Guidebook

Run 7 of Bozeman's Best Trails

Dip your toes into Bozeman's trail running scene with these 7 top trails.

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 run up the South Cottonwood Trail. Chestnut Mountain is also easy to reach, but the climb itself is quite steep for a primer.

Many of the most popular trails in the region begin from Hyalite Canyon, which is also home to a stunning alpine reservoir. For two fantastic runs to high alpine lakes, try Hyalite Lake and Emerald and Heather Lakes out.

You're going to have to bring your A-game to tackle these selected runs in the Bridgers to the north of Bozeman. Warm up with a 9.4-mile loop known as the "Fairyhouse Loop," and then tackle a short but steep climb to the top of Sacagawea Peak. If 2,000 feet of vert in 2.2 miles up Sacagawea peak wasn't enough for you, carry on down the rest of Bridger Ridge to complete the Bridger Ridge Traverse—a whopping 18 miles long with over 6,000 vertical feet of gain and 8,800 vertical feet of elevation loss.

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 running, try to travel 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 head into the mountains, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.

Bridger Ridge Traverse
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Bridger Ridge Traverse

North Bridgers
29.0 km
1,852 m
2,682 m
A tough, technical, exposed traverse of the rugged Bridger range.
Extreme
Private
South Cottonwood Out-and-Back
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

South Cottonwood Out-and-Back

26.6 km
665 m
665 m
An easily-accessible trailhead leads deep into the Gallatins.
Moderate
Private
Fairyhouse Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Fairyhouse Loop

North Bridgers
15.1 km
609 m
608 m
A fantastic backcountry loop serving up stunning views and rewarding singletrack
Difficult
Private
Hyalite Creek to Hyalite Lake
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Hyalite Creek to Hyalite Lake

Hyalite
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
17.7 km
676 m
676 m
Run to two of the most beautiful lakes above Bozeman.
Difficult
Private
Sacagawea Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Sacagawea Peak

North Bridgers
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

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