This destination guide is contributed by Jim Horner. Jim has lived and breathed the outdoors of southwest Montana for the last 14 years. Currently working as a full-time blogger at Digandflow, he divides his time between work and play, skiing, whitewater rafting, backpacking, cooking, and spending time with friends and family. Have a look at his Guide to Bozeman and then check out his site (where you can find all the equipment you need to enjoy the outdoors).
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”
―John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
There are few things that are incomparable in this world and for me Montana, and Bozeman in particular, is one of them. This is a land a pure geologic diversity, wide open range land on the eastern side, rugged and mountainous on the western. It is a nature lover’s paradise with activities ranging from golf to hiking, horse riding, whitewater rafting, fishing and more. For me Bozeman holds an allure, a draw that keeps me here and forever exploring.
Montana can be very reasonable in terms of travel costs, notice I said “can be”. Every kind of traveller can find the perfect fit here in Bozeman. From economy scale to the high-end boutique options it’s all right here in the Gallatin Valley.
Food: The average for dining can range anywhere from the awesome local hangouts where dinner and a cold beer will run you $10-15 all the way to posh steakhouses where a full-course dinner could run you $150+.
Bozeman is definitely a breakfast town and we’ve got the restaurants and coffee shops to prove it. Wild Crumb is a local favorite, they make incredible pastries, artisan bread and serve up fresh coffee.
Nova Cafe is another hot spot that has great breakfast choices they whip up Eggs Benedict specials everyday with creative combinations that are worth the wait. Cafe Fresco features incredible salads and delectable rustically prepared dishes and is a must-go for dinner, located just off 1 block to the north of Main St. this is a nice choice that’s a little more quiet than the hopping downtown scene.
Blackbird Kitchen is our personal favorite downtown. This awesome wood-fired pizza joint has amazing pizzas, salads, and wine that is sure to please even the snobbiest of pizza fanatics. It’s cozy atmosphere is located downtown Bozeman and the prices are quite reasonable.
Another phenomenon that’s happened recently is an explosion of breweries. Bozeman is now home to 9 breweries and distilleries (and counting). We’re a drinking town and not afraid to show it. Traditional English, IPA’s on nitrogen, bourbon barrel aged, it’s all in town. Liquor licenses are very expensive here and the tasting room is a creative way around this law. If you’re a brewery with a tasting room you don’t need a beer and wine license but you can only be open until 8 P.M. So if you’re planning on sampling some of Bozeman’s finest just know that you’ll probably end up closing it down. One of my personal favorites is Outlaw Brewing, with their awesome selection of over 8 different brews you sure to find one that suits your palette.
Awesome sushi joints, tapas, steaks, Greek, coffee, cajun, Italian, microbrews we really like our food/drink and it’s not a secret anymore. Bozeman is a melting pot of people from all over the world and they bring their local flare to the cuisine.
Lodging: For those who are looking for unadulterated luxury it can be found here at exclusive places like Lone Mountain Ranch, Gallatin River Lodge, or for more rustic high-end accommodations check out some of the local glamorous camping (glamping) options that are around like Yellowstone Under Canvas. These exclusive option can range from anywhere from $170/night to $500/night with a private guided fly-fishing trip included.
Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) are very popular options here as well, and often times for very reasonable rates. Bozeman is home to many part-timers and the savvy of the bunch will rent out their houses and condos when they’re not here providing you with an awesome private escape. When they come, my parents choose a VRBO over anything else in town. A 2-bedroom 2-bath upscale condo goes for as much as 2 rooms at the the Holiday Inn, definitely worth it in their book.
Transportation: Bozeman itself is a pretty small town of about 30,000 people and we don’t yet have services like Uber or Lyft so when you come you’ll want to grab a rental car as some of the sights worth seeing aren’t within walking or biking distance. Phasmid Rentals is a great local place that offers everything you need for your vacation out here. Subarus and Suburbans are the choices for their fleet and if you want to go camping while you’re here you can grab tents, sleeping bags, coolers, heck even bear spray.
When To Go
Bozeman is a popular destination year round with awesome skiing in winter and backpacking and hiking in the summer months. Rodeos are something that we all get together for and the ones in the smaller towns around Bozeman like Three Forks and Ennis have great rodeos that are each unique to their locales. Grab some suds, some buds and head out and watch some of the bulls and broncos give it to the cowboys and cowgirls. One rodeo event that we all really like is Mutton Bustin’, think of it as the buckin’bronco for little ones. Kiddos about 3 years old saddle up on sheep and take their shot seeing how long they can ride. While there are few that think better of the idea most have a blast and the crowds really like it too.
Above: Photo credit Evil Erin Flickr
Winter is definitely for the thick-blooded. Winter can last well into April some years and Montana has seen snow every one of the 12 months, that’s right, even July and August. The winter sports here represent more world class amenities. Bridger Bowl is the locals ski area and gets fresh doses of powder on the regular, lift tickets for a single day went for $52 this last winter. Big Sky is a 45 minute drive south and has the largest skiable acres in America. A day ticket here will run you a cool $109, while it might seem extravagant Big Sky is huge and set up perfectly for visiting families to utilize. Skiing is why I’m here and why a lot of others choose to come here as well.
It’s not so much when but when not to come to Bozeman. The spring can be gray, rainy and unpredictable, so if you’re put off by being chilly or being stuck reading by the fire make sure to check the weather if you’re coming in the months of March through May. Later into the summer the weather dries out and the heat comes out in ernest. Temps in August can reach into the 90’s and that’s when the locals head to the river to find a little respite.
What To Do
There’s no shortage of things to do when you visit Bozeman and SW Montana in general. Farmer’s market every Tuesday night in the summer is usually hopping with energy and features awesome local crafts and food vendors. Every Wednesday night in the summer Music on Main goes off in downtown Bozeman, the street close to vehicles, open containers are allowed, and live music goes into the evening. But what Bozeman is really known for is the outdoors.
Hiking, backpacking, horse riding, motocross, golf, shooting, whitewater rafting are all available within 1 hour of Bozeman, some much closer. Water is the big draw here and the whitewater, paddle boarding, and kayaking are all world class. The Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers all flow around Bozeman making it one of the best places on earth for fishing and water sports. Do keep in mind that if you want to get on the water in the spring it can be running high and fast and you’ll want to take precautions and come well-equipped.
When you come plan to spend some time outside, it’s what we’re known for and it’s what we do.
Well I hope you got some great information for the next time you’re headed out our way. We sure love it here and think you will too. Set up for visitors and dialed in for adventure Bozeman will be your new favorite escape, even if you don’t know it yet.