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.


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.

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.

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. 

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.


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.

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.

Trail to Everywhere

by the editors

Few places rival Bozeman’s accessibility to trails. 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. In and around town, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust manages dozens of miles of trail. In the mountains, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, State of Montana, and National Park Service handle thousands more. There are options for all seasons and all inclinations, so no matter your passion, Bozeman’s got you covered.

Essential Gear
Depending on your choice of sport—walking, hiking, running—your gear will vary slightly, but there are some common items all trail users need. First, food and water. This varies based on the length and difficulty of the outing, but for anything more than a quick jaunt up Drinking Horse, fuel and hydration are good ideas. So are layers. In Montana, the weather can change in the blink of an eye, so pack a good rain shell and a light fleece. As summer turns to fall, swap out the fleece for a down coat. Store all this stuff in a small daypack, along with sun protection (cap, shades, and/or sunscreen) and a small first-aid kit. Depending on the activity, the right footwear may be your most important consideration. Runners should invest in trail shoes with burly lugs on the soles; hikers, get boots with good ankle support. Always remember that you are in bear country. Pack bear spray, know how to use it, and be smart.

Where to Go
Before heading out, know your fitness level, use it to guide your trail choices, and don’t rely on one website to be entirely accurate—do your research. Here’s a rough guide to some of the most popular trails by difficulty level.

History Rock
Where: Hyalite Canyon
Popularity: High
Round trip: 2 miles
Best for: Shady jaunt

Bozeman Creek
Where: Gallatin Range
Popularity: High
Round trip: Up to you
Best for: Casual run or ride

South Cottonwood
Where: Gallatin Range
Popularity: High
Round trip: Up to you
Best for: Creekside sauntering

Sypes Canyon
Where: West Bridgers
Popularity: High
Round trip: 4 miles (to overlook)
Best for: Quick-hit escape

Lava Lake
Where: Gallatin Canyon
Popularity: High
Round trip: 6 miles
Best for: Close-to-home backpacking 

Sacagawea Peak
Where: North Bridgers
Popularity: High
Round trip: 4 miles
Best for: Mountain-goat sightings

Storm Castle
Where: Gallatin Canyon
Popularity: Medium
Round trip: 5 miles
Best for: Gallatin River views

Lower Mt. Ellis
Where: Gallatin Range
Difficulty: Medium
Popularity: Medium
Round trip: 6 miles
Best for: Sweeping views

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 the dozens of races, community hikes, and weekly fun runs to be aware of. Here are some highlights (a comprehensive calendar can be found at outsidebozeman.com/events).

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

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.

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 work day scheduled, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. gvlt.org.

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.

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 26
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.

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.

Winter’s Delight

by Corey Hockett

Some of the greatest moments of winter outings come as anticipation before and ravishment after. Indeed, fueling up and winding down is a big part of what makes these excursions so attractive. What beats raising a glass with your buddies at the end of an epic powder day? How good does that first sip of coffee taste before a weekend road trip? These periods of transition provide your getaway with wholesomeness. And in Bozeman, where there is no lack of adventures to choose from, après (and avant) is no different.

Fueling Up
In winter, it’s hard to leave the coziness of the comforter and strike out into the cold. Get started with hot drinks and warm sandwiches from one of our standout coffee shops and delis. If you’re headed up Bridger Canyon to the ski hill, Crosscut, or Brackett Creek, hit Ghost Town for smooth-sipping coffee and a hefty breakfast burrito. If you’re eastbound on the interstate toward Paradise Valley, pick up a warm cup o’ tea at Townshend’s. Going west, you say? Fill up at Wheat Montana at the junction of Hwy. 287 and score a serious bang for your buck with a Belt burritos. The classic rendezvous locale south of town is Slider’s Deli at the mouth of Big Sky. Grab a coffee on your way through, or, if you’re ending the day early, stop in for a sandwich or burger before your trip home. Last but certainly not least: if you’re planning a half-day at Bridger, pick up a giant Pickle Barrel sandwich and chow down on your way to the hill.

Winding Down
Ski hills are the quintessential locales for après. If you’re wrapping up a day at Bridger Bowl, you’ve got options. It’s always worth having one (just one, if you’re driving) on the hill, and for this I recommend the Grizzly Ridge Station (aka, the Griz). We’re talkin’ $3 pints here. Of Olympia, that is; but let’s face it, you’re looking for something light anyway. Face Shots in the Jim Bridger Lodge is also tried and true. Got a designated driver with you? Have one at each.

If Big Sky is your choice of exploit, you have plenty of choices as well—just be prepared to loosen the purse strings. Scissor Bills is a local favorite. Amongst the mass of infrastructure, this homey saloon overlooks the base area and has plenty of room to spread out. Have a round by the window where an upper-level perspective grants great views of the base area.

Beers are fine and dandy, but if you’re itching for something with a little more zip—something that burns the throat and warms the belly—Bozeman has an exceptional spread of distilleries. Check out Wildrye in the Cannery District and Bozeman Spirits downtown. On the way back from Bridger, stop into Valhalla Meadery for a unique, historic libation to warm your frozen insides. If you happen to be passing through Ennis, don’t miss Willie’s on the main drag—their Bighorn Bourbon rivals any whiskey in the West.

Speaking of small-town spots, some of the most pleasant après experiences are away from the Bozeman bustle—wood-door saloons, old-time taxidermy bars, and venues with no dress code whatsoever. On your next trip to Yellowstone, stop in at the Antler Pub & Grill for a western Montana meal at its finest. Heading north? Hit Canyon Ferry Brewing in Townsend after ice fishing the reservoir. In Ennis, you’ll find great beer and delicious food at Burnt Tree Brewing, across the street from Willie’s.

These are just a few of our favorite places—there are plenty more. But don’t take our word for it, get out and try for yourself. The more places you try, the better notion you’ll have of all the options to suit your winter’s day. Bozeman is a mountain town, and its après reflects that. Experience it wearing your ski pants, laughing with friends, and repping a goggle tan—the rest of us will be out there doing the same.

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.

Cross country skiing, Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Yellowstone Country

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.

November 14
Yellowstone Ski Swap – West Yellowstone. While Bozeman is just now ramping up its Nordic scene, West Yellowstone is a seasoned veteran, which means the town’s garages overflow with great gear. skirunbikemt.com

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

On the Rocks

by the editors

You’ve probably noticed the Rocky Mountains are aptly named. Limestone, sandstone, granite, gneiss—we’ve got rocks galore, and that means tons of climbing opportunities for those with the guts to get vertical. Whether you’re new to the sport, or a veteran looking for beta on local routes, read on—what follows is a primer on where to go, what to bring, and how to be safer and climb harder.

Essential Gear
While most climbers start by borrowing gear from more experienced friends, it’s best to own a few things of your own. Namely, shoes, a harness, and a chalk bag. Locally, both Uphill Pursuits and Spire Climbing Center can get you set up. Never buy used harnesses, ropes, or protection at pawn shops or on Craigslist—you’re putting your life on the line, literally, and you never know what used gear has been through.

First, it’s important to understand how climbs are rated. Beginners should be looking for something between 5.4-5.7, intermediates 5.8-5.10, and advanced 5.11-5.12. Right in our back yard, Gallatin Canyon has dozens of routes and bouldering problems, great history, beautiful scenery, and easy access. The canyon is largely traditional climbing, but there is a smattering of bolted climbs as well. Many of the older routes are appropriately sandbagged, so climb on with gusto. Skyline Arete (5.6, six pitches) is a crowd-pleaser, and shouldn’t be missed. Step up to the ultra-classic, perfect parallel cracks of Spare Rib (5.8, two pitches), Diesel Driver (5.9) or virtually anything on Gallatin Tower (5.6-5.13 options).

Up Hyalite Canyon is Bozeman’s pet crag, Practice Rock, great for a quick pump after work. Park in the pullout on the right and pick your way up the talus. Most of the routes can be top-roped by hiking around to the right; just use caution when doing so. Hundreds, maybe thousands of climbers have experienced their first climbs or trad leads on routes like Strawberry Crack (5.7), Jerry’s Route (5.8+), and Rosebush Crack (5.9). When you’re ready for more of a challenge, make sure to check out the splitter gear line of Theoretically (5.10c).

If clipping bolts is your jam, head to the Bozeman Pass. Limestone routes from 5.6-5.13 are clustered among fins and faces, with relatively quick and easy access off I-90 at Trail Creek Rd. If you’re looking to make a day of it, you may also want to check out Bozeman’s coolest—both scenery-wise, and temperature-wise—sport-climbing crag at Wolverine Bowl. A longer drive and about an hour-long hike brings you to the steep limestone with some of the best friction around, with many harder grades. Don’t miss The Beat Connection (5.10b) and Hate Street Dialogue (5.11b).

Want to meet some new partners? There are several events each year in southwest Montana that bring the climbing community together. Here are the highlights, but keep your ear to the ground—there’s always something going on.

Intro to Climbing – Bozeman. If you’re not quite ready to take on climbing solo, sign up for a group lesson at Spire Climbing Center. These intro courses meet the second, third, and fourth Thursdays of the month and give you basics on belaying, commands, and technique. spireclimbingcenter.com.

Spire Fridays – Bozeman. We’re all about deals, so here’s one of the best: the first Friday of the month is $54 climbing and gear for the whole family, the second Friday is $12 passes and half-off gear for women, and the third Friday is $12 passes and half-off gear for students and military members. Saving money ROCKS. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

Climb for a Cause – Bozeman. On select Sunday evenings, half of each Spire pass purchase is donated to a local nonprofit. Not only can you wrap up your weekend on the wall, but you’ll contribute to a local cause, too. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

Spring Fling – Bozeman. Before you’re outdoor climbing for the rest of the summer, have one last hurrah on the indoor wall. Get together with friends and neighbors to celebrate the climbing community and watch some of Montana’s best throw down. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

Tour de Hyalite – Hyalite Canyon. In September, competitors run 14 miles up to Hyalite Peak, then climb the five hardest routes they can at Practice Rock to reduce their time—the harder the routes, the more time deducted. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

Full Gravity Day – Bozeman. As winter kicks off and it gets a bit too cold to climb outdoors, solve some boulder problems at Spire. This is the largest bouldering event in the Northern Rockies, so even if you aren’t competing, it’s worth checking out for the scene. spireclimbingcenter.com.

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

Coveted Courses

by Jack Taylor

Lucky you, to have landed in Montana’s epicenter for outdoor recreation. Soaring ridgelines beckon to be traversed, roaring rapids call for you to make a run, and blankets of cold smoke beg your legs to carve them up. No matter the activity, Bozeman offers the very best, and you’re bound to pick up a new outdoor hobby. But don’t get ahead of yourself—our mountains and rivers take no prisoners. Get started on the right foot with an instructional course, because when shit hits the fan, a little learnin’ goes a long way.


Wilderness First Aid
If you haven’t taken one yet, a WFA course through a local outfit like Crossing Latitudes is a must. These two-day clinics (typically held on weekends) cover everything you need to keep an injured friend (or yourself) safe until the pros arrive. They’re a bit pricey, but well worth the investment. If you plan on finding yourself deep in the backcountry, hours or even days from help, go all in and sign up for a Wilderness First Responder. This professional-level, week-long course is comprehensive and covers most potential ailments and injuries.

Avalanche Education
Looking to ski in the backcountry this winter? Get some avalanche training. Each fall and winter, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center runs free hour-long seminars all over town, but do yourself a favor and get a more in-depth certification with one of their multi-day Level 1 courses. If you’re after a more immersive experience, Big Sky Backcountry Guides runs Level 1 and 2 courses from its yurt in the Tobacco Roots, and Beartooth Powder Guides offers courses in Cooke City.

Paddling Skills
From lazy meandering floats to Class IV whitewater, southwest Montana’s rivers provide amazing opportunities to progress as a paddler. Check out Wave Train Kayak Team’s programs to hone your skills before diving head-first into the Mad Mile. In addition to clinics and private instruction, Wave Train provides multi-day whitewater trips to members of its summer paddling teams. 

Swiftwater Rescue
For boating enthusiasts, swiftwater-rescue training is a must. The creeks and rivers most folks run in the spring are cold, full of strainers, and downright dangerous. Learn safety skills from the pros at Montana Whitewater to avoid heading up a creek without a paddle. If you plan on leading whitewater trips, Guide School is a great option as well. It’s required for Montana Whitewater employees, but open to interested members of the general public.

Rope Skills
No matter your level of climbing experience, you can always add to your repertoire of technical skills. Whether you’re putting on rock shoes and a harness for the first time, or ogling Hyalite’s multi-pitch ice, you’re certain to find a course that will up your game in the vertical realm. Spire offers a range of instruction from basic lead climbing to multi-pitch techniques. For the next level, check out Montana Alpine Guides’ assortment of rock- and ice-climbing clinics.

Technology has made it all too easy to think that you know where you’re going, but for better or worse (read: better), most areas you’ll be venturing to in southwest Montana are devoid of cell service. Keep it simple: learn how to use a map and compass. AIM Adventure U provides online navigation courses to keep you on the right track. Or, check out a book from the library on orienteering—the art is as old as history.

Maybe you’re content with sticking to day hikes on popular trails close to town. But if you want to experience the unadulterated wilderness, you’ll benefit from picking up some backcountry survival skills. Green University, based in nearby Pony, offers immersive courses on topics such as foraging for edible plants, making primitive tools, hunting wild game, and building shelters. Who knows, maybe you’ll make a home in the mountains, drop out of school, quit your job, and become a bona fide backcountry badass.

Watchable Wildlife

by the editors

Animals of the Montana forests.

If you haven’t noticed, Montana is a wildlife hotbed. Unless you’re from the Serengeti, the opportunity for animal encounters likely rivals anywhere you’ve been 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.

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.

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

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.

Outdoor Epilogue

by Cordelia Pryor

Sure, when most of us hear the word “après,” we think of steamy ski bars and hot toddies, but what about kicking back after warm-weather outings? What about the cold beers after fishing, hiking, biking, and climbing? Summertime aprés has its own charms, and they’re every bit as gratifying as those enjoyed during the winter.

After a long day outside, sore legs rejoice sitting down on a patio chair or sliding into a booth shoulder-to-shoulder with your buddy. And nothing feels better than a little A/C with that first sip of local swill. The Gallatin Valley is saturated with breweries, bars, and eateries—here are some of our favorite spots to wind down after a day in the sun.

On the Patio
With summer’s lingering daylight, stay outside and soak in its last rays at one of many venues downtown. On Main, Bacchus Pub is a great place to kick back for a few brews and a hearty meal. Think burgers, sandwiches, and tasty fries to boot. If you’re feeling more of a cocktail, head next door to Bozeman Spirits and try their revered whisky, vodka, gin, or rum.

For a more elevated perch, don’t miss the rooftop bars around town. The Taproom hosts a pleasant vibe with tasty food and good drinks. Fill a glass, kick back, and watch the sun go down over town. The Crystal Bar is Bozeman’s other classic—shoot some pool inside, then wander up top and put your head where it should be—in the clouds.

If your sunburn has you itching for the sweet sensation of cooler air, venture inside at one of our local breweries. On your way back from a hike in Hyalite or a long ride up Sourdough, cruise over to Bridger Brewing. Not only do they have awesome in-house brews on tap, but they’re known for some of the best and most creative pizza in town—nothing beats a slice of Eloté and a glass of Lee Metcalf. In town, Union Hall Brewery is another hotspot. Belly up to six delicious staples and two seasonal rotators. Additionally, they’re releasing a new food menu soon. If you just want a stiff drink and are on a budget, head to the Eagle’s Club for reasonable prices and an old-school vibe.

For a well-deserved meal after a long day on the trail, you can’t go wrong with Nina’s, which serves a variety of Mexican dishes along with tasty tequila drinks. Next door, Urban Kitchen offers a fancier option for those wanting to sample Bozeman’s upscale offerings. A couple blocks away you’ll find Dave’s Sushi, Bozeman’s original sushi spot—just be prepared to wait a few minutes at the door.

Small Town
While Bozeman has plenty of scenes to choose from—and believe us, they’re great—make sure to widen your horizons as well. When your outing takes you more than 30 minutes away, check out some of the small-town watering holes. These lesser-crowded, down-to-earth locales feel like a home away from home. Pull up a chair and soak in the ambiance of a true Montana atmosphere.

If you venture west of town for a day floating the Jefferson or exploring Lewis & Clark Caverns, stop in at Sir Scott’s Oasis in Manhattan. As far as a drink and a meal go, it doesn’t get much better. In many circles, this steakhouse is argued to be the best in the entire Gallatin Valley. East of Bozeman, if you’ve been in Yellowstone near Gardiner or rambling around Paradise Valley, check out Follow ‘Yer Nose in Emigrant for mouth-watering BBQ, or swing by Mark’s In & Out in Livingston for a burger to go.

The bottom line is, you’ve got options—and with so many, it’s hard to go wrong. These are just some of our favorites, though. Get out and discover for yourself; with time, you’ll have a long list of your own. Welcome to town, friend. If we don’t see you on the trails, at the crag, or in the river, we’ll catch you après.