Hit the Dirt

running, MSU, trails, hiking

Hit the Dirt

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Getting your start on Bozeman area trails.

Bozeman is a trail-user’s dreamland. Hundreds of miles of singletrack spread out like a spider web from city center, ensnaring walkers, hikers, and runners alike.

In town, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust manages over 80 miles of trail, and in the mountains, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, State of Montana, and National Park Service handle thousands more. There are options for all seasons and all inclinations, so no matter your passion, Bozeman’s trails gotcha covered.

Before heading out, know your fitness level and use it to guide your trail choice. Here’s a rough guide to popular trails by difficulty level:


East Gallatin Rec Area
Where: Northside

Popularity: Medium
Round trip: ~3 miles
Best for: A meditative jog
Highland Glen
Where: Southside

Popularity: High
Round trip: ~5 miles
Best for: XC skiing or biking


Drinking Horse
Where: Bridger Foothills

Popularity: High
Round trip: 2.4 miles
Best for: Sunset views

Where: Gallatin Foothills

Popularity: High
Round trip: ~6 miles
Best for: Mountain biking

Sypes Canyon
Where: Bridger Foothills

Popularity: High
Round trip: 4 miles (to overlook)
Best for: Quick-hit escape
Lava Lake
Where: Gallatin Canyon

Popularity: High
Round trip: 6 miles
Best for: Close-to-town overnights


M Trail (right fork)
Where: Bridger Foothills

Popularity: High
Round trip: 1 mile
Best for: Suffering

Mount Baldy (From M Trail)
Where: Bridger Range

Popularity: Low
Round trip: 9 miles
Best for: Proving a point

Storm Castle
Where: Gallatin Range

Popularity: Medium
Round trip: 5 miles
Best for: Gallatin River views

Get the Gear
While walkers, hikers, and runners will all have slightly different gear, there are some common items all trail users need. First, food and water. This varies based on the length and difficulty of your outing, but for anything more than a quick jaunt across Peets Hill or up the M, fuel and hydration are good ideas. So are layers. The weather can change in a moment in Montana, so having a good waterproof layer and something with some insulation is smart. A light fleece or rain shell is good for warmer weather, but as summer turns to fall, pack something heavier like a down coat. Speaking of packs, you’re going to need something to put all this stuff in. A small daypack is fine—whatever you use for your books can double for the trail. Also, take sun protection, like a cap and shades. Depending on your activity of choice, the right shoes are maybe the most important item to consider. For runners, invest in some trail shoes with burly lugs on the soles; hikers, get boots with good ankle support. If you’re in bear country, which you will be, bear spray is smart.

The calendar is full of trail-related events year-round. From National Public Lands Day in September, to the Friends of Hyalite’s spring cleanup in April, there are always ways to get involved and give back. Not to mention the dozens of races, community hikes, and weekly fun runs to be aware of. Here are some highlights. For organized community events, check out our online calendar outsidebozeman.com/events.

National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Around here, we celebrate public lands on a daily basis, but for one day in September, they get extra-special attention. Use this last Saturday of the month to go for a hike, do some trail maintenance, or conquer a new trail run.

October & April 
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. After a long summer of heavy use, Hyalite needs some love. Pitch in for a morning, bagging trash and tidying trailheads, then head out for a late-season peak-bagging mission or a leisurely trail run. hyalite.org.

Huffing for Stuffing – Bozeman. Kick off Thanksgiving Day with a downtown fun run to raise money for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. If your competitive streak runs hot every day of the year, there’s a timed 5k and 10k, as well. huffingforstuffing.com.

Fat Ass 50k – Headwaters State Park. If you’re local or plan to stick around for winter break, check out this Bozeman classic. The course is a 5k, and you run as many laps as you dare, up to 50k. On some years, temps plunge into the negatives, adding to the “fun.” winddrinkers.org.

Run to the Pub – Bozeman. Celebrate ol’ St. Patrick by racing in a 10k or half-marathon. The course makes its way through Bozeman, finishing downtown at Pub 317. If you’re over 21, drink and be merry. If not, just be merry. runtothepub.com.

Baldy Blitz – Bozeman. This is the ultimate sufferfest: 4.5 miles straight up the spine of the Bridgers, most likely post-holing through knee-deep snow most of the way. Then you have to come back down. The Baldy Blitz is another Bozeman rite of passage, and you might as well get it over with. winddrinkers.org.

National Trails Day – Bozeman. This is the best day to give back to the trails that give us so much. Almost every trail-related nonprofit in town has a work day scheduled, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. 

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

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