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Bozeman may be famous for its outdoor adventures, with activities for every season, but it offers a whole lot more than that too. Enjoy its Old West flavor blended with an alternative college town feel, and all sorts of cultural attractions, nightlife and entertainment. You’ll also be an easy day trip from many other fantastic places to explore outside of the city.
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Montana is famous for its outstanding fly fishing – and Bozeman is one of the top spots to base yourself for this experience with more miles of blue ribbon trout waters within a two-hour drive than you could fish in a lifetime. Whether you head out on your own or prefer a guided trip, world-class fly fishing rivers here include the Madison, Yellowstone, Missouri and the Gallatin, along with countless unnamed streams. Most rivers in the area are renowned for their abundance of rainbow and brown trout, though cutthroat trout, arctic grayling and whitefish can be found as well.
The trailhead to this beautiful waterfall that plunges 80 feet down a dramatic vertical rock wall at the base of the Palisade Mountain is just a short drive south of Bozeman through Hyalite Canyon. Especially popular for families with children, the round-trip trek is only 1.4 miles with little elevation gain as it follows a paved, shady path the entire way. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy lunch in the area at the base of the falls, especially nice on a warm, summer day with the cool mist providing natural air conditioning.
The Gallatin River flows just west of Bozeman in the picturesque Gallatin Canyon, offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of whitewater rafting while beating summer’s heat. Paddlers venture through the crystal-clear cool waters while watching for all sorts of wildlife like moose, elk, bears, big horn sheep, bald eagles and osprey. While the highly-experienced can enjoy a do-it-yourself adventurer, outfitters can bring rafters of all skill levels out on the river, including beginners, for a safe and fun journey.
After a day out playing in the mountains, or exploring the town, there are few better ways to cap it off than unwinding with a soak in the warmth of a mineral hot spring. Bozeman Hot Springs is just 10 minutes west of town and offers geothermally-heated steaming mineral waters, or head to Chico Hot Springs, less than an hour’s drive southeast of Bozeman. It features two mineral pools and a day spa, surrounded by some of the state’s most beautiful mountain scenery. It also hosts a number of dining options, including the Tasting Room where you can indulge in the Chef’s “tasting menu” with sommelier-chosen wine pairings.
Outdoor adventures obviously abound, but this town offers lots to do indoors as well, including a visit to the Museum of the Rockies. One of Montana’s top museums, it’s entertaining for all ages. The exceptional dinosaur exhibits – the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the entire nation – are the highlight, but it also showcases early Native American art, a Living History Farm in the Tinsley House that provides a look at the life of a family during the turn-of-the-century, and a laser planetarium.
If you like a good craft brew, you have plenty of options here. In fact, the city’s brewing industry dates back nearly 150 years. Some of the top picks include the renowned Bozeman Brewing Company serving favorites like Bozeman Amber, MAP Brewing Company with its award-winning Northbound Ale. Bridger Brewing is known for its outstanding Scotch Ale, which tastes as if it came from a whisky barrel, having been aged with whisky soaked oak resulting in a mellow, malt peat flavor.
Located near Whitehall, about 50 minutes west of Bozeman, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is Montana’s first and most well-known state park showcasing one of the most decorated limestone caverns in the Northwest. The caves are lined with spectacular columns, stalactites, stalagmites and helictites that visitors view under the glow of electric lights. It’s a fabulous place to cool off in the summer, providing a natural respite from the intense rays of the sun. While you can venture in on the self-guided nature trail, guided tours are available from May 1 through September 30 each year. The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, a visitor center cabin rentals and campground.
History buffs won’t want to miss the Gallatin History Museum which preserves the history of Gallatin County and the surrounding southwest region of the state. Step back in time exploring its rich history through a wide range of artifacts and displays. There are all sorts of personal items here that have belonged to Bozeman locals over the decades as well as fascinating exhibits like the infamous Big Horn Gun, hanging gallows and notable jail cells, a model of old Fort Ellis, a reconstructed log cabin and the city’s first steam-powered fire engine. There is also an exhibit focused on the history of Native American tribes who lived in the Gallatin Valley.
America’s first national park makes for the ultimate day trip from Bozeman. Less than 90 miles south of the city and you’ll be in the world’s most active areas of hydrothermal activity, with hot springs, mudpots and geysers that include the most famous on Earth, Old Faithful. The park also hosts magnificent waterfalls, lakes, rivers and an abundance of wildlife from bison, moose and bears to wolves, elk and even pelicans. Take the short walk around the vibrant rainbow-colored Grand Prismatic Spring and be sure to visit Yellowstone Falls. As you drive the Grand Loop Road you can stop at visitor centers and museums, as well as venture onto scenic side roads. Oftentimes you’ll see some of the park’s animals right in the middle of the road or close by – just look for the line of cars parked to the side.