written by Katheryn Houghton
There’s a reason people are discovering Bozeman. The town’s growing fast, but with fewer than 50,000 locals, Bozeman has held onto the character that comes with a small ski community framed by mountains. There are packed storefronts with places to eat, drink and find local creations, from leatherwork to plays with live symphonies. The sun rises over the Bridger Mountains and dips behind the Tobacco Roots with forty-three peaks reaching beyond 10,000 feet—what to do between those ranges is endless.
For ambitious hikers, Sacajawea Peak is a 4-mile trip pared with a 2,000-foot elevation gain. Those who take on the trail are rewarded with views from the highest point in the Bridgers, Bozeman’s nearest range. Sypes Canyon Trail offers a less-steep family day hike. The 4-mile round trip weaves through a creek-fed canyon on the west side of the Bridgers and unfolds to rocky open sections and shady forests before it lands at an overlook of Bozeman.
The trail is also conveniently on the way to one of the town’s more than a dozen breweries. MAP Brewery offers a view of the mountains you just climbed and a chance to recharge with a pint and a hot sandwich.
The Gallatin Valley floor is where rivers meet, making it a haven for fly- fishing enthusiasts. Stop by a local fly shop to check out the latest fishing reports, then strike out to the blue ribbon Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers. History buffs can head over Bozeman Pass toward the Yellowstone River, tracing the route William Clark’s team followed in the 1800s. Head underground to the Lewis and Clark Caverns with a guided state park tour. During parts of the year, you can explore the passages as its first discoverers did—by candlelight.
As the sun sets and the air cools, Bozeman Hot Springs is a good next step, with twelve natural pools to rotate through. If it’s a weekend, you’re likely to catch some live music alongside the spa’s four outdoor pools. Head to downtown Bozeman for live entertainment. The historic Ellen Theatre and newly restored Rialto play hosts everything from a giant rock-and-roll puppet show to the newest take on classics like “Oklahoma!” or a band making the rounds.
Those looking for Montana-themed grub should stop at Open Range. The menu features the West’s finest, including crispy duck confit, bison tenderloin tartare and venison chop. A Bozeman favorite is Montana Ale Works, with a solid rotation of the state’s beer and a menu to please anyone’s palate, from a local bratwurst plate to Asian ramen with tofu.
Winter only adds to the valley. Bozeman’s closest ski mountain, Bridger Bowl, has some of the most technical skiing in the state and lessons for those new to the slopes. Fifty miles south is Big Sky Resort, one of the largest ski resorts out west, with 5,800 acres of terrain across four mountains connected by chairlifts.
If downhill skiing isn’t your thing, cross country courses appear throughout Bozeman as snow collects. If you want to enjoy the crisp air without working up a sweat, check out local dog sled and horse-drawn sleigh tours.
People with time to spare should explore Bozeman’s wild neighbors. Roughly thirty minutes east of town, beyond a grizzly bear rescue sanctuary and over a mountain pass, is Livingston—where artists and cowboys meet. Drive roughly an hour south and you’ll arrive at the entrance to the wonders of Yellowstone National Park.
Montana Ale Works
Montana Fish Company
Treasure State Hostels
Rainbow Ranch Lodge
Historic Rialto Bozeman
Silver Creek Cabins
Emerson Center for the Arts and Culture
Museum of the Rockies
The Ellen Theatre
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Bridger Creek Golf Course
Walking Mountains Brewery
The Molly Brown