Called the gateway to Yellowstone, Bozeman draws outdoor enthusiasts like bees to honey, but it’s the easy, laid-back atmosphere and friendly populace that make it just the right place to cool your heels after an active holiday.
Head out to the mountains surrounding Bozeman and remember to bring bear spray. Anything from larger animals such as bear, moose, elk, and deer all the way down to smaller ones like fox, coyote, and skunk might be sighted. Sometimes wildlife can even be spotted on little treks around areas close to town.
Thirty miles west of Bozeman is a place called Missouri Headwaters State Park. This is where the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson Rivers meet to form the Missouri River. It may not sound all that exciting, but standing there where (arguably) the longest river in the U.S. starts—essentially in the middle of nowhere—is quite an awe-inspiring feeling.
Bozeman is relatively close to two of five Yellowstone entrances—Gardiner, the north entrance, and West Yellowstone, the west entrance. Yellowstone was the first to be established as a national park and its most famous attraction is the Old Faithful geyser that goes off every 45 to 125 minutes, discharging 14,000 to 32,000 liters of mineral-charged water up to 56 meters high. Besides that, the park is known for sightings of black and grizzly bears, bison, and bighorn sheep.
Best Day Trip
There are a lot of nice day drives: Bridger Canyon loop to White Sulphur Springs, where you can take a soak, or through the Gallatin Canyon toward West Yellowstone, where you can take a hike and look for bighorn sheep. For a really long day trip, zip down through Yellowstone and drive the Beartooth Highway (only open during summer)—often described as the best motorcycling road in the northwest and the most scenic road in America. It zigzags through 5,000 feet of elevation in just a few miles. Alpine tundra flanks the route that crests at the 10,940-foot-high Beartooth Pass that can have 18-foot-high snowbanks even in the middle of July.
Off the Beaten Path
Head to the base of Sacagawea Peak in the Bridger Range that is 28 miles north of Bozeman (the Fairy Lake Campground and Trailhead is where to go). The lake itself is a stunning glacial green but the prize is the trek to the Sacagawea Peak that is short yet steep and gains almost 2,000 feet in elevation. There can be snow even in the middle of summer since this is a popular backcountry ski area. Mountain goats are often sighted on the trail and the views of the Crazy Mountains, the Spanish Peaks, and the Tobacco Roots can be enjoyed from the summit of the peak.
Most Iconic Attraction
The Museum of the Rockies is a Smithsonian affiliate and houses one of the country's largest collections of North American dinosaur fossils consisting entirely of discoveries made in and around Montana in the form of permanent indoor and outdoor exhibits. Besides that there are changing exhibits from all over the world, planetarium shows, and insightful lectures.
Bozeman and Montana as a whole are not really very big on nightclubs, but Bozeman’s good old Main Street is the late-night hangout. There are lots of bars and restaurants. The vibe at most of these restaurants is a delightful mash of bohemian, cowboy, and athletic. And most places are loud and happy with hearty guffaws often rending through the air.
The Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is about 40 miles west of Bozeman and within it is a high limestone cliff that was used by Native Americans for 2,000 years—until as recently as 200 years ago. Native people stampeded vast herds of bison off this massive semicircular cliff, using them for food, clothing, shelter, and provisions.
Grab a drink right on historic downtown Main Street. The Rocking R Bar, Plonk Wine Bar, and Ted's Montana Grill all have outdoor seating in the summer—perfect to watch all the tourists and locals strolling up and down the street. For a bird's-eye view, head to the outdoor rooftop patio at the Crystal Bar.
The Bridger Bowl Ski Resort is 16 miles north of Bozeman and is a community-owned nonprofit enterprise. This means that the prices are unbeatable, and it is known for its light and fluffy powdery snow.