Canyon Caretakers

ice climbing, winter, Outside Bozeman, Montana
winter, Outside Bozeman, Montana

Canyon Caretakers

Joe Josephson
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Opening access to our backyard playground.

Hyalite Canyon is one of the most utilized and best-loved canyons in Montana. Locals and visitors alike flock here each winter for every activity imaginable: sledding, Christmas-tree hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing. There’s nothing quite like it, and its proximity to town and easy access makes it doubly popular among the outdoor folk of southwest Montana.

Prior to 2007, the road into Hyalite wasn’t plowed in the winter. Access to the canyon was restricted to early season or low-snow years; the few notable exceptions included those with snowmobiles, monster trucks, or the tenacity to suffer a several-hour-long approach. These years are fondly remembered as the “Hyalite Rodeo,” because getting there was as much of an adventure as the recreation—and yanking other vehicles out of the ruts often comprised the bulk of your day. These days, thanks to a unique financial arrangement between Gallatin County, Custer Gallatin National Forest, and Friends of Hyalite, including money raised by the Bozeman Ice Festival, the road is kept open until April 1. At that time, the Forest Service closes the gate for the spring break-up and melt-out, but the road stays open to road bikers, offering a unique opportunity to explore the canyon without car traffic.

In recent winter seasons, nearly 20,000 people have visited Hyalite each month. With the average annual plowing cost of $24,000 shared between the county and USFS, contributions to Friends of Hyalite are paramount. According to the current Forest Travel Plan, if plowing were to stop, the road would be gated at the bottom, closing Hyalite to everyone except those willing to ski over 11 miles just to get the reservoir. Show your support for Friends of Hyalite on Facebook or visit hyalite.org to contribute.

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