Montana’s reputation as a wild destination is well-established. The very name evokes visions of elk bugling, bison roaming, and the fierce, flourishing grizzly bear. Bozeman is best-known as a world-class ski destination with its proximity to Big Sky Resort, light “coldsmoke” powder dumps, and plenty of backcountry ski options. However, less known is Bozeman’s easy access to big mountain running. The virtually endless options are truly wild and scenic.
Seated on the eastern side of the Continental Divide, Bozeman is a first-class trail running destination. The easily accessible airport has direct flights to most major hubs in the west. There are endless trail options with access to the Bridger Mountains, Crazies, Gallatins, Spanish Peaks, and Absarokas — all within driving distance of town. If road-tripping is your style, Bozeman is seated on Interstate 90, easily accessible on an incredibly scenic drive with major mountain ranges in nearly every direction.
Once you arrive, check out the Bridger Ridge Trail as a classic point-to-point, high-alpine 20-miler. This local favorite runs from Fairly Lake across the precipice of the Bridger Mountains’ steep and narrow ridgeline and finishes at Bozeman’s famous M Trailhead just a mile from town. The Gallatin Range is Bozeman’s southern skyline. Be sure to drive up to Hyalite Reservoir and run the breathtaking 15-mile Hyalite Creek Trail out and back from Hyalite Creek Trailhead to Hyalite Peak. This wild run is complete with cascading creeks, log bridges, a high-alpine lake, and views in every direction. Just below Hyalite Peak summit, you can tack on an additional out and back on the epic Gallatin Crest Trail. Be sure to pack your bear spray and make plenty of noise as the Bridgers are home to black bears and the Gallatin Range is grizzly territory.
After a long day on the trail, Bozeman boasts plenty of hip coffee shops, breweries, eateries, and lodging for post-run grub and social time. If camping is your gig, National Forest options abound. Winter is long and cold here, so plan accordingly. The best running months to visit are mid-July through early September and even then, sometimes the high-country can still have pockets of snow. Don’t forget to pack your puffy jacket. With warm, sometimes humid days, the nights can be contrastingly chilly — especially if a weather system is blowing through. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the northern Rockies, so plan to run early. With a little forethought and online reconnaissance, you’ll set yourself up for a legendary running experience.