Things to Do in Bozeman, Montana for Outdoor Lovers
We have long wanted to explore more of Montana ever since our 2015 trip to Glacier National Park. As a decent-sized city surrounded by national forests, Bozeman, Montana was a perfect base for a week of remote work! With so many things to do in Bozeman, it’s hard to weed out the highlights and pick the best experiences. That’s why I’m sharing the things we did that we absolutely loved! This post will make it easier for you to plan your own trip to Bozeman, with detailed information about all the best things to do in Bozeman, plus where to stay, how to get to Bozeman, what to pack, and more!
How to Get to Bozeman, Montana
The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is Montana’s busiest airport and is your best choice for flying in and out of Bozeman. If you fly, you absolutely must get a rental car at the airport, because there are very limited transportation options.
Bozeman, Montana Area Map
Where to Stay in Bozeman, Montana
We used Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to stay at the My Place Hotel Bozeman. It was in a decent location near a shopping center with a lot of food and grocery options. The room itself had a small kitchen, but oddly no plates or cutlery. Since the hotel doesn’t advertise having a kitchen, though, we didn’t mind. We travel with a lot of our own food and Tupperware when we road trip so we had most of what we’d need in a kitchen anyway! Plus, they are pet-friendly, which is a must for us when traveling with Mara Cat!
For a luxurious stay, we’d choose Kimpton Armory Hotel Bozeman. The rooms are stunning and the views can’t be beaten!
For a budget-friendly option, you can’t beat the Baymont by Wyndham Bozeman. The reviews are positive, too.
If you’re camping, check out more info on RV and tent campsites in Bozeman, Montana here.
Weather in Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman, Montana has cold winters and pleasantly hot summers. We visited in July 2021 and we were surprised that it was really cold in the mornings! And I mean, like, 40 degrees Fahrenheit and we had to postpone our hike because we didn’t have enough clothes! Take it from our mistake – you definitely need layers and to be prepared for all kinds of temperatures even in the summer.
We also experienced some of the effects of wildfire season during our July visit. Walking through downtown Bozeman, we could smell smoke in the air from distant fires. August is usually the peak of wildfire season, but each year the season is getting longer and more dangerous. Be aware of active fires, respect all fire activity restrictions, and check conditions before hitting the trails!
What to Pack for Bozeman, Montana
Regardless of when you visit, you’ll need to bring:
- Backpack to carry everything (but the car!) in
- Camera (see our camera gear here)
- Bear spray
Here’s what I recommend packing if you are visiting in the winter:
- Underwear (duh!)
- Baselayer – wool pants and a shirt
- A thermal/wool sweater
- Thermal hiking pants (him) or fleece-lined leggings (her)
- Wool socks
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Warm coat
- Wool hat
- Microspikes for hiking on icy trails
All of our winter hiking gear can be found in our Amazon storefront in our Winter Hiking Gear list!
Here’s what I recommend packing if you are visiting in the summer:
- Underwear (no one likes a sweaty bum)
- T-shirts/tanks (sweat-wicking and with SPF are best!)
- Hiking pants or shorts (if you opt for pants, I recommend the kind you can roll up or convert for hot days)
- Light, water-wicking socks
- Hiking boots or sandals
- Light jacket and sweater for cool nights and mornings
Things to Do in Bozeman, Montana for Outdoors Lovers
Hike to Sacagewea Peak
The 5.2-mile round trip hike to Sacagewea Peak is my favorite of the treks we did in Gallatin National Forest. It’s a fairly steep hike, with 1975 feet of elevation gain and a bit of scrambling, especially at the end. The views are well worth it, however! Plus, you will earn major bragging rights for submitting Sacagewea Peak. At 9,665 feet, Sacagewea Peak is the highest point in the Bridger Range.
You’ll want a vehicle that can manage rough roads since the road to the parking area is unpaved and bumpy. For reference, we did this drive in a Ford Escape, and I would recommend an SUV or similarly capable vehicle or tougher for the roads.
You also need to carry bear spray on this or any hike you do in Montana! You do not want to trek bear country without it, because bears can and do get aggressive and injure and kill hikers. When Tim and I got to one trailhead in Montana and realized we forgot bear spray, we turned around and slated the hike for another day. It’s simply not worth the risk!
The hike itself starts from the parking area for Fairy Lake (which also makes this list and is a must-see in Bozeman, Montana!). The incline starts pretty much immediately with a series of gradual switchbacks through the forest. Then, it opens up into an incredible valley surrounded by peaks all around you. Once you cross the valley, you climb a much steeper, more challenging series of rocky switchbacks all the way to the top of the ridge. From here, you’ll walk about a mile to the left along the ridge and up the scrambly rocks to the summit. The views at the top are absolutely insane, with the Gallatin National Forest and its peaks all around in every direction!
Swim or Kayak in Fairy Lake
Just a half-mile stroll from the same parking area as the Sacagewea Peak trail is the emerald green Fairy Lake. The water’s color, the glistening of the sun, and the mountain peaks in the backdrop make this one of our favorite places near Bozeman, Montana. There are secluded beach and picnic areas around the lake, making it an excellent place to relax before or after climbing Sacagewea Peak! The water is on the chilly side, but a refreshing swim on a hot day. You can also kayak on the lake!
Explore downtown Bozeman
We ended up spending a morning strolling through the charming downtown area of Bozeman, Montana after postponing our hike of Storm Castle (described further below!) due to not having enough layers (brrr!) or any bear spray (rawr!). It turned out to be a great idea, though!
We had a tasty cappuccino from Rockford Coffee on E Main Street, bought bear spray at the Ace Hardware store on the same street, and checked out some of the shops as they were opening up! You can find clothing and jewelry boutiques, outdoor adventure gear, great restaurants and bars, and lots of specialty shops all in downtown Bozeman!
Hike to Pine Creek Lake
The 11-mile round trip hike to Pine Creek Lake in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (more or less on the edge of the Gallatin National Forest) was Tim’s favorite thing to do near Bozeman, Montana. I had a slight preference for Sacagewea Peak over Pine Creek Lake, but that’s only because we ran out of water with about 2 miles to go to get back to the car after hiking to Pine Creek Lake.
This hike is steep and challenging, with 3635 feet of elevation gain. That said, the views are absolutely incredible. They are national park caliber views, but with a fraction of a decimal of the crowds (mathematically, I do not know how that works, but you get the point!).
The hike starts in the forest, and soon you’ll arrive at a tall waterfall and narrow wooden bridge. This is the first of many river crossings on the hike, so wear your waterproof hiking boots! Not all crossings have an actual bridge, and some will require careful navigation across downed branches. We recommend having a hiking stick handy to help with balancing!
You’ll stay within earshot of the stream most of the hike but will also see open valleys, lots of wildflowers, and a few smaller waterfalls before nearing an unnamed lake. You’ll see two skinny waterfalls connecting this lake with Jewel Lake above it. Jewel Lake is the second lake you’ll see on this hike, and it sits just below Pine Creek Lake. You can think of these three lakes as different steps on a staircase leading you up!
The view at Pine Creek Lake is fantastic, with snowcapped mountains and the potential for mirror-like reflections on calm days. We had quite a bit of wildfire haze on our hike, which is why it looks so overcast in our photos, but it was still beautiful!
Plus, the trailhead is less than an hour from downtown, making it one of the best hikes you can do from Bozeman, Montana!
Hike to Storm Castle Peak
Storm Castle in the Gallatin National Forest was the first hike we attempted from Bozeman, Montana. When we got to the trailhead, we didn’t have any cell phone service and I had forgotten to download the map for Storm Castle on All Trails. On top of that, we were underdressed for the chilly morning and forgot to bring bear spray. Take it from us when we say you should just have these things on your Montana hiking checklist: download your map, check the weather, carry bear spray.
We came back one evening after work to hike Storm Castle, this time with all the right gear and information. The 5.2 mile Storm Castle Peak hike climbs 1860 feet of elevation before presenting you with panoramic views of the surrounding forest. Don’t miss the natural “window” in the rock next to the cliff! This is a fun viewpoint and photo location at Storm Castle Peak.
Take a Day Trip to a Ghost Town
Bozeman, Montana is a great base for exploring the state’s many ghost towns, abandoned mining towns from as early as the 1800s. Visiting a ghost town is a must-do when in Bozeman! We really enjoyed our visit to Bannack State Park, but Virginia City and Nevada City are two other closeby ghost towns that are popular with visitors to the Bozeman area. It costs $8 per vehicle to visit Bannack State Park for the day, and an additional $2 will get you a booklet that explains all of the buildings and their histories!
Visit a brewery
Bozeman, Montana has a funky little microbrewery scene, with several options downtown! We recommend Bozeman Brewing Company in the historic Bozeman brewery district.
Take a Day Trip to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is only an hour and 40 minutes by car away from Bozeman, Montana! With one of the world’s greatest national parks so close, a visit to Yellowstone National Park is one of the best things you can do when you’re in Bozeman, Montana! If you start early, you can visit all of the highlights in one (long) day. Look for a future blog post with a complete one-day itinerary coming soon!
Eat a bison burger
The best way to restore your energy after a day of hiking has got to be with a local bison burger! There are many options for a burger in downtown Bozeman, Montana. We recommend Backcountry Burger Bar for their delicious bison and beef burgers, and decadent macaroni and cheese!
Float the Madison River
Make like the local college students and spend a half-day floating on the Madison River in a 3- to 6-person raft or inner tube! You can rent either from Big Boys Toys All Terrain Rentals. Rental shops can also arrange a shuttle to pick you up and bring you back upriver when you’re done!
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Bozeman, Montana
For hiking lovers and those who enjoy big views with few crowds, Bozeman, Montana is a great destination. There are so many great things to do, from hiking to floating down a river to eating and drinking to heart’s content in downtown Bozeman. We already want to return to the area to uncover more hikes, and will keep this post updated with more amazing things to do in Bozeman, Montana!
Check out my other USA guides for more travel advice to help you organize your own adventures!