Tag Archives: outdoor adventure

The Bozeman Essentials

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 are some of our favorites. Do them all and you’re one step closer to becoming a true Bozemanite.

Bike Hyalite Canyon
You may have heard of Hyalite for any number of reasons, including, but not limited to: fishing, running, hiking, and ice climbing. But thanks to all those activities, it sees more than its fair share of traffic—to the point of madness. From April 1 – May 15, however, the road is closed to motor vehicles. Hop on a bike and enjoy some of the best road riding of the year on Hyalite Canyon asphalt.

Fish Gallatin Canyon
Or “the Canyon,” as locals call it, Gallatin Canyon served as the backdrop for A River Runs Through It, and has been attracting anglers for a long, long while. It’s tough to beat casting dries to rising trout just 30 minutes from town. You’ll find everything from riffles to deep pocket water and thin eddy lines, with a plethora of hatches throughout the season. With fishing this good, though, we can’t guarantee you elbow room.

Paddle the Mad Mile
Fishing ain’t the only thing the Gallatin’s known for. Come spring, before the bugs are out ’n’ about, paddling takes the cake on this river’s frothing waters. Warm up on an easier section between Moose Creek and Lava Lake, then run a gauntlet of foamy rapids known as “the Mad Mile” downstream to Upper Storm Castle. Navigate this section successfully in a watercraft and earn a badge of Bozeman honor.

Float the Lower Madison
Whether in a drift boat, raft, inner tube, or with nothing but a life jacket, floating the Lower Madison is a staple Bozeman experience. Known to locals as the “bikini hatch,” this mid-summer lazy-river float is a Mecca for dirtbags, yuppies, weekend warriors, and college students alike. Grab a sixer and hit the water.

Climb Neat Rock
With routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.14, there’s something to suit every climber’s fancy at this near-roadside crag on the banks of the Madison River. The rock is solid gneiss and the dry environment makes for good climbing conditions almost year-round. Make it a double-header with the aforementioned float, or spend a night at one of many nearby campgrounds for a weekend getaway.

Bike Leverich
On two wheels, you won’t find a more quintessential ride. This dirt singletrack loop climbs for nearly a thousand feet, then bombs right back down—just make sure you ride it in a clockwise fashion. Serious bikers have been known to lap it, and don’t be surprised if you get passed by these fellers your first time out.

Ski Bridger Bowl
Just 16 miles from downtown, the skiing doesn’t get much better than this. With the “Bridger Bowl Cloud” often hanging over the mountain, the snow’s decent, too. Ski a few laps before work, or play hooky from school to bootpack 600 feet to “the Ridge.” Don’t tackle it as a beginner, though, ’cause you’re likely bound for some serious airtime.

Hike Sacagawea Peak
The queen of the Bridgers rises to just shy of 10,000 feet in elevation, while a convenient access road to Fairy Lake makes tagging this summit a fairly casual outing. You’ll start below treeline, but soon emerge into the alpine zone dotted with crystal-blue lakes, snow-choked gullies, and jagged ridgelines. Fret not; the trail itself follows easy terrain, and the views from the top are impeccable.

Great Escapes

by the editors

Some suggestions this road trip season.

Road-trips are a quintessential college experience: plan the route, gather the crew, pack the rig, and hit the highway. While most big trips are reserved for the freedom of summer, Montana is full of weekend escapes for every season.


After settling in for the semester, plan a circumnavigation of the Madison Range. Leaving campus Friday afternoon, your first stop should be a campsite in Gallatin Canyon, along Storm Castle Creek. There’s a Forest Service campground with several spots, but push past it and set up further upstream. If you bike, spend the evening pedaling the dirt road up the burned-out drainage. Prefer hiking? Backtrack to the Storm Castle trailhead and make your way up this Bozeman-area classic.

Back at camp, cook something hot and hearty; you’ll need the energy and by this time of year, evening temps can dip below freezing. Build a roaring fire and pass the hot cocoa to the left-hand side.

Taking a study break in the mountains.

Odds are, a cold morning will have you up early. After cooking eggs and bacon over an open fire, and mixing up some cowboy coffee, head south toward Big Sky. Climbers should stop at Gallatin Tower right along the river, or head across the river and climb the Waltz. Anglers will be relieved to see that the tourist hordes of summer have largely dissipated. The Gallatin is once again a locals’ playground.

If you bike, head for the Porcupine trailhead, just south of Big Sky. There are a few several-mile loops you can put together, but keep it short and sweet as lunch will be calling. If you’ve dawdled, hit up the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill. They don’t open until 3pm, but their ribs are worth waiting for. If it’s earlier in the day (and hopefully it is), backtrack to Sola’s Big Sky location for sandwiches and salads. If you can stand it, book it to West Yellowstone and lunch there. After eating, stop in at Freeheel and Wheel for a coffee before getting back on the road.

It’ll be late afternoon at this point, so head west past Hebgen Lake and find a spot at the Beaver Creek campground, or along any Forest Service road at a dispersed site. Beaver Creek boasts impressive aspen groves, and by this time of year, they’ll be bright yellow or blaze orange. Plus there’s the added benefit of camping on Quake Lake, which is full of trout.

The Gravelly Range in Ennis, MT.

The Gravelly Range near Ennis, MT

In the morning, make haste for Ennis, about 45 miles north on Hwy. 287. Grab breakfast in town before picking a trail to hike. There are lots of options on the west side of the Madison Range, but this is serious griz country, so have your bear spray handy. After exhausting yourself with a strenuous foray into the wilderness, a soak at Norris Hot Springs is a welcome reward. Once adequately loosened up, it’s just a short hour drive back to Bozeman.


A winter road-trip is a great way to keep things interesting during the monotony of Bozeman’s longest season, and Red Lodge is the ideal destination.

For one, it’s relatively close. Leaving campus on Friday afternoon, you can pull into town before nightfall. Book a room at the Yodeler Motel for some classic ski-town décor, then walk downtown to Foster & Logan’s for some hearty pub fare. Don’t overdo it, as you’ll want to rise early for a full ski day at Red Lodge Mountain. On good snow years, there’s interesting terrain for all skill levels. When Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, embrace the local ski-hill vibe and the steep, long groomers.

Apres at Fosters & Logan.

Apres at Fosters & Logan’s.

Once you’ve gotten your vertical fill, check out Mas Taco on Main Street. Pick and choose from their extensive taco menu, or fill up on their burrito special. Pass the evening soaking in the Yodeler’s hot tub.

In the morning, make the rounds at the Red Lodge Nordic Center. They groom trails for skiers of all abilities and rentals are available in town at the Sylvan Peak Mountain Shoppe. On your way out of town, grab an early lunch at Café Regis. If it’s later in the day, take the long way home, making a pit stop in Roscoe at the Grizzly Bar. Think meat and lots of it. After gorging yourself, cruise to the interstate for the straight-shot drive back to Bozeman.

Skiing at Red Lodge

Skiing at Red Lodge Mountain


By the time spring rolls around, most Bozemanites are itching to ditch the snow for some desert sun. While we can’t blame them, we’re satisfied with the Treasure State’s outdoor offerings, and you will be too.

Instead of driving ten hours to Moab, head west on the interstate for 30 minutes toward Three Forks. If you bike, stop at Copper City a few miles north on Hwy. 287. If you climb, continue on to Pipestone, where the Queen and King crags await. This is also a great place for early-season camping, as the ground dries out before most mountain sites. There are dozens of trails for motorized and non-motorized users alike.

Camping with a view in Pipestone.

Camping with a view at Pipestone

Pipestone can handle bigger crowds, so make a party of it, making sure to clean up after yourselves. Bring the grill, as much meat as you can possibly eat, and all the car-camping luxuries you can think of.

You’ll likely sleep in Saturday morning, and that’s okay—your next stop isn’t far. Hop on I-90 and head west into Butte. If you’re already in need of some lunch, stop at Metals Sports Bar & Grill for massive burgers. Well-fueled, push north on I-15 to Helena. This is Montana’s mountain-biking mecca. There are miles of trail that tend to dry out early, and many end at Blackfoot Brewing. If you aren’t 21, fret not—the Capital City has other excellent food-and-drink options. Also, non-bikers shouldn’t be discouraged from using Helena’s trails; they’re great for trail running and early-season wildflower viewing as well.

Like most Montana cities, Helena is surrounded by public land. Head up any Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management road to find a campsite. If you prefer having a picnic table and a fire ring, book campground sites ahead of time here.

A pack of pals enjoying the singletrack

In the morning, take Hwy. 287 south to Townsend, making sure to stop for some fishing on the Missouri River or canoeing on Canyon Ferry Reservoir. This time of year, waterfowl abound and this a great place for watching them in their element. Lunch at the Full Belli Deli is highly encouraged—their sandwiches are fantastic, and you can pick up a bag of jerky for snacking on later.

Continue south along Hwy. 287 until you make it back to Three Forks—but before making haste for Bozeman, check out Missouri Headwaters State Park. Here, the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers converge to form the Mighty Mo. The park has trails and interpretive signs with historical information, and the river-bottom cottonwood groves provide cover for moose, deer, and other critters.

Cap the weekend off with steak fingers at Sir Scott’s Oasis in Manhattan before rolling back to campus.

Back to school we go.

Back to Bozeman we go

For more road-trip ideas and summer options, check out Outside Bozeman’s weekender guide.