With a surprisingly hip downtown that calls to mind Boulder or Park City, Bozeman makes for a great home base to explore the myriad natural spoils of the Gallatin Valley and the rest of Southern Montana, from Big Sky Resort to the jewel in America’s crown, Yellowstone National Park. Here, five adventures in and near Bozeman.
Ski at Big Sky Resort
An hour south of Bozeman, Big Sky certainly lives up to its name—it’s the second-largest ski resort in America by area, with more than 5,800 skiable acres, 4,350 vertical feet and an average of 400 inches of powder annually. This being Montana, the base village experience is decidedly more rustic and laid-back than what you’d find in, say, California or Colorado, but that’s very much by design: You’re more likely to encounter a bighorn sheep or elk on the slope than an Instagram influencer.
Check out the Missouri Headwaters State Park
Marking the official start of the 2,300-mile Missouri River—which some cartographers argue is longer than the Mississippi—this state park contains the meeting point of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers. The Lewis and Clark Expedition set up camp here in 1805, when Meriwether Lewis named the rivers after the president and the Secretaries of the Treasury and State. Unsurprisingly, the land had already been home to Indigenous peoples, such as the Flathead, Bannock and Shoshone, who competed for the fertile land’s abundant wildlife and vegetation.
Explore Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park sprawls across the northwestern corner of Wyoming and dips across the border into both Idaho and Montana. From Bozeman, it's about an 80-minute drive to the northern entrance gate in Gardiner. From here, you’ll have access to such natural wonders as Mammoth Hot Springs, where the water is a scorching 170ºF; Boiling River, one of only two sanctioned swimming areas in the park; and Lamar Valley, nicknamed America’s Serengeti for its abundance of bison, grizzlies, wolves and pronghorn.
Go fly-fishing on the area’s many rivers
Robert Redford’s 1992 classic A River Runs Through It was filmed in the Bozeman and Livingston areas, and anglers have been flocking here ever since. Within a short drive from the city, you can try your hand at fly-fishing on the Madison, Yellowstone or Gallatin Rivers, in addition to the Hyalite Reservoir and a series of spring creek fisheries. An area favorite is Cameron Bridge on the Gallatin; rainbow and brown trout are abundant in these waters, though you may also snag a few cutthroats and brooks.
Take in the view at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park
For 2,000 years, Indigenous peoples from more than a dozen tribes—including the Lakota and Nez Perce—stampeded enormous herds of bison over the edge of this limestone cliff as an uber-efficient means of hunting; they then collected the carcases from the valley floor, using every part of the dead buffalo for clothing, food and shelter. Today, visitors hike to the top for panoramic views of Yellowstone Country.