Category Archives: Around the Bozone

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.

Between the Leaves

by Jack Taylor

When I first landed in Bozeman, I had boundless ambition to get out and explore, but no idea where to go. The immense volume of trails, hills, and mountains had my head spinning—how could I choose from so many options? To get a better lay of the land, I took up a job with Bozeman Parks & Recreation as a camp counselor, and learned an invaluable lesson: one doesn’t even need to leave Bozeman’s city limits to have an awesome adventure.

Bozeman’s Parks & Recreation department manages 77 parks and 67 miles of trails spanning 900 acres within city limits. You could spend years exploring these spaces and still make new discoveries every day, from the vibrant flowers of Langhor Gardens to the riffled streams of Story Mill Park and the beautiful winding trails linking it all together. With a dozen amped-up, curious kids in tow, I set off on a new journey every day. It wasn’t about logging miles or bagging peaks; it was about how much we could discover just by looking around. We built stick forts in the woods of Glen Lake Park, caught bluegill from the shores of Bozeman Pond, told ghost stories in the rain at Lindley Pavilion, and scaled climbing boulders all across town. I still go back to these places and let my imagination wander—it’s a way to relax, reflect, and draw inspiration, even if I just have an hour or less to get outside on a busy day.

In addition to self-led discovery of Bozeman’s outdoor spaces, Parks & Rec offers year-round activity programs for adults and kids alike. You can learn to swing dance or jam with musicians at Story Mansion, join organized leagues for badminton and pickleball, learn new skills like archery and ice skating, and even take free avalanche-awareness classes. Many Parks & Rec facilities are rentable and make great locations for birthday parties, family functions, cult meetings—whatever you’re into. As a bonus, the rental fees are reduced for Bozeman residents.

You can learn more about what Bozeman’s parks have to offer at bozeman.net/parks. Here, you’ll find a detailed, interactive map of all the city parks and trails maintained by the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. But take my word for it: the real joy comes in exploring these spaces with little direction or agenda. Ditch your phone and leave the fancy gear at home. Ride your bike or take a stroll and you’re bound to stumble on a park or trail before too long, and here, your Bozeman adventure begins.

Seven Wonders of the Bozone

In Bozeman, it’s impossible to do it all, but if you’re like us, you strive to. Every season presents its own set of outdoor challenges and opportunities, but there are a few activities so renowned that they bear repeating on a near-annual basis—classics, you could call them. Below is a list of seven. Do them all and you’re one step closer to becoming a true Bozemanite.

Ski the Ridge
By this we mean the ridgeline above Bridger Bowl. The Bridger Lift drops you off 600 feet from the top, where you can bootpack the rest of the way. You’ll need a beacon, and once on the Ridge, keep your wits about you—get off-route and you’re bound for serious amounts of undesired airtime.

Swim in Hyalite Reservoir
The most accessible activity on this list. You may have heard of Hyalite for any number of reasons, including, but not limited to: fishing, running, biking, and ice climbing. While each of these has its place, nothing beats a cold refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day, with the craggy peaks of the mighty Gallatin Range towering above.

Paddle the Mad Mile
Ever since A River Runs Through It became a box-office hit, the Gallatin River’s reputation has been one of fly fishing. While trout do in fact fill its waters, come spring runoff, all attention is on the foamy rapids between Lava Lake Trailhead and Upper Storm Castle. Navigate this section successfully in a watercraft and earn a badge of Bozeman honor.

Fish the Madison River
You came to Bozeman, but did you remember your fly rod? We can’t guarantee you elbow room, but there’s a reason this river is so highly sought-after. Whether it’s casting from the banks, moving to and fro in your waders, or drifting slowly down in a boat, fishing the Madison is a staple Bozeman experience.

Climb Gallatin Tower
There are a number of routes by which to do so; which specific one you choose, we don’t care. The point is, get to the top. Why? Because it is there (said someone famous). And because you’ll be rewarded with views of the river, and a charcoal grill, in case you brought hot dogs. But most importantly, because you will feel alive.

Bike the Bangtail Divide
On two wheels, you won’t find a more quintessential ride. Starting from Stone Creek, the trail climbs high above Bridger Canyon and contours north to Grassy Mountain for a beautiful descent down to Brackett Creek. Or do it in reverse. Either way, you’re looking at 23 miles of pure mountain-biking glory.

Hike or Run Mount Baldy
By now, you know where the “M” is. But have you traveled above the big white letter to the broad prominent peak in the distance? If not, do so. Grunt your way past false peaks to summit one of Bozeman’s most famous. Then, look out at the sweeping Gallatin Valley below and give thanks that by some stroke of fortune you ended up where you did.

Deal Me In

by the editors

The true dirtbag ski/trout bums of Old Bozeman may be gone, but the spirit of spending every last dime on gear remains. Sure, some things are worth full price; but for others, it pays to shop smart. Here’s how to maximize enjoyment while minimizing cash outlay.

Coupons
First thing, start with this guide. Part of its purpose is to make life easier for newcomers to Bozeman’s outdoor scene, and one way we do that is by dedicating a large section to cash-saving coupons. Flip to the back, clip the coupons, save money—it’s that simple.

Sales
For straight-up retail shopping, hunt around for the big sales. Downtown Bozeman hosts summer and winter Crazy Days, a long weekend each season dedicated to inventory-liquidating sales along Main Street, including outdoor stores. Big holiday sales occur throughout the year, as well. To really save cash, buy gear post-season—for example, snagging new skis in the spring, when stores are trying to scuttle leftover winter gear, can mean up to 50% off.

Swaps
Another option is gear swaps. There’s a ski swap in November hosted by the Bridger Ski Foundation, a bike swap in spring put on by the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club, and a boat swap in May at the Barn. All three swaps have huge inventories at massive discounts, and you can sell your used gear, too. Just make sure to show up early, ‘cause the best stuff goes fast.

Second-Hand
As one might expect, Bozeman’s pawn shops teem with used gear and apparel. There are even a few second-hand stores devoted entirely to outdoor equipment. Area thrift stores are loaded with hidden treasures, too. Spend some time perusing the inventory, and make it a habit to stop by different stores every so often—new goods arrive daily, and the best deals are all about timing.

Rentals
Sometimes gear is cost-prohibitive regardless of the price. Or maybe you’re not sure you’re going to like a new sport, in which case it pays to try before you buy. If you’re an MSU student or alumnus, hit the Outdoor Rec Center for the best prices. Otherwise, check out any of the half-dozen rental outfits around town, for everything from mountain bikes to whitewater rafts.

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

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.

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.

Iconic Affairs

by Cordelia Pryor

Year-round, the Bozone bustles with things to do, for every outdoor inclination. Here are some of the most iconic annual events, where you can experience the Bozeman community and have fun doing it. For many, many more, check out outsidebozeman.com/events.

King & Queen of the Ridge – Bridger Bowl
Think you have what it takes to hike the Ridge more times than anyone else? Give it your best shot at this annual fundraiser for the Avalanche Center, and you could be crowned local royalty. Last season’s Queen bagged 26 laps, and the King scored 29—so get ready to suffer. bridgerbowl.com.

CourtesyBridgerBowl-KingQueen5

Spring Fling – Spire Climbing Center
This low-key competition is about bringing the climbing community together for a great evening with friends, while watching some of the strongest climbers in Montana throw down. Whether you participate or not, this fun event is gripping—literally. spireclimbingcenter.com.

Pond Skim – Big Sky
After another long season of shredding, it’s time to kick up your boots and welcome the spring with one last hurrah. On closing weekend in late April, watch local crazies on their skis or boards skim across a manmade pond at high speed—or, more often, face-flop into the water. You don’t need a pass for this party, and if you’re loco enough to try it out, just remember: tips up. bigskyresort.com.

KevinKennedy_PondSkim2015_MG_5442e

Summer Trails Challenge – Bozeman & Beyond
From the beginning of June through the summer solstice, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust challenges Bozemanites to get out and use our trails. For every mile you run, hike, or bike, GVLT gets a buck for area trails. They set a lofty goal each summer, so every mile counts. gvlt.org.

Bridger Ridge Run – Bridger Bowl
With August comes the big Bozeman sufferfest: 20 miles across the exposed ridge of the Bridger Mountains, from Fairy Lake to the M. Once among the most rugged trail runs in America, it’s still one of the most technical—and it’s a rite of passage for local runners. winddrinkers.org.

RidgeRun-DarrylBaker_LR

Bridger Raptor Festival – Bridger Bowl
In October, witness the breathtaking migration of hundreds of raptors along the Bridger Range. With experts from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center leading nature walks, spotting raptors, and explaining this unique migration event, the Raptor Fest should not be missed—especially if you’ve got kids. raptorfest.bridgerbowl.com.

GoldenEagle-ManfredRichter

Christmas Stroll – Downtown Bozeman
Get your Christmas shopping out of the way before the holidays and save some dough while you’re at it. In early December, Main Street stores stay open late to offer great deals, and there’s plenty of cocoa and hot food to keep the bitter cold at bay. The Stroll brings Bozemanites out of the woodwork for a fun, festive night downtown. downtownbozeman.org.

Ice Climbing Festival – Hyalite Canyon
Cold weather doesn’t have to keep you indoors. To experience some major below-zero baddassery, check out the annualIce Fest in mid-December. Get your heart pumping at the on-ice clinics, or just enjoy second-hand adrenaline watching the pros on the big screen; either way, the Ice Fest has it all. bozemanicefest.com. 

ChrisEbeling-IceClimbing2

The Bridger Bowl Cloud

by Christine Rogel

Why Bridger gets so much snow.

Every so often, a blue light flashes on top of the Baxter Hotel, alerting anyone within view of the tallest building in Bozeman that snow is falling at Bridger Bowl. The light—a repurposed airport runway strobe that flashes for 24 hours when the ski area receives at least two inches of snow—was installed in 1988 and played an important role before the era of the Internet. It’s related to an isolated weather phenomenon affectionately called the BBC, or Bridger Bowl Cloud,which descends like a blanket over the east-central Bridger Mountains and leaves behind a prodigious amount of snow.

“Because of the BBC, we’d get these isolated snowstorms and get a Screen-Shot-2013-12-10-at-2.03.07-PMbunch of snow in the mountains, but nothing was going on in town, so people wouldn’t know,” says Doug Wales, marketing director for Bridger Bowl. “So in the ‘olden days,’ the flashing blue light is how people would become aware it was snowing at Bridger.”

According to Eric Knoff, an avalanche specialist with the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, the BBC is a “sneaker” and can drop up to 36 inches of snow at Bridger, while only one or two inches end up in town. Don’t be fooled by the clouds pouring over the ridgeline and seeping into the valley—the true BBC is the one that drops loads of snow,” says Knoff.

It’s hard to predict when the mysterious cloud and its revered powder-pouring abilities will occur, but January tends to be a good month for the cloud. During some seasons, the BBC appears half a dozen times, and during others only once or twice, according to Knoff. Last season, despite the thick cloud that frequently obstructed the view of the mountains from town, there was only one cycle of the BBC, when a white blanket fell over the mountain and the Bridgers saw 30 inches of snow in just a few days. It’s times like these, says Knoff, laughing, that “Big Sky has BBC envy.”

The BBC’s beloved snow load is actually not caused by a cloud at all, but rather a weather event called “upslope precipitation,” says Megan Vandenheuvel, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls. The snow starts to fall when a cold, moist northwestern air flow moves through the canyon and is forced upward by the unique geography of the mountains, creating precipitation in the higher elevations.

Regardless of how it forms or what it’s called, the BBC and its isolated snow showers are, at least in part, responsible for the current location of Bridger Bowl. The weather pattern was considered when the ski area moved from its lower elevation at Bear Canyon in the mid-1950s. It’s a unique phenomenon related to the particular geography of the mountains, and interest in the “cloud” is representative of the enthusiasm locals have for the landscape and the outdoors.