Kiddin' Around

Kids Outdoors, Outdoor Children, Family Outdoor Activities

Kiddin' Around

Harrison, Melynda
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Family time outside.

Montanans know how to make the most of our short but amazing summers, and we like to take our families along for the ride. Whether you do it yourself or go with an expert, you’ll find enough trails and waterways to keep everyone active all summer long. Here’s a sampling of some of the outdoor opportunities awaiting you and your clan this season.

Biking
On your own: Bozeman is rife with bike trails, which make riding in a (mostly) car-free zone a breeze. From the “M” trail to the western edge of town and Snowfill Recreation Area to Sourdough Canyon, the Main Street to the Mountains trail system provides many options. Along the way, you can stop and dip your toes in a creek, play at a park, or scramble up one of the many climbing boulders that dot the trails. Handy maps can be had for $2 at the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) office and at local retailers. Take it up a notch and check your balance at the Bicycle Pump Track at the Regional Park. Little kids love riding the dips and bumps on the dirt track. 

With an expert: This summer, Round House Sports hosts beginner mountain-biking workshops that are perfect for teenagers looking to try trail riding. They meet every other Wednesday evening throughout the summer; keep an eye on their website (roundhouse-sports.com) for details.

Hiking
On your own: Hiking is one of the easiest things for families to do outside because you need almost no equipment. It would be a shame not to explore the wildflowers, creeks, and mountains that surround town. Bozeman Creek is a mellow place to start, and Drinking Horse Mountain’s steep grade offers a sense of accomplishment for young tikes. Visit outsidebozeman.com/places/trails for more suggestions than you can shake a walking stick at. 

With an expert: GVLT volunteers offer free, guided trail walks several times a week this summer on many different trails with a range of difficulty. Some walks include kids’ activities like scavenger hunts and trail reads. Check their website (gvlt.org) for locations and a schedule. Bozeman Parks and Rec offers several trail-centric classes to get your little hiker up to speed, as well.

Backpacking
On your own: When you’re ready to take your hiking a little farther down the trail, it’s time to strap on the big pack and spend a night outside. Flat-ish trails like the Yellowstone River Trail in Yellowstone make for a nice introduction. You get maximum scenery for minimal work, and there’s time to sit by the river at the end of the day and soak it all in. Emerald Lake in Hyalite is another hike ideal for little ones. At only four miles, even kids can handle the uphill, and everyone loves a mountain lake. 

With an expert: Guide services like Yellowstone Safari Company and Big Wild Adventures would love to take your family backpacking. They’ll supply the food, guide, natural history lessons, and gear—you just have to carry it. Or add a llama to the package, and let it carry all the weight for you.

Floating
On your own: Start out with something chill, like the Madison River. It’s so shallow that you could get out and pull your raft or canoe Lewis and Clark–style, if you wanted to. It’s so scenic that you won’t mind just drifting along. Black’s Ford to Greycliff is just over four miles and perfect for an after-work float or a quick run on the weekend. 

With an expert: Whether it’s the Gallatin River near Big Sky or the Yellowstone River near Gardiner, there are plenty of rapids to bounce around in. Luckily there are also plenty of whitewater rafting companies that will take care of everything for you, from the gear to the food to photos. A summer staple around here, whitewater is just plain fun—for kids of all ages.

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