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United States Trip Itineraries

Top 10 things to do in Montana

Destination(s): Bozeman

Big Sky Resort

Big Sky Resort

  • one lone mountain road
  • tel:800-548-4487
  • Visit website
  • Big Sky, 59716

With 3,812 acres of skiable terrain, a vertical drop of 4,350, and three mountain faces to ski on within driving distance of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky Ski Resort lives up to its name: Big. Located approximately 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park, and 45 miles from Bozeman and airport services, Big Sky is one of Montana's most popular winter destinations.

The resort's 150 main ski runs are weighted toward advanced skiers (40 percent) with the remainder divided fairly evenly between expert (20), intermediate (26) and beginner (14) runs.   Big Sky gets an average snowfall of 33 feet or more, and more than 15 lifts operate across the three mountains (including one 15-passenger tram and four high-speed quads). The resort notes that it is regularly mentioned in ski magazines for its short wait lines.

Big Sky's lodging options affords easy access to the runs, as well as those of its Moonlight Basin Ski Resort. A combined pass and ski-in ski-out lodging in one of its cabins, condos, suites or lodge accommodations provides ready-made access.

Its real draw however, is the variety of activities both on and off site. Its proximity to Yellowstone National Park provides the skier with some of the most dramatic and unusual scenery in North America, with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and backcountry tours almost next door.

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Bridger Bowl Ski Area

Bridger Bowl Ski Area

  • 15795 Bridger Canyon Road
  • tel:800-223-9609
  • Visit website
  • Bozeman, 59715

Located just 16 miles north of Bozeman is the Bridger Bowl Ski Area.    Named for mountain man Jim Bridger, this publicly-owned non-profit ski area seeks to provide the best skiing experience at the most reasonable price.  Locals and students crowd the slopes all winter long, and the start of the season is practically a local holiday.  Students come to Montana State University because of its proximity to excellent skiing, and a blue light flashes downtown letting everyone know when there is new snow.  Bridger Bowl provides superior lessons in skiing and boarding to students of all ages--with some excellent ski packages for adults.  Most locals choose Bridger Bowl because of its reasonable rates, close proximity to town, and lack of tourists and destination skiers.

Bridger Bowl has 2,000 skiable acres, 71 runs, and eight chairlifts.  The longest continuous run is three miles.  The total vertical drop on the mountain is 2700 feet.  While more than half of the trails are beginner and intermediate, Bridger Bowl is particularly renowned for its back-country skiing areas along "The Ridge." A chairlift shuttles skiers directly to the Ridge.  As the mountain is prone to avalanches, the expert-only areas (and the lift to the Ridge) require skiers to have avalanche transmitters. 

Notably, Eagle Mount, a local non-profit, provides sick and disabled children the opportunity to ski with specialized equipment and trained personnel.  They have recently begun expanding their program to serve disabled veterans.   

Each August, you can join the Bridger Ridge Run across the top of the Bridger Mountains.  The twenty-mile trail run is one of the most rugged trail races anywhere. 

The ski area is easily accessible by a state highway, and is about a twenty-minute drive from downtown Bozeman.  Feel free to catch the free ski bus on weekends.   Bridger Bowl has no overnight accommodations on the mountain, but it does have three lodges with equipment rental, dining, and retail areas. 

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Museum of the Rockies

Museum of the Rockies

  • 600 W. Kagy Blvd
  • On the Montana State University campus
  • tel:406-994-3466
  • Visit website
  • Bozeman, 59772
Hyalite Canyon

Hyalite Canyon

  • Hyalite Canyon Road
  • tel:406-522-2520
  • Visit website
  • Bozeman, 59718

Just about 15 miles south of Bozeman is the beautiful Hyalite Canyon, a portion of the Gallatin National Forest and Greater Yellowstone Eco-system.  Recreational opportunities abound in the canyon, and locals treat the area like a much-loved city park.  Surrounded by 10,000 foot peaks, Hyalite Canyon is 34,000 acres of coniferous forest.  At the top of the paved road access is Hyalite Dam and Reservoir which provides drinking water for the city of Bozeman, as well as opportunities for fishing and non-motorized boating.  Hyalite Creek is known for its brook trout, yellow cut throat, and arctic graylings.  While some locals will fish with bait, the vast majority prefer to fly-fish.    

There are three developed campgrounds, and a seemingly endless system of trails for overnight backpacking, hiking, skiing, and mountain biking. While there are several hikes that are classified as "easy", the most popular hike is to Grotto Falls and Hyalite Peak.  The trail head is easy to find at the very end of the road, and you can take a 2.5 mile hike to a waterfall.   Take the trail in the winter months (by skis, or snowshoes); the creek and falls freeze over creating a stunning winter landscape.  If you continue past Grotto Falls for several miles, you will pass 10 more waterfalls and eventually reach the top of Hyalite Peak.  Be prepared for a snowy trail until through the middle of July.  The 10,299 foot summit affords sweeping views of the entire canyon. 

The trail to Palisade Falls is also very popular.  Hikers enjoy watching a creek crash over the edge of a tall cliff to the trail below. As it is paved and short, the trail is marked as easy, but the trail is fairly steep.  A great trail for mountain-biking is the History Rock Loop.  The trail winds mostly through a mountain meadow, has a great view, and passes a rock where early pioneers inscribed their names. More adventurous hikers will head to Emerald and Heather Lakes, and Blackmore Peak. 

Depending on the time of year, there are also opportunities for ice fishing, ice climbing, hunting, mountain biking, geo-caching, and canoeing.  Many locals will go up the canyon just for a picnic, a bonfire, watch birds and wildlife, and take photographs.  A good place for more detailed information is the Bozeman Ranger Station. 

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