BOZEMAN - GREATER YELLOWSTONE
The proximity to Yellowstone National Park is a major draw for potential members of MCC’s Greater Yellowstone Region. Being based in Bozeman, Montana doesn’t hurt either. The city regularly receives national attention for its quality of life and direct access to recreation. At about 48,000 residents, Bozeman is a progressive city that still sports its small town colors. Nestled in the wide Gallatin Valley, many find bicycling the easiest way to get around town. The city is adorned by five separate mountain ranges; many of them are snow-capped throughout the year. This makes the region a hotspot for alpine skiing and other winter sports like ice climbing. There are multiple wilderness areas and world class fly fishing on the Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin and other rivers within a 2-hour radius. Warmer days also usher in a flow of markets, concerts, festivals, and a bustling downtown. And as the days grow longer, so does the list of potential activities. Plan accordingly - Bozeman will cause you to over-schedule.
If you hail from anywhere other than the Rockies, the amount of public land in Montana will astonish you. Bozeman and the surrounding areas are no exception. The Gallatin National Forest spans 1.8 million acres and contains the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area and Hyalite Reservoir among many other recreation hotspots. The forest nearly stretches to Yellowstone National Park, which is less than 100 miles away and shouldn’t be missed. You can see bison, elk, mountain sheep and goats, and eagles without much effort. Bears and wolves also call the park home but require more patience and potentially some backcountry travel to spot. Don’t forget to visit the region’s state parks that showoff the headwaters of the mighty Missouri, an ancient buffalo jump, and a limestone cave that predates the last Ice Age. Back in the city limits, the activities are endless. Bike, hike, kayak, camp, raft, or take in the amazing sunsets at Pete’s Hill, Drinking Horse, or the M Trail.
Public Lands in Our Area
Bear Canyon offers excellent rock climbing, hiking, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Like many other public spaces, this area is a short bike ride from town.
Photo Credit: Outside Bozeman
Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Area
This canyon is part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, but it’s a section that deserves its own recognition. The Madison River was the principal architect of the canyon which carved areas perfect for hiking, fishing, and paddling. Experienced rafters may find interest in the ‘Kitchen Sink’ rapid. The area is located at a lower elevation which allows for snow-free recreational enjoyment throughout the year.
Photo Credit: Outside Bozeman
These mountains will carve a very special place in your heart even if you are only visiting Bozeman. The mountains offer all of the recreation opportunities that any mountain range would, but they are within a bike ride of town. They are the keeper of huckleberries, mellow hiking/mountain biking trails that follow streams, strenuous hiking/mountain biking trails that bag peaks, and the ultimate ski/snowboard area—Bridger Bowl.
Custer-Gallatin National Forest
The forest comprises 3.2 million acres and contains portions of both the Absaroka-Beartooth and Lee Metcalf Wilderness areas within its boundaries. There are six separate mountain ranges within the forest including the Gallatin, Madison, Bridger, Crazy, Absaroka, and Beartooth Ranges. Quake Lake on the Madison River is the site of the 1959 earthquake and landslide which formed the lake. Over 2,290 miles of hiking trails are located in the forest providing access into wilderness areas and interlinking with trails in Yellowstone.
Headwaters State Park
Within the boundaries of this scenic park the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers merge to form the 2,300 mile Missouri River. The Missouri Headwaters area was a geographical focal point important to early Native Americans trappers, traders, and settlers. Coveting the regions bountiful resources, the Flathead, Bannock, and Shoshoni Indians competed for control of the area as did the trappers and settlers who followed.
The Hyalite Canyon area of the Gallatin National Forest can be reached in a quick and easy 15 minute drive from downtown Bozeman. Boaters and anglers can enjoy the 206-acre reservoir where cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and several other species of fish swim freely. The canyon offers several miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking that lead to numerous waterfalls, alpine lakes, alpine meadows, and rocky peaks. Hyalite is also a favorite rock climbing spot for locals and a renowned ice climbing and cross country skiing area in the winter.
Lee Metcalf Wilderness
The Lee Metcalf Wilderness is also a short drive from Bozeman. It encompasses over 250,000 acres of the Madison Mountain Range. There are over 300 miles of trails that lead to countless alpine lakes, u-shaped basins, ridgelines, towering peaks, creeks, and waterfalls. This is where grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, and wolves call home. This area is perfect for day hikes, backpacking trips, fishing and swimming, looking at the night sky, viewing wildlife, admiring wildflowers, and enjoying the solitude of Montana’s wild spaces.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Maybe being above ground isn’t really your thing. No problem. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park offers an underground experience you won’t soon forget. The park houses some of the largest known limestone caverns in the northwest. The park also provides excellent mountain biking and hiking (outside of the caverns, of course).
The most popular area of the Madison range, the Spanish Peaks, the crest of which consists of gneiss that is 1.6 billion years old, are also the oldest mountains in the range, predating the rest of the peaks by some 50-60 million years. Exactly why these mountains are named as they are is not known, but the likelihood is that the term relates to the prospectors who headed to Montana from Mexico. The Spanish Peaks run from Beartrap Canyon to the section of Gallatin Canyon near the town of Big Sky; at the southeast end, cracks in gneiss fins attract rock climbers. Peaks in the Spanish Peaks Unit that offer some of the best climbing are Gallatin Peak and Beehive Peak.
Yellowstone National Park
The world’s first national park was set aside for preservation and the enjoyment of all for a reason. Yellowstone is over two million acres and has some of the most diverse landscapes in the region. It varies from lush valleys full of roaming bison and rutting elk to explosive geysers and rocky peaks towering over 10,000 feet high to steep, to colorful canyons and cascading waterfalls dropping into hot springs that are the perfect temperature for soaking. Yellowstone is the core of one of the Earth’s largest, nearly intact, temperate-zone ecosystems. It is home to bison, eagles, wolves, grizzlies, black bears, pronghorn antelope, trumpeter swans, and much more. Whether you are into birds, reptiles, fish, mammals, plants, geology, history, or just enjoying the beauty around you, you have found your personal mecca. Yellowstone truly has it all.
Photo Credit: Donna Lawson
Bozeman is surrounded by rivers and home to arguably the best fly fishing in the world. With the Madison, Gallatin, Jefferson, Yellowstone, and Missouri Rivers all within a half hour’s drive, you can fish, kayak, white water raft, or lazy tube float.