Escape to Montana: 1 Weekend, 5 Epic Adventures
These action-packed, family-friendly activities can all be done with just two days in this great state.
Make Bozeman your base camp for a quick family-friendly—and action-packed—Montana getaway. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the gateway to spectacularly scenic southwest Montana, home to Big Sky Resort and the northernmost sections of Yellowstone National Park. Rent a car at the airport and stay in or near Bozeman to experience these five epic adventures in a single weekend.
Wear a pair of trail runners or hiking boots so you can head for the hills at any point in the weekend. Bozeman’s Main Street to the Mountains system connects people to public lands via more than 80 miles of trails. Use the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s interactive trail map viewer to see trail descriptions and directions. For a short (about two miles round-trip) hike with big valley and mountain views, try the Drinking Horse Mountain National Recreation Trail. To get your fill of waterfalls (11 in 11 miles, round-trip) hit the popular Hyalite Creek Trail.
Southwestern Montana is a fly-fishing dream destination, and an activity suited for all ages. Within 25 miles of Bozeman alone, you can cast a line in more than 35 rivers, lakes, and streams teeming with wild trout. Reel in browns, rainbows, or Yellowstone cutthroats on a legendary Montana river like the Gallatin, featured prominently in Robert Redford’s classic fly-fishing flick A River Runs Through It. Before you go, buy a fishing license and review fishing regulations. To spend more time casting and less time dealing with logistics, hire a local guide service like Trout Stalkers in Ennis or Montana Angler Fly Fishing in Bozeman. Half-day float or wade fishing trips aren’t cheap (expect to pay at least $400 plus tip), but you’ll likely land more trout with a guide than going it alone.
Whether you’re an off-road biking newbie or a seasoned pro in search of bone-jarring terrain, there’s a Bozeman mountain bike trail that’s just your speed. Rent a ride and get route recommendations in town at Owenhouse Cycling or Round House Ski and Sports Center. For serious downhill thrills, drive or take the Link Express bus about an hour south of Bozeman to Big Sky Resort. The resort’s Big Sky Bike Park has over 40 miles of mountain biking trails, including the area’s only chairlift-accessible routes. Buy a bike haul lift ticket (bike rentals also are available) for the chairlift ride to the top.
Saddle up for a scenic trail ride with Bear Paw Outfitters in Livingston. Rancher-owners Tim and Cindy Bowers are fourth-generation Montanans specializing in safe horseback riding experiences for cowboys—and cowgirls—of all levels and nearly all ages (six and up). One-, two-, or three-hour (half-day) rides begin at the main Bear Paw Outfitters location near Livingston, 35 miles southeast of Bozeman. To tick three big adventure boxes (horseback riding, fly-fishing, and Yellowstone National Park in one day, sign up for Bear Paw’s Slough Creek Fly-Fishing Trip. The 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. excursion packs in four hours of saddle time, four and a half hours of stream fishing, and a good chance of spotting wildlife—such as bison, pronghorn, and grizzly bears.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Spend an adrenaline-pumping morning rafting the rapids on the Gallatin River southwest of Bozeman. The wildest and wettest rides are on the Lower Gallatin, home to a narrow, white-knuckler stretch of Class III and IV rapids—the latter portion is known as the “Mad Mile.” Tamer Class I and II rapids are found on the Upper Gallatin. Half-day raft trips on the Gallatin with Montana Whitewater range from scenic, flatwater floats to hold-on-tight runs through big, rapid boulder fields. Tackle two adventures in one stop with a Paddle & Saddle (morning horseback ride and afternoon rafting) or Cast & Raft (morning fly-fishing and afternoon rafting) package.
Maryellen Kennedy Duckett lives, writes, and drives the backroads in East Tennessee where she wakes up curious every day. You can follow her on Twitter @mekd.