Bozeman by Bike

A sense of calm overtakes me as I pedal down the trail. Birds call to one another in the trees, a cool wind blows through my hair, and the scent of wildflowers fills the air. The stream trickling alongside the trail underscores the rhythm of my spinning wheels. It’s a beautiful summer day in Bozeman and I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend it.

A trail sign marking the way

This is what you get when take a ride on the Main Street to the Mountains trail system, 60-some miles of trails scattered across Bozeman proper. This massive network sprawls from the base of the Bridgers on the north side of town all the way to the foothills of the Gallatin Range to the south. And it’s all maintained by the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT), a local nonprofit dedicated to protecting and maintaining public-use land around Bozeman. These trails provide convenient transportation, recreation, and a connection to nature, which helps bind together the outdoor-oriented culture of southwest Montana. Besides establishing trails for public enjoyment, GVLT’s mission mirrors Bozemanites‘ passion for getting involved and supporting their community, as much of their success relies on the hard work of volunteers to continue its trails program.

The Langohr climbing boulder 

Because they pass through neighborhoods and commercial districts, the Main Street to the Mountains trails comprise a scattered and intermittent system. In some places, sidewalks and short jaunts connect the gaps; look for the signs marking re-entry (see picture above). The trails are also broken up into named sections, which you’ve probably heard people talk about: Peets Hill, the Gallagator, Sourdough. The trails are used by all kinds of people in the community: runners, hikers, bikers, climbers, kids, young people, old folks, and of course the ubiquitous Bozeman dogs. No motorized vehicles allowed, so you’re guaranteed a relatively quiet and relaxing experience. Mostly flat, this trail system is suitable for everyone, and if it’s biking you’re after, any old bike will do—no fancy equipment needed.

Being new to Bozeman, I’d been told to pay extra attention to traffic and other hazards; but these trails allow me to travel all over town without having to worry too much about cars.

I needed a rest,  and so did my partner

Although it’s pretty routine for Bozemanites, a day on the Main Street to the Mountains trail system is an “adventure” for me – I’m from Malaysia and had never done anything like this before. I was nervous and excited and all I carried with me was the new GVLT trail map.  My starting point was the near the Museum of Rockies; it that took a while to figure out where the entry was, because the sign is different from the standard one. Luckily, a biker came out from the trail and I knew I was on the right track. I took the trail south, made a turn, biked north to the Bozeman Public Library, turned south again, and finished up at the MSU campus. (See the map below for the full route.)

Although I got turned around a few times due to missing trail signs, I managed to catch all the trails—with the help of my map and some friendly joggers. I was so grateful to one helpful girl, I wanted to give her flowers; but GVLT’s trail safety and etiquette guide discourages the plucking of these beautiful plants. Which is good, as the pretty wildflowers are one of the most enjoyable sights while walking or biking along the trails.

Another interesting aspect of this trail system is how it traverses local neighborhoods, which made me feel like I was constantly crossing the divide between civilization and nature.

One of the many pretty scenes

The most striking aspect of my ride was the quietude—I felt so peaceful and relaxed. Most of the sounds come from nature: flowing creeks, chirping birds, buzzing insects, and leaves rustling in the breeze. Still, the occasional encounters with other trail users made me feel safe. When I needed a rest, I lounged on one of the many benches alongside the trails and enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature.

Throughout my day’s journey, I not only got myself outside for fresh air and exercise, but I also learned a lot more about Bozeman—its people, its geography, and its natural environment. It taught me that Bozeman is a unique place with its strong connection between community and nature. I can’t wait to do it again.

Biking the Main Street to the Mountains trail system is a great opportunity to explore Bozeman and remove yourself from the busy world. If you’re up for a relaxing, educational, and inspiring in-town adventure, grab your bike and hit the trail. You’ll be glad you did.

My journey along the Main Street to the Mountains trails

I highly recommend the above map for any trail user, and it’s available for only $2 at GVLT’s website and at local retailers. Check out the video below to get a full rundown on this map. For more information on trails around Bozeman, read these articles on the Outside Bozeman website.