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The Blue Light District

by Cordelia Pryor

Welcome to Bozeman! Whether you’re a student, ski bum, trout bum, young professional, remote worker, retiree, or a traveler just passing through, Bozeman has a plethora of top-notch outdoor-recreation opportunities to offer. But where to begin? Finding one’s way in a new locale is no mean feat. Worry not, friend—the Blue LightGuide is here to help.

New to the outdoors, or at least the Montana variety? Inside this guide you’ll find tons of useful info, from gear and etiquette tips to the area’s top fishing spots and biking trails. Tight on cash? The coupons in the back can feed, clothe, and outfit you for all your excursions. Day or night, total newbie or just looking for some pointers, this guide has something for everyone, every season.

Whence the name, you ask? Well, atop the iconic Baxter Hotel is a blue light that flashes whenever Bridger Bowl gets two inches of fresh snow or more. As that flashing bulb ushers skiers to Bridger’s snow-covered slopes, we hope this guide ushers you to Bozeman’s outdoors: the fields, forests, mountains, and rivers that make this place so special.

However you choose to take to the trails—by foot, bike, or ski—the Gallatin Valley welcomes you warmly with an abundance of wildlife, awe-inspiring views, and new challenges each day. Make no mistake, this place has its pitfalls—winter can be brutal, summer hot and smoky, spring muddy and unpredictable, and fall nonexistent. But amid it all, there is a singular Montana splendor, and this guide will help you find it.

So, while you’re out there enjoying everything Bozeman has to offer, remind yourself of how lucky you are to have found this place. Endless opportunity awaits and all you have to do is reach out and grab it. Once again: welcome, and we hope to see you out there, reaching for fun and fulfillment in all directions. Good luck, and Godspeed.

 

The Bozeman Code

by Drew Pogge

Hey you!

Howdy. Welcome to town. Now that you’re here, it’s your responsibility to help us keep Bozeman the kind of place that attracted all of us here in the first place. There are plenty of examples of places that have been loved to death—please don’t Boulder-up our town. Here are a few things you should know about living here so it—and we—will survive.

#1: Slow it down. Everything. There’s no need for road rage or impatience at the coffee shop. We’re all headed in the same direction and you’ll get there when you get there. A relaxed Montana mosey is a benefit of living here—don’t be an uptight ass.

#2: Lend a hand. Forget the East Coast “What’s in it for me?” attitude. Here, we look out for one another. Hold that door, let that car into traffic, and if someone looks like they need help, ask. The next time you’re stuck in a ditch, we’ll surely return the favor.

#3: Buy local. For the love of all that is good and sweet and dear, don’t let Bozeman become like Colorado’s Front Range chain-store purgatory. Just because we have an Olive Garden doesn’t mean you should eat there. And shop local—Amazon should be a last resort.

#4: Don’t be a cliché or try to play a role. Just because you live in Montana doesn’t make you a cowboy or a Patagonia fashion model. We like you just the way you are, so have fun and forget the BS Bozeman “image.”

#5: Get yourself some outdoor education. Before you can become a verifiable badass skier, climber, paddler, hunter, or angler, you need to know how to handle yourself in an emergency. Take a Wilderness First Aid class and an avalanche course, hire a guide for a day or two, and apprentice with some experienced friends. Trial and error is for cooking, not outdoor survival.

#6: Don’t become a snob. Yes, Bozeman is incredibly awesome, but the rest of Montana is pretty amazing too. No one likes arrogance or entitlement—least of all people who live in “real” Montana. Step outside the Bozeman bubble when you get the chance.

#7: Learn about the history of this valley and its residents. More genuine badasses have graced these forests and canyons than almost anywhere else, from Jim Bridger and John Colter to Jack Tackle and Alex Lowe. Know who they are and emulate them.

#8: Try something new every season. Hunt, fish, climb, bike, ski, ride—there’s always a new challenge.

#9: Work harder than you play. But play pretty damn hard.

#10: Enjoy every day. This is a place you’ll always remember, even if you decide the winters are too cold and you go back to California. Make the most of your time here, be it five months or 50 years.

Town Trails

by the editors

Around Bozeman, trailheads are everywhere—but did you know that dozens of trails run right through town? They’re part of the Main Street to the Mountains trail system, and you can hop on these- in-town trails nearly anywhere. Whether you’re sneaking in a mid-day run or a half-day biking excursion, here are a few options to consider.

The Gallagator
This trail connects Bogert Park and Peets Hill to the MSU campus on the south end of town. It follows Bozeman Creek for much of its length, passing the Langhor gardens and climbing boulder along the way. Numerous access points exist along the length of this trail; the main one is at the base of Peets Hill.

Peets Hill
If you’re on a quick jaunt or dog-walk on the Gallagator, be sure check out Peets Hill. It’s not only a popular spot to gaze out over the valley, but offers sledding in the winter and picture-perfect sunsets year-round. Peets Hill also makes a great jumping-off point, as it connects to Lindley Park and the Highland Glen trails.

Highland Glen
A newer addition to Bozeman’s trail system, Highland Glen Nature Preserve offers singletrack for bikers, runners, and dog-walkers alike. It has three access points: at the sports complex off Haggerty Ln., via Hyalite View Trail above the hospital, and near the Painted Hills trailhead off Kagy. These trails are groomed in the winter for cross-country skiing.

East Gallatin Rec Area
This easy trail meanders around Glen Lake and through thick forest along the East Gallatin River. This is the perfect spot for a quick mid-day lap or a leisurely day spent in the water and sun. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, amble over to Map Brewing for some grub and a growler.

Story Hills
The Story Hills rise moderately from the northeast corner of town. Though private, this property is open to the public during daylight hours. The sunny single-track is great for in-town biking, running, or dog-walking with nice views of the town and valley. It’s often busy, so hit it early in the morning or for a nice sunset stroll.

For longer outings, use the town trails to connect to these popular spots just outside city limits.

M Trail
At the mouth of Bridger Canyon is the landmark M, created by Montana State University students in 1915. There are two routes to the M from the trailhead. A steep, direct path branches right at the first junction, where an easier and longer ascent makes a hard left. This trail is very popular—the views of the Gallatin Valley are spectacular, and hikers use the trail as a lunchbreak loop or out-and-back.

Drinking Horse
Drinking Horse Mountain is the prominent hill across from the M. Its trail starts out meandering along the fish hatchery to a bridge over Bridger Creek, after which a junction presents two options. Going left puts you on a steeper ascent, with multiple switchbacks and plentiful shade. The path to the right is longer and more gradual, with open views of the Gallatin Range. Drinking Horse is a dog-friendly trail; however, keep in mind the high density of people and pups when deciding whether to let your dog off the leash. 

Triple Tree
Use the Painted Hills trail off Kagy to connect to Triple Tree, a shaded loop trail in the Gallatin foothills. The trail crosses Limestone Creek several times as it winds its way up to an overlook with gorgeous valley views.

Watchable Wildlife

by the editors

Animals of the Montana forests.

Montana is a wildlife hotbed. Unless you’re from the Serengeti, the wildlife-viewing opportunities around here probably surpass anything you’ve seen before. Any given hike can produce half a dozen megafauna sightings, and all the major species seen by Lewis and Clark are still around. Here are some of the usual suspects.

Deer
Hike, bike, run, or ride any mountain trail between Big Timber and Dillon, and you’ll likely see mule deer. Their ubiquity doesn’t make them any less impressive. These ungulates are built for mountain travel. Tell them apart from white-tailed deer by their black-tipped tails, donkey-like ears, and hopping gait. Whitetail tend to stick to the agricultural lowlands, and when spooked, their fluffy white tails flare straight up as they bound away.

Mule deer raise their heads from grazing.

Elk
While it’s rare to see elk on the trail, it does happen, especially if you hike in the sage-flecked meadows of Yellowstone Park. More likely, you’ll see huge herds on your way to and from the trailhead, often grouped on private land in the valleys, safe from hunters’ bullets. Dawn and dusk, fall, winter, and spring are the best times to spot elk, and Paradise and Madison valleys are both full of them.

A bull elk in velvet
Birds of Prey
Eagles, falcons, and hawks enliven Montana’s big, blue sky, and fall is an excellent time to observe them in huge numbers. Many hawk species migrate along the Bridger Range in October, so hike up to the ridge and bust out the binos. Along our many rivers and streams, look for bald eagles, a formerly endangered species that has made a huge comeback. Out in the open fields, hawks and falcons perch on power poles and fencelines, looking for rodents scurrying through the grass.
A common sight along Montana Rivers

Canines
Foxes and coyotes are fairly common sights around these parts. They’re similar in size, but the former’s bright-orange coat makes it unmistakable. While folks new to town might see coyotes as majestic wildlife, many locals see them as a nuisance. Still, watching one lope across an open field as the sun sets on the mountains is a sight to behold. Wolves are far less common, especially outside Yellowstone Park. Inside the Park, if your goal is to see Canis lupus, head in early and follow the naturalist tour-guide vans. The Lamar Valley is a good bet.

Jenny Golding

Small Mammals
Small critters get much less fanfare, but they’re worth mentioning. A few standouts are marmots, pikas, and gophers (aka, Richardson’s ground squirrels). Marmots are fairly common in the alpine, and you can find them by following their high-pitched chirps. Their call is a warning cry, and they’ll start screaming as soon as you’re on their radar. Pikas are far less common, and indeed, they’re in trouble, due to warming temps. They occupy large rock clusters and if you spot large splotches of white droppings, odds are a pika is inside. Gophers are the pigeons of southwest Montana. From spring through mid-summer, they’re everywhere and no local would fault you for picking off one or two with a pellet gun.

Small animal tracks through the snow.

Ursines & Felines
The “coolest” animals are usually the toothiest. Around here, that means bears, cougars, bobcats, and lynx. Our area has good populations of grizzly and black bears, but odds of seeing a grizzly are pretty low outside of Yellowstone. Black bears are far more common. Tell them apart by the shape of their faces and the telltale hump above the griz’s shoulder. Bobcats are also fairly common, but far stealthier than bears. For one, they’re much smaller—about the size of a medium-sized dog—and they tend to stalk their prey silently, whereas bears are primarily scavengers, wandering around from smell to smell in search of their next meal. Cougars and lynx are extremely hard to see in the wild. Their stealth is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, and if you see one, count yourself among the lucky few.

Up close and personal with a cougar.

Slip-Slidin’ Away

by Cordelia Pryor

Winter in Montana is long, and while alpine skiing might be its most famous activity, Nordic skiing is another great way to get outside and actually enjoy the cold. It also helps you stay in shape and is simple enough for anyone to learn. Classic connoisseurs can enjoy both groomed and ungroomed trails, while skate skiers will find plenty of luxurious corduroy on which to push and glide. There’s a huge variety of terrain in and around Bozeman, and a really cool community to dive into—the backbone of which is the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF), which maintains many of our local trails. Consider buying an optional trail pass to support their efforts.

Gearing Up
One of the great things about Nordic skiing is that there’s less gear and it’s (mostly) cheaper than a downhill setup. All you need are skis, boots, poles, and some comfy layers you can move in. Buying used gear is a great way to save cash, and you can always find a setup at a secondhand store or BSF’s annual Ski Swap. Or, rent equipment from somewhere like Chalet Sports or Round House, then buy once you know the style of skiing and type of ski that suits you best.

When it comes to clothing, anything warm, breathable, and waterproof will work for classic skiing. Use what you have before buying activity-specific items. For skate-skiing, breathability and freedom of movement are more important than warmth, as you’ll likely be sweating up a storm. Racers wear spandex and other form-fitting apparel, but that’s overkill for the recreational skier.

Classic skiers should keep in mind that they have two very different options: in the track and out. Track skis are generally skinnier and longer, and tend to perform poorly outside the groomed trails. Non-track skis vary widely in terms of width, length, and suitability for different terrain. Some of them will fit in the track and do just fine, while others are meant for off-trail travel. A little homework, online and at your local outdoor shop, will help you determine which type of ski—and which type of terrain—is best for you.

MSU students (and Alumni Association members) can rent a range of Nordic gear from the Outdoor Rec Center, for great prices.

Where to Go
While skate-skiers need a groomed trail, many classic skiers prefer snowed-over hiking paths and logging roads to a groomed track. These off-track options can be found in nearly every direction. What follows here is a list of groomed trails in the area, for skate-skiers and classic track-skiers. For tips on off-track outings, check out the Trails section on outsidebozeman.com. 

Bridger Creek Golf Course
Level: Beginner
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trails: This is a great spot for Nordic novices. With its easy, sweeping loops, you can hit the trails on both sides of the road and really get your footing. The northern side features slightly more varied terrain than the southern side, but the whole area is pretty mild and allows you to get your technique down without struggling (too much).

Highland Glen & Sunset Hills
Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trail: Highland Glen and Sunset Hills have several different loops for you to twist together in a variety of combinations. Close to town, these spots are an easy mid-day hit. They have a few steep climbs to get your heart pumping, and the fast descents are always a blast.

Sourdough Canyon
Level: Intermediate
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trail: Sourdough is a Nordic nut’s paradise—it’s groomed for miles and climbs steadily at a mild incline along Bozeman Creek. Whether it’s a quick mile or a half-day haul, you can customize the length to your liking. Dogs are allowed, but scoop the poop and keep Bridger under control, lest you ruin the skiing experience for everyone else. 

Hyalite Canyon
Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trails: Hyalite has a great mix of almost 20 miles of groomed and ungroomed terrain. The groomed trails traverse unused logging roads, hiking trails, and connector trails with terrain for most skill levels. Dogs are allowed as well. 

Crosscut Mountain Sports Center
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: $20 adult day pass, $250 season pass
The Trails: Crosscut is basically a small Nordic resort, and you’ll be dazzled by the well-maintained and seemingly endless trails. With the wide, flowing, and color-coded trails, skiers can find the right trails for their skill level. Throughout the season, Crosscut hosts events and races, so keep an eye on the calendar.

Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: $25 adult day pass, free to overnight guests
The Trails: Whether you head down the canyon for just a day, or stay at the ranch for a luxurious mountain getaway, over 50 miles of trails await. If you’re up for it, tackle the big leg-burning climbs and fast downhills.

Rendezvous Ski Trails, West Yellowstone
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: $8 adult day pass, $45 season pass
The Trails: The Rendezvous trail system is worth the drive. On these peaceful wooded trails, it’s easy to spend a whole day exploring, and there are handy maps and well-marked signs to guide you.

Events
Tuesdays, December-February
Funski Nordic Series – Bozeman. Get together with friends and neighbors for a fun evening race or a mellow glide. These timed events always conclude with post-race refreshments, including local beer. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday. bridgerskifoundation.org

February 16
Taste of the Trails – West Yellowstone. This fun event combines picturesque Nordic skiing and delicious food. Race the 5k, or take it slow, and stop at the four food stations along the way. skirunbikemt.com

March 7
Yellowstone Rendezvous Race – West Yellowstone. This is the big one. Head down the canyon to tackle this beautiful, winding 25k or 50k. With a nice steady climb on the way up, and fun, fast downhill to the finish, this race is a Montana classic. skirunbikemt.com

School’s Outside

by Dawn Brintnall

Here in Bozeman, we are fortunate to have abundant outdoor recreation in every direction. With this good fortune comes a responsibility: to educate ourselves, so that we can stay safe, help others, and connect more deeply to the natural world. Here’s a rundown of a few local outdoor-education organizations.

PeterPonca-YStoneWolfTrip36

Montana Outdoor Science School
At MOSS, adults can study useful subjects like plant identification, animal tracks, and ecology in a Master Naturalist course. For the kids, MOSS offers in-classroom programs and field days during the school year, as well as science camps over the summer.

Montana Wilderness School
This is a great way to introduce your teenagers to multi-day trips, and help them build confidence and skills under the direction and care of outdoor experts. MWS expeditions foster kids’ outdoor ethics by connecting them to wild places for several weeks at a time. With alpine adventures like backpacking, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing, there’s an adventure suited for each child’s interests.

Yellowstone Forever Institute
The official nonprofit of Yellowstone Park has many year-round educational opportunities, from youth- and college-level programs to adult field seminars. You can hone your animal-tracking skills, learn to ski or snowshoe, or immerse yourself in Yellowstone’s rich geologic history.

Crossing Latitudes
This outfit’s niche is combining outdoor education with cultural experience. Crossing Latitudes hosts NOLS wilderness-medicine courses here in Bozeman, as well as programs that take place in Europe and Nepal. These courses—Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Wilderness First Responder (WFR)—teach outdoor-oriented folks the skills to react to and mitigate wilderness emergencies. 

Aerie Backcountry Medicine
Aerie is a Missoula-based company offering experience and training in wilderness medicine to military and medical professionals, as well as outdoor enthusiasts. They offer classes in Bozeman and Missoula, plus semester-long programs for college students going into the medical field. Aerie is another great source for your WFA, WFR, or Wilderness EMT certifications.

MSU Outdoor Recreation
For students, faculty, and staff, MSU’s Outdoor Rec Program is a great resource for clinics and courses offering education in avalanche safety, climbing, paddling, and more. They also have a great stash of rental equipment if you’re trying to familiarize yourself with a sport before committing to buying the gear. MSU graduate? Join the Alumni Association and you too can partake of Outdoor Rec’s offerings.

Extra Credit

by Cordelia Pryor

While skiing may be the crowd favorite of Bozeman’s winter scene, it’s not all the area has to offer. There’s a variety of wintertime activities to partake in, no matter your inclination or experience. Here’s a partial list of alternative cold-weather activities.

BeallParkHockey-CraigHergert_LR

Sledding
Tearing down a hill on a sled isn’t just for kids—it’s quite the thrill for anyone with a pulse. Throw in affordability, and an afternoon of sledding becomes an even more attractive pastime. Bozeman has a number of popular sledding spots, including the Snowfill Recreation Area, Peets Hill, and the Langohr Campground up Hyalite. Outside of town, suitable slopes rise in all directions. If regular sledding seems too mundane, you can always step it up a notch and go Clark Griswold–style, hitting light-speed on a greased trashcan lid.

Want to show off your sledding skills? Head to Red Lodge Winter Carnival in March. Construct a sled made only ofcardboard, tape, and glue, and race down the slopes for glory.

Snowshoeing
If you can walk, chances are you can snowshoe—and have fun doing it. To get started, just pick a trailhead and go. Once you’ve got your balance, veer off-trail to find your own path, enjoying the quiet solitude of the winter woods. A beginner snowshoeing setup (shoes, 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.

Once you’ve got your technique down, grab your furry four-legged friend and join Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter for the Snowshoe Shuffle, a torch-lit group snowshoe and raffle with all proceeds benefitting the shelter.

Snowmobiling
With the power of a snowmobile underneath you, there’s a lot you can see. Whether you’re flying around West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Paradise Valley, Cooke City, or Island Park, you’ll have incredible access to some beautiful, remote places without having to work for it—and you’ll get a pretty killer adrenaline rush, too. Most places that rent snowmobiles have snowsuits, helmets, and other required accessories.

To expand your snowmobiling knowledge and explore deeper into the backcountry, take a snowmobile-specific avalanche-education course. Riders trigger almost as many slides as skiers, and it’s just as dangerous—don’t put yourselves or others at risk. 

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

If you like hockey, or want to give it a try, register for the Hocktober Scramble at the Haynes Pavilion. This fun series gives players of all levels the chance to test their skills—and have a blast doing it—in competitive pickup games.

Ice Climbing
If you’re new to mountain country, it may seem that ice climbing is for hardened experts and crazed adrenaline junkies. But in the last few decades, ascending giant icicles has become a pastime almost anyone can enjoy. Whether you have some climbing experience already, or have only ever summited a ladder, you too can tool up and tackle the ice. Mix in a few hot-cocoa breaks and a knowledgeable friend to show you the ropes, and your once-intimidating adventure becomes both pleasant and safe. You don’t need to go far, either. Some of the world’s best ice is right down the road in Hyalite Canyon. As with other climbing equipment, avoid buying used gear from pawn shops or Craigslist. Instead, borrow from friends, rent, or invest in a setup of your own.

AtMissmeghanyoung-VisitMT-IceClimbHyalite_0965

This one’s a no-brainer: attend the Bozeman Ice Fest! Every winter (except this one), climbing enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Hyalite to celebrate the sport. There’ll be gear demos, clinics, and tons of resources to help you learn and grow, not to mention meet some pretty cool folks.

Lend a Hand

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.

Try Before You Buy

by the editors

If you’re new to the outdoor scene or just keen on a new activity, you may not know the nuances of gear acquisition. Bozeman’s local outdoor shops can steer you in the right direction, and used gear abounds on Craigslist; but to avoid buyer’s remorse—and a pile of unused items in the basement—we suggest trying out an activity before investing in all the equipment. Here are some ways to get geared up for your outdoor test-drive.

Better Biking
If you’re into singletrack, you probably cry at night, saddened by the $5,000 price tag dangling from the mountain bike of your dreams. Luckily, most of the shops in town host free demo days. You can test entire product lines before going deep into debt. For regular ol’ rentals, several shops will rent a standard mountain bike for around $40 per day; for a little more moolah, you can opt for better suspension and other upgrades. If you’re just looking to bob around town, consider a cruiser for about $20 a day.

Frugal Fishing
If you’re used to chucking lures for bass in Minnesota and want to try your hand at fly fishing, you’ll need the right kit. Lucky for you, a few local fishing shops not only rent gear, but also offer well-priced (and occasionally free) clinics for beginners.

Float the Boat
If flowing water is your thing, rent a watercraft for the day or weekend, then get a taste of river life—including all the associated gear and logistics involved. A raft or driftboat is a huge expense and a few hundo is a small price to pay to avoid a $6,000 mistake.

Motor Mode
There’s no greater fun-machine than a snowmobile—but which one is for you, and what style of riding do you prefer? Find out by renting a sled from a local outfit and tooling around in the snow for a weekend. Then, make an educated decision about where to spend your hard-earned dough.

Powder Promotion
Odds are, you’ll spend some quality time at Bridger Bowl in the winter. For most of the season, any pair of skis will do. But once in a while, when the Bridger Bowl Cloud descends on our community ski hill, you’ll want something fatter to keep you afloat. Before shelling out cash for portly planks, rent when the time is right. All the local shops have high-end demos for fair prices—and oftentimes, if you end up buying, they’ll deduct the rental from the purchase price.

Collegiate Concessions
If you’re an MSU student or member of the Alumni Association, you have unlimited access to the on-campus Outdoor Recreation Center. That means rafts, canoes, backcountry skis, ice-climbing kits, and more—all at ultra-low prices. Plus, the center hosts clinics, float-trips, and overnighters for very reasonable fees.

Park It

by Maggie Slepian

Montana’s weather is notoriously volatile—not to mention brutal—so when the sun comes out, it makes sense for you to get out, as often and for as long as possible. On those bright, warm days, take advantage of Bozeman’s many parks by setting up a hammock, taking the dog out for a jaunt, or lounging under the trees. Remember to follow all posted leash rules, pick up after your pup, and be considerate of other park-goers.

Beall
This northside park has picnic tables, lush green grass for napping or Frisbee-throwing, and basketball courts for working up a sweat. On-site is a charming old building that’s available to rent, on the cheap, for meetings, receptions, seminars, or dance parties. In the winter, the city floods the park for outdoor skating.

Bogert
Bogert has tennis courts, a pool and playground, a huge expanse of grass, and a creek flowing behind the pavilion. Just a few blocks south of Main Street, on the east side of downtown, this park is a hub for local events.

Bozeman Pond
Practice casting flies at the pond, wander around the trails, or hang out under the large pavilion at a picnic table. This park has a small fenced-in area for letting dogs run and swim, plus a climbing boulder for aspiring ascendants to practice their moves in a low-pressure environment. For something more vigorous, round up all your pals for a rousing beach-volleyball game in the sand court.

Cooper
Just a few blocks south of downtown, Cooper Park is ideal for dogs. Large shade trees provide prime relaxation opportunities, plenty of picnic tables make for excellent impromptu gatherings, and the allowed off-leash play means Fido can tire himself out.

Regional Park
This expansive complex has multiple ponds, a fenced-off dog park, looping trails, a pump track, and a climbing boulder. It’s basically a multi-sport destination in and of itself. In the winter, bring a saucer or inner-tube for some good clean fun on the sledding hill.

Langhor Gardens
Langhor Gardens is a community garden with a climbing boulder—what could be more Bozeman than that? The Gallagator trail crosses through the park and will take you all the way downtown, and a nearby creek makes for a nice respite after a stressful day.

Lindley
Adjacent to the Bozeman Public Library, connected to Peets Hill, and providing access to different trail options, Lindley has it all. In the warm weather you’ll find folks slinging hammocks and slacklines between the trees, and the trails around Lindley are groomed for skate skiing in the winter, so it’s a year-round attraction.

Rose
If disc golf is your thing, this is your spot. Smack-dab in the middle of Bozeman—a short bike ride from most places—Rose Park’s course isn’t overly challenging, but you can play a quick round with pals and then walk or pedal to a nearby restaurant to re-fuel.

Southside
Southside Park lies near the MSU campus and is often bustling with students. Depending on the season, you can be serving up goals or aces. This 6.5-acre park has tennis courts from spring through fall, and an ice rink in winter.

Story Mill
This is Bozeman’s largest and newest park. With several miles of trails, a climbing boulder, an adventure playground, an enclosed dog park for pups to roam and play fetch, an amphitheater, a community center, and several open-air pavilions, Story Mill has it all.