  •  When you can’t remove a hook quickly or cleanly, cut the line as close to the knot as possible.
  •  Release with care. Hold the fish upright underwater and allow it to swim away under its own power. If necessary, hold the fish out of the current until it revives.
  •  Bag the bleeders. Bleeding fish will almost certainly die. If regulations allow, put them in your creel and enjoy an organic, free-range meal.

Etiquette
We all hate it when someone beats us to our favorite fishing hole, but it’s a part of the game and there’s plenty of water for everyone. If it happens to you, take the long way around and hop in the next pool. If you’re wading and think you might be getting too close to someone, you probably are. But busy days on the water are inevitable, and a little courtesy goes a long way. Ask which way a fellow angler is working on the river and go the opposite direction.

Fishing by boat comes with its own set of rules. Number one: don’t dilly-dally at the put-in. Rig up the boat and rods while out of everyone’s way, not in the middle of the boat ramp. Once you get on the water, be aware of everyone else, including wade fishermen. Yield to anyone casting from the bank or wading. If you stop, look upstream before pulling the anchor.

Events
The fishing calendar is full year-round, but certain events are crowd favorites. Below are a few highlights; for more, check out outsidebozeman.com/events.

Ongoing
Fly Tying – various locations. Several shops in the area offer free classes, so you’ll be whipping up woolly buggers in no time. Among others, check out Sweetwater Fly Shop for Tuesday-evening Open Vise Night and Willie’s Distillery in Ennis for Bugs & Bourbon on Wednesdays.

Second Wednesday, Monthly
Madison-Gallatin Trout Unlimited Meetings – Bozeman. Good fishing starts with healthy rivers and healthy trout populations. Learn more about how TU is ensuring both locally. mgtu.org

February
TroutFest Banquet – Bozeman. The Madison-Gallatin chapter of Trout Unlimited hosts its annual fundraiser every February. The local TU chapter is instrumental in fighting for access, keeping rivers clean, and keeping trout healthy. mgtu.org

June
Women’s Fly-Fishing School – Bozeman. If you’re going to learn to fly fish, why not do it with other enthusiastic ladies? Take this three-day course to get set up with all the skills you need to be successful on the water. montanawomensflyfishingschool.com

Beginner Fly Fishing School – Bozeman. Designed for beginner anglers but also great for intermediates, this course delves into essential skills, from casting technique to fly selection. theriversedge.com

August
Gallatin River Clean Up – Bozeman. Help keep our local river clean and clear with Gallatin River Task Force and the Gallatin Watershed Council. gallatinrivertaskforce.org

September
Fly Fishing & Outdoor Festival – Ennis. If you fish, odds are you’ll be spending lots of time in Ennis, about an hour southwest of Bozeman. Celebrate the end of summer with vendors, fly-tying demos, casting clinics, and more. ennischamber.com

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

Cult Classics

Bozeman is bustling with outdoor-goers, so it’s no surprise that the town teems with outdoor events. From festive races and athletic exhibitions to laid-back celebrations of the seasons, these gatherings truly bind our community together. Here are ten that you shouldn’t miss.

King & Queen of the Ridge – February
A classic mid-winter celebration of skiing: see how many times you can hike up the Ridge at Bridger Bowl. Whether you make two laps or 20, you’ll be part of the scene and raising money for our local avalanche center. bridgerbowl.com.

Run to the Pub – March
Whether you’re Irish or not, get in the St. Patty’s Day spirit with a green-themed 10k or half-marathon, starting and ending at Pub 317 on Main Street. Yes, of course there’ll be beer at the finish line—you don’t have to ask. runtothepub.com.

Gallatin Whitewater Festival – June
Head up the Gally to spectate—or participate in—several exciting paddling competitions for river people of all ages and experience levels, including slalom, downriver racing, and BoaterX. gallatinwhitewaterfestival.com.

Ennis Fourth of July Parade and Rodeo – July
Many a western town have festive celebrations for the Fourth of July, but Ennis tops the charts around here with its signature parade and rodeo. There’s a fireworks sale at Madison Foods as well, but don’t even think about it if fire restrictions are in place. ennischamber.com.

Music on Main – July-August
Everyone and their moms will be there—head downtown on Thursday evenings in the heat of summer for live music by local performers, food and attractions from local businesses, and—the best part of all—open-container waivers for local bars. downtownbozeman.com.

Sweet Pea Festival – August
Over 40 years running, Sweet Pea is an outdoor summer art festival dedicated to all forms of expression. You’re sure to find something that piques your interest—be it musical, theatrical, culinary, or even athletic. sweetpeafestival.org.

Bridger Raptor Festival – October
Every year, thousands of birds of prey migrate along the spine of the Bridger Range. After an opening ceremony and film in town, head to Bridger Bowl to learn all about this epic journey and see it in action. bridgerraptorfest.com.

Huffing for Stuffing – November
This is the largest race in Bozeman, attracting thousands of participants every year on Thanksgiving Day. Put on your best turkey costume and run off all those extra calories you’ll be gulping down later. All proceeds go to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank to help support those in need. huffingforstuffing.com.

Christmas Stroll – December

Folks come out of the woodwork for this annual event, held downtown on the first weekend in December. Mingle, sprinkle good cheer, and make sure to get some hot cocoa or soup—the stroll is notoriously frigid. downtownbozeman.org.

 

Bozeman Ice Festival – December

To kick off the tool-swinging season, climbers flock to Bozeman from all across the country to enjoy Hyalite’s spectacular icicles. Climbing clinics, multimedia presentations, gear demos, and a banquet dinner are all on the agenda. bozemanicefest.com.

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

by Jack Taylor

Bozeman has some of the best ice climbing in the Lower 48, from easy top-rope crags in Hyalite to grueling alpine routes in the Beartooths. Many folks arrive in this town having never even considered ascending a frozen waterfall using sharp metal spikes, only to find themselves fully hooked on the sport just a few years later. Once considered the realm of extreme alpinists, ice climbing is now an avocation for the masses. Clinics are offered all winter by various guide services, so you can safely learn the ropes. And in case you haven’t already heard about it, the annual Bozeman Ice Festival is not to be missed.

Where to Go
Beginner
Though Hyalite has a good selection of easy climbs, as a starting place, one crag is more popular than all the rest: G1 (formally “Genesis 1”). It’s the closest cliff to the Grotto Falls parking area—just a 15-minute walk up the hill—and you can easily set up a top-rope by scrambling around to the right. Once you’ve mastered the movement here, check out nearby Lower GreensleevesFat Chance, and Mummy I.

Intermediate
A logical progression, the next step up is G2, about twice as far up the hill as G1. It’s longer, more difficult, and more exposed, but you can still hike around (left, this time) to set up a top-rope if you’re not up to leading yet. Other excellent intermediate climbs in Hyalite include Hangover, The Fat OneMummy II, and Twin Falls.

Advanced
Hyalite has hundreds of ice and mixed climbs, and if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide, check out Joe Josephson’s guidebook The House of Hyalite. To get you started, though, here are some top picks: Responsible Family Men climbs a striking pillar hanging high on the canyon wall. Cleopatra’s Needle, when formed, is a breathtaking line near Twin Falls that’s sure to draw a crowd. Zack Attack, considered by many as the best winter route in Hyalite, tackles four pitches of rock and ice, guarded by a burly approach.

Outside of Hyalite, notable climbs include Hydromonster near Cooke City, California Ice up East Rosebud Creek, and the Lowe Route on the Sphinx—a popular early-season route that becomes a dangerous avalanche path once snow piles up.

Essential Gear
If you already rock climb, you’re off to a good start. Rope, harness, and helmet are the main essentials, in addition to a good pair of climbing boots. Shop around for a used pair if you’re just starting out—new ones are pretty spendy. Eye protection is crucial—clear or light-tinted glasses are nice for cloudy days. Of course, you’ll need crampons and ice tools, but if you’re just going out to top-rope, you can usually share these with your partner. Once you start leading and taking on multipitch climbs, you’ll need your own sets of spikes, plus a set of ice screws—six or seven should suffice Don’t forget about ice clippers: these plastic carabiners are specifically designed for racking ice screws and keep things a whole lot more organized on your harness.

On top of all that hardware, dressing the part is important. Start at skin-level: thick wool socks to prevent cold feet and bruised toes, and synthetic or wool long underwear on the top and bottom. Next, don a fleece sweater that you’ll be comfortable in all day, and perhaps fleece pants if it’s cold out. At this point, start piling on upper layers (too many lower layers will restrict movement in your legs). A synthetic insulated jacket will keep you toasty. Throw on a waterproof shell and rain pants to keep dripping water on the outside—even if it’s below freezing, ice climbs can still be wet. Carry two or three pairs of gloves, at least one of them waterproof, and a hat or balaclava that fits under your helmet. For really cold days, bring a big down parka, but be sure to only wear it when you’re belaying. If you wear it on a climb, it’s sure to get wet from sweat or dribbles, which will render those down feathers cold, heavy, and possibly damaged.

Make sure to bring enough food and water—your body burns a lot of calories when it’s cold. Some nice extra touches include a thermos of hot soup, tea, or cocoa; a package of handwarmers; and perhaps a nip of whiskey if you’re feeling frisky. Jokes aside, take safety seriously: carrying a satellite-communication device is always a good idea, and if you’re going into avalanche terrain, carry a beacon, shovel, and probe.

Snow Much More

by the editors

While skiing is no doubt the crowd favorite ‘round these parts, it isn’t the only thing to do come winter. There are plenty of cold-weather activities, no matter your inclination or experience. Here’s a list to get you started.

Sledding
Who said tearing down a hill on a sled is just for kids? Some folks say it only gets better with age. Bottom line is that it’s quite the thrill for anyone with a pulse. As affordable as it is accessible, sledding is a Montana pastime, and Bozeman has a number of popular spots worth checking out: Snowfill Recreation Area, Peets Hill, Regional Park, and Langohr Campground up Hyalite are just a few. Really, any public land with a rising slope will do—just make sure the hill has a decent run-out.

Snowshoeing
If you can walk, chances are you can snowshoe—and have fun doing it. To get started, pick a trailhead. While new snow offers fresh tracks, your best bet is to veer off-trail and make your own path. One of the major joys of snowshoeing is finding solitude and serenity in the winter woods. A beginner setup (shoes and poles) runs about $200 brand-new; if you’re on a budget, pick up a pair of hand-me-downs and use your ski poles.

Snowmobiling
With the power of a snowmobile, there’s a lot you can see. Whether flying around the mountains of West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Paradise Valley, Cooke City, or Island Park, a high-speed adrenaline rush is hard to beat. There are a number of guide and rental services scattered throughout southwest Montana, and most places that rent snowmobiles supply snowsuits, helmets, and other accessories.

As we see year after year, avalanches are deadly. If this is an activity you want to pursue extensively, consider taking a snowmobile-specific avalanche-education course. Riders trigger as many slides as skiers, and more people are heading out into the backcountry every year—do your part in mitigating the risk for all.

Skating
Every winter, three outdoor ice rinks pop up at Bozeman parks: Bogert, Southside, and Beall. Once the ice sets up for the season—normally in late December—the rinks stay open until 10pm every day. Southside and Bogert have warming huts for cozy cups of hot chocolate and a comfortable abode to put on and take off skates. Additional skating is offered at the Haynes Pavilion, home of the local hockey league; they rent skates for $5, plus a $5 entry fee.

Events
The great thing about Bozeman is that no matter your taste, there’s always something going on. Here are a few noteworthy events for you winter odd-ballers out there.

Ongoing
Learn to Skate – Bozeman. Get tips from the pros on how to slide smoothly on the ice. Classes offered for ages four and up, from beginner to advanced. gallatinice.org.

October
Hocktober Scramble – Bozeman. This fun hockey series gives players of all levels a chance to test their skills—and have a blast doing it—in competitive pickup games. bozemanhockey.org.

January
SNöFLINGA – Butte. There’s something for everyone here. We’re talking snowshoe tours, fatbike races, avalanche-awareness classes… the list goes on. snoflinga.org.

January
Wild West Winterfest – Island Park. Join cheery folk for a winter celebration complete with a parade of snowmobiles, sleigh rides, and a kids’ carnival. islandparkchamber.org.

February
Skijoring – Big Sky. If you don’t already know what skijoring is, you’re in for a treat. Head to Big Sky for an old-time wild-west showdown. bigskyskijoring.com.

Editor’s note: dates are subject to change. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

Run to the Hills

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.

For more local trails, visit the outsidebozeman.com/trails-tours webpage.

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.

 

 

 

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)
  • Stalk: Hunting 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.

White Lines

by Jenny White

No one cares if you call it cross-country or Nordic skiing, but in these parts, once the snow flies, skinny skis become as commonplace as running shoes. Bozeman’s Nordic scene has a national reputation, and while you’ll likely see both former and aspiring Olympians and Paralympians on the trails, our tracks are filled with people of all ages and abilities. The motto here is to “keep the people skiing.”

In-town trails make it easy to sneak a ski into a busy day, even in the dark, and a short drive will bring you to dozens of more mountainous experiences.

For newbies: rejoice that cross-country skiing has a relatively low cost to entry, made even better by free access on many of the local trails and the nonprofit status held by all of Bozeman’s ski organizations. Plus, it has a relatively easy learning curve, even if you’ve never been on skis. The best part: you can shuffle down the trail at an easy walking pace or speed it up for a full-body cardio workout.

Where to Go
The Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) grooms more than 40 miles of community Nordic trails in and around Bozeman that are free and open to the public (but the Bozeman way is to buy a voluntary trail pass from BSF in order to keep their donor-funded groomers running).

In town, BSF has a new snowmaking system at Sunset Hills, next to the hospital. Cross the road for nearly 10 km of rolling terrain at Highland Glen.

Beginners often seek out the flatter trails of the Bridger Creek Golf Course, Gallatin Regional Park, or on the MSU campus.

Just outside of town, Sourdough Canyon is a mecca for skiers, dog walkers, and runners. While the lower miles are often a circus requiring excellent patience, those with endurance can find solitude and miles of groomed trail going all the way to Mystic Lake or Moser Divide (each about 20 miles round-trip). Hyalite boasts a massive network of both groomed and ungroomed trails, with the loops at the Blackmore trailhead being a favorite place to begin.

Up Bridger Canyon, a day (or season) pass grants you access to Crosscut Mountain Sports Center’s stunning 50 km of cross-country trails, including wide groomers and narrow-gauge trails. You can also explore dozens of ungroomed trails and Forest Service roads around Bozeman.

For those willing to drive farther, more options unfold. Go west on I-90 for trails at Homestake Lodge, or head south toward Big Sky for a day at Lone Mountain Ranch’s extensive network. Keep going to West Yellowstone to experience the Rendezvous Ski Trails, which attract skiers from across the country starting in November for early-season skiing. And if you’ve made it that far, we should mention that the Nordic skiing in Yellowstone National Park is spectacular. You can also enter the Park from the north via Gardiner and ski a groomed loop around the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces for some otherworldly scenery.

Come spring, there’s a little-known phenomenon called “crust cruising” in which skate skiers set off across the cold-hardened, sun-crusted snowscape and cruise without a trail, often into remote areas. (The trick, of course, is to go early, so as not to get caught four miles from your car when the snow gets soft and you start to sink in.) Fawn Pass and Beehive Basin are popular crust-cruising destinations.

You’ll find many types of ski trails around here—some for skiers only, some that allow dogs, and some that allow multiple kinds of trail users. In Yellowstone Park, that may mean you’ll share the trail with a few post-holing bison. Know what kind of trail you’re on and the rules (and safety measures) for that location.

Learning
Good technique makes Nordic skiing infinitely easier and a whole lot more fun. You can find instruction (from a few hours to winter-long sessions) with several local groups: MSU Outdoor Recreation, Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF)Crosscut Mountain Sports CenterMontana Endurance AcademyBig Sky Ski Education Foundation, and Lone Mountain Ranch. If you want to combine shooting guns and skiing (a.k.a., biathlon), check out Crosscut’s biathlon programs.

Essential Gear
The most complicated thing about Nordic skiing is the equipment lingo. Sure, you only need boots, poles, and skis, but there are binding-compatibility issues, different ski types, and some confusing terms along the way. Lean on our local ski-shop staff to help you.

There are two types of Nordic skiing techniques; each involves a slightly different boot and ski. Most beginners start with classic skiing, which is a walking or running motion. Your skis either have scales or a grippy wax on the bottom, giving you the ability to “kick” yourself forward. (This is your best option if you want to keep it mellow or explore ungroomed trails.) Some classic skis are designed mainly for groomed trails while other classic skis are wider, sometimes with metal edges, and best for ungroomed trails. Then there’s skate skiing, which uses the same motion as hockey skating. It’s faster, a bit addicting once you learn, and a great way to discover your max heart rate. You need groomed trails (or crust) to skate.

MSU Outdoor Recreation lends and rents skis to students. The general public can rent or buy at Bangtail Ski & Bike,Chalet Sports, and Roundhouse Sports. Both Crosscut and Lone Mountain Ranch offer rentals at their ski centers. Used gear is also a great option. Shop the BSF Ski Swap on the first weekend of November for thousands of items.

For clothing, dress in layers. While the clothing you might wear on a winter run is mostly appropriate, temps drop quickly and windproof layers are your savior (especially on the downhills). If you’re headed out for a longer or more remote route, add proper safety equipment: food, water, warmer layers, a navigation device, and other backcountry essentials.

Etiquette
When using groomed trails, treat those corduroy surfaces as sacred snow that needs to be preserved: keep footprints out of the trail (unless the trail allows foot traffic) and don’t track in mud. Around here, we use the Ski Kind principles (detailed below). It doesn’t matter who is speeding along, shuffling, or just learning to stay upright, sharing the trail is key.

Ski No Trace
Leave only tracks. Don’t leave poop (yours or your pup’s) or trash near the trail.

Ski Gracious
Share the trail with all speeds and abilities. Yield, slow down, and give a friendly hello to make everyone feel welcome.

Ski Aware
Know what type of trail you’re skiing and the rules for that location. Be aware of terrain, grooming equipment, and other trail users.

Ski Kind
Bring your best self to the trail and spread the joy of skiing. Share your knowledge and help others.

Ski Supportive
Give back to the trails you ski. Volunteer. Donate to local trail organizations, clubs, and groomers.

Ski Safe
Technically, downhill skiers have the right of way, but they still need to think of other trail users as yield signs and slow down. Before you pass others, slow down and announce yourself. Give space. Use extra caution on blind corners and downhills.

Events
You needn’t be an advanced skier or a speed demon to jump into the local scene around here. Here are a few of our favorite events.

November-March
Clinics – Bozeman. BSF offers Nordic ski clinics throughout the winter, providing an easy way to drop in and learn a few ski tips. bridgerskifoundation.org

December-February
FUNSKI Community Series – Various locations. BSF hosts one race per month during the winter, usually on weeknights. Themes range from a Santa chase to a lively two-person relay. Costumes encouraged. bridgerskifoundation.org

January-March
Biathlon Races – Crosscut. Our backyard Nordic center hosts a series of fun community biathlon races throughout the winter. crosscutmt.org

January
Hyalite Tour – Hyalite. This isn’t a race, just a great day to go ski the trails in Hyalite with friends and finish with free food & hot cocoa. Pick your distance and trail. hyalite.org

March
Yellowstone Rendezvous – West Yellowstone. A good portion of Bozeman heads to West Yellowstone each March for the final races of the season with a 2k, 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k. skirunbikemt.com

Editor’s note: dates are subject to change. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.