Many of the outdoor activities discussed in this section take place in the Gallatin National Forest. For additional information, including current road and trail conditions, contact the Bozeman Ranger District, 3710 Fallon St., Ste. C, Bozeman, MT 59718 (tel. 406/522-2520 or 587-6701; www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin).
There are plenty of biking opportunities here, mostly off-pavement. Some of the best mountain biking is in the Gallatin National Forest -- check with the Bozeman Ranger District office for tips on where to go.
If you want to explore on your own, many drainages provide excellent skiing around Bozeman. Some local favorites are the 10-mile, moderately difficult Bozeman Creek to Mystic Lake Trail that gains 1,300 feet of elevation over its course (go south of S. 3rd St. for 4 miles to Nash Rd., then east on Nash Rd. for a mile to Bozeman Creek Rd., then 1 mile south to the parking area), and the Hyalite Reservoir Ski Loop, a 4-mile, relatively flat track around the Hyalite Reservoir, also rated moderately difficult. The road may not be plowed or maintained in winter. Two ski mountaineering routes for the adventurous are the 14-mile Hyalite Ski Loop and the 5 1/2-mile New World Gulch to Mystic Lake Trail. Check with the Bozeman Ranger District office for directions.
Bohart Ranch, 16621 Bridger Canyon Rd., Bozeman, MT 59715 (tel. 406/586-9070; www.bohartranchxcski.com), next to the Bridger Bowl downhill area, offers 16 miles of groomed and tracked trails for all levels of skiers. There are a biathlon range, a ski school, and ski rentals. Located in Bridger Canyon, 17 miles northeast of Bozeman on U.S. 86, it's open in winter daily from 9am to 4pm, and summer daily from dawn to dusk. Cost is $15 for adults, $8 for children 7 to 12, and free for seniors and kids 6 and under.
The nonprofit Bridger Bowl is just 16 miles north of town, on Mont. 86 (15795 Bridger Canyon Rd., Bozeman, MT 59715; tel. 800/223-9609 or 406/587-2111; www.bridgerbowl.com). Although not as steep as Teton Village in Jackson Hole, Bridger Bowl is plenty steep for most of us, and a great hill for good skiers. There is a lot of advanced and extreme terrain (50%), tempered by 50% beginner and intermediate terrain. Full-day lift tickets cost $45 adults, $37 seniors 65 to 71, $16 children 7 to 12, and free for those 6 and under or 72 and over; half-day rates are available. The fixed-grip quad, two triple, and five double chairs can haul people up the hill at the rate of 7,600 an hour. With almost 30 feet of snowfall annually, Bridger sees a lot of powder days. It's usually open from the second Friday in December to early April, daily from 9am to 4pm. There is limited lodging on the mountain; a free shuttle runs from Bozeman. And there are seldom any lift lines. For more downhill skiing in the Bozeman area, see Big Sky and Moonlight Basin in the Gallatin Valley section, later in this chapter.
The River's Edge, 2012 N. 7th Ave. (tel. 406/586-5373; www.theriversedge.com), is a highly professional fly-fishing specialty shop "in the heart of Montana's blue-ribbon trout streams." They offer guided fishing trips year-round -- including float fishing and walking or wading trips, plus equipment rental and shuttle service. A full-line Orvis shop, Montana Troutfitters, 1716 W. Main St. (tel. 800/646-7847 or 406/587-4707; www.troutfitters.com), offers guided float, walk and wade, and tube trips to rivers, lakes, and streams; plus 2- and 4-day fly-fishing schools. The Troutfitters are especially good at teaching youngsters the basics of the sport. The Bozeman Angler, 23 E. Main St. (tel. 800/886-9111 or 406/587-9111; www.bozemanangler.com), provides guided trips in the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Jefferson, and Missouri rivers plus numerous creeks, reservoirs, and lakes. Anglers can choose float trips in hard-sided drift boats, walk and wade, or backcountry fishing trips. From all three, full-day guided trips typically run $400 to $500 for two people, a price that includes lunch.
Bridger Creek Golf Course, 2710 McIlhattan Rd. (tel. 406/586-2333; www.bridgercreek.com), offers a scenic and challenging 18-hole layout, 6,400 yards from the back tees. It costs $33 for 18 holes on the weekend, $31 during the week. Carts are $28 for two people. Cottonwood Hills Golf Course, 8955 River Rd. (tel. 408/587-1118; www.cottonwoodhills.com), has an 18-hole course and a par-3 executive 9-hole course. Greens fees run $24 to $40 at the former ($28 for carts) and $10 to $14 at the latter ($14 carts).
There's a beautiful and popular hiking area near Bozeman, known as the Hyalite drainage, in the Gallatin National Forest. The area includes Hyalite Canyon and reservoir, Palisades Falls Trail, and many trail heads for access to the national forest. A lot of the trails here are steep and difficult, though. An excellent introductory hike to get the lay of the land is the .5-mile Palisades Falls National Recreation Trail. From Bozeman, take 19th Avenue south for 7 1/2 miles to the Hyalite Canyon Road, and follow the road to the reservoir. Continue east around the reservoir for 2 miles to the East Fork Road, and proceed to the Palisades Falls parking area. The trail gains 540 feet in a little more than .5 mile, which makes it very steep and gives it a rating of "most difficult" for a recreational trail.
Hyalite Reservoir itself contains cutthroat and grayling, and there are two campsites here. The Grotto Falls Trail is a steep 1.25-mile graveled trail to Grotto Falls located 13 miles up the West Fork Road in Hyalite Canyon. For a longer hike, go the 7.25 miles up the Hyalite Peak Trail to the peak. There is a 3,300-foot elevation gain on this hike.
The Gallatin Valley Land Trust's "Main Street to the Mountains" project has connected downtown Bozeman with a 50-mile network that connects with the surrounding communities and mountain ranges. For more information, visit www.gvlt.org/trails.html.
If you're interested in combining a little bird-watching with your hiking, try the Kirk Hill nature preserve in the foothills transition zone, where you might spot a colorful western tanager or a great gray owl. Take South 19th Street south for 5 miles until the road curves west. The entrance to the preserve is on the left.
Montana Whitewater (tel. 800/799-4465 or 406/763-4465; www.montanawhitewater.com) can get you sprayed in the face by the waters of both the Yellowstone and the Gallatin rivers. You paddle the raft as you fly through the nearly continuous rapids of the Gardiner section of the upper Yellowstone or through the dauntingly named rapids of Snake Bite and Mother Eater on the Gallatin. In addition to the white-water trips, the company offers more sedate scenic trips and "saddle and paddle" outings in which the morning is spent riding and the afternoon rafting. Half-day trips on the Gallatin cost $51 adults, $41 ages 12 and under; on the Yellowstone it's $39 and $29, respectively. Full-day Gallatin trips cost $84 adults and $68 ages 12 and under, and on the Yellowstone $75 and $55, respectively. "Paddle and saddle" jaunts that mix rafting and horseback riding range from $92 to $140 per adult per day, and $82 to $130 for kids 12 and under. Wild West Whitewater Rafting (tel. 800/862-0557; www.wildwestrafting.com) offers similar trips on Yellowstone River, including half- and full-day rafting tours ($38-$75 adults; $28-$55 kids 6-12).
Where To Find Equipment & Supplies
It's easy to find whatever outdoor recreation equipment you need for your particular adventure. Among the rental outlets I recommend are Panda Sports Rentals, 621 Bridger Dr. (tel. 406/587-6280), which rents skis and snowboards; Chalet Sports, 108 W. Main St. (tel. 406/587-4595), a full-line sporting goods store that sells skis as well as rents bikes, in-line skates, skis, and snowboards; and Northern Lights Trading Co., 1716 W. Babcock (tel. 866/586-2225), a high-end store selling gear for everything from kayaking to Telemark skiing, and renting canoes, rafts, and kayaks. These stores are also great sources for advice.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.