Guidebook

8 Must-Do Hikes near Bozeman, Montana

Start exploring the mountains near Bozeman, Montana with this 8-part ticklist.

Greg Heil

Description

The small city of Bozeman in southwestern Montana has grown into one of North America's major outdoors hubs. What once used to be a rural backwater has transformed into a bustling city with a trendy downtown scene flanked by dramatic mountain ranges on all sides. A region that was originally dominated by hunting and fishing is now also home to trendier outdoor sports such as mountain biking and kayaking.

The two closest mountain ranges to Bozeman are the Gallatins just to the south and the Bridgers to the north. While the Gallatins rise a bit higher and spread more expansively, the Bridgers are renowned for their ruggedness. With two dramatic mountain ranges to choose from, you can enjoy almost any type of outdoor adventure within just a few minutes from Bozeman. If you can imagine a mountain, you can probably do it here in Bozeman. You'll find fantastic opportunities for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding, rock climbing, peak climbing, whitewater kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, fly fishing, hunting... the list goes on and on.

This breathtaking access to dramatic wilderness initially feels liberating, but it can soon become overwhelming. Where do you even begin? From the thousands of miles of trails, which ones do you choose? Where do you go?

This guidebook has the answers... or at least a few great places to start.

If you want to begin with an easily-accessible trailhead, try out the beautiful hike up the South Cottonwood Trail to the meadows. Chestnut Mountain is also easy to reach, but the hike itself is quite steep for a primer.

Many of the most popular hikes in the region begin from Hyalite Canyon, which is also home to a stunning alpine reservoir. For an easy tourist hike in the canyon, try the popular Palisade Falls. For more challenging hikes to high alpine lakes, try Hyalite Lake and Emerald and Heather Lakes out.

Turning the focus north to the Bridgers, the loop down and around Fairy Lake is short and scenic, despite the long drive to reach it. But from there, the hiking gets formidable. Bridger Bowl Ridge is a steep climb to a stunning view from the eponymous ski resort. And if you want to bag the range's highpoint, set your sights on Sacagawea Peak.

Southwestern Montana offers many lifetimes' worth of adventure! These selections are just the highlights—once you've ticked these boxes, prepare to dive deeper into this incredible wilderness near Bozeman.

Note:

The Bozeman area is renowned as prime grizzly bear country. Signs at every trailhead warn that bears are highly active in the area. To mitigate the risk of bear encounters, make plenty of noise while hiking, try to hike with a group of people, and consider attaching a bear bell to your backpack. Also, make certain that you carry bear spray with you every time you hike, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.

South Cottonwood: To the Meadows
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

South Cottonwood: To the Meadows

4 - 5 hrs
17.4 km
453 m
453 m
An easily-accessible trailhead leads deep into the Gallatins.
Moderate
Private
Fairy Lake Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Fairy Lake Loop

North Bridgers
0 - 1 hrs
1.4 km
24 m
24 m
Hike down and around a pristine alpine lake at the base of a dramatic mountain.
Easy
Private
Hyalite Creek to Hyalite Lake
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Hyalite Creek to Hyalite Lake

Hyalite
4 - 5 hrs
17.7 km
670 m
669 m
One of the most famous trails near Bozeman, passing numerous waterfalls and leading to a beautiful alpine lake.
Difficult
Private
Emerald Lake and Heather Lake
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Emerald Lake and Heather Lake

Hyalite
4 - 5 hrs
17.7 km
676 m
676 m
Hike to two of the most beautiful lakes above Bozeman.
Difficult
Private
Palisade Falls
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Palisade Falls

Hyalite
0 - 1 hrs
1.8 km
91 m
91 m
Easy tourist hike to an 80-foot-tall waterfall.
Easy
Private
Bridger Bowl Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bridger Bowl Ridge

Bridger Bowl
2 - 3 hrs
6.8 km
648 m
648 m
A steep hike up Bridger Bowl ski area to a beautiful view from the top of the ridge.
Severe
Private
Sacagawea Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Sacagawea Peak

North Bridgers
2 - 3 hrs
6.9 km
609 m
609 m
Climb the high point of the Bridger Range.
Severe
Private
Chestnut Mountain
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Chestnut Mountain

4 - 5 hrs
17.5 km
836 m
836 m
An aesthetic ascent leads to a beautiful view over the Gallatin range.
Difficult
Private