The Open Road

Exploring Bozeman by bike. 

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
—Walt Whitman

We all strive to recapture our lost youth—parts of it, anyway. And why not? The exuberance, the curiosity, the wide-eyed wonder at the big, wild world around us: it’s a fine way to live, and it makes us, and those around us, that much happier.

Here’s one way to do it: ride a bike. Any bike will do. And place will do. But in the springtime, in Bozeman, ride a crossbike. And ride it around town.

cross bike, biking, bozeman

You see, Bozeman has this thing called the Main Street to the Mountains trail system. It’s a vast network of trails linking every corner of town, and nearly every neighborhood, one to the other. It runs from the M to Cherry River on the frontage road, from Story Mill to the wetlands behind Costco, from the Gallatin Regional Park to the Bozeman Pond, from Peets Hill to Painted Hills and all the way out to Triple Tree. It’s not continuous, but rather a disjointed jumble of dirt strips weaving through subdivisions, along streams and railroad tracks, and across city parks. Which makes a crossbike—the triathlete of bicycles, equally adept on dirt, gravel, and pavement—the perfect vehicle for exploring these trails: the long brown paths that interconnect like capillaries through Bozeman’s beating heart.

cross bike, biking, bozeman

Every kind of ride awaits, and they all start from your front door. Strap on your helmet, mount your metal steed, and set out, for as short or as long as you want. Bounce down the overgrown trail above Bridger Creek Golf Course, then give your butt a break and cruise the pavement awhile, before lapping Glen Lake as many times as your lungs allow. Grunt up Peets Hill to Snob Knob, then fly down Kagy with your eyes wide and your guts in a clench. Pick up the trail again behind the Museum of the Rockies and head south, through green fields and across babbling streams, watching for deer, hawks, and migrating sandhill cranes. Then take S. 3rd all the way to Leverich or the Sourdough trailhead. If you’ve got time and energy, pedal up Bozeman Creek, on through Moser, and up to Hyalite; if not, flip a bitch and cruise the Gallagator awhile before stopping at the Langhor climbing boulder for a quick clamber.

Behind the stockyard, trundle over swollen streams and check out the new Story Mill Park. Shoot across Rouse and weave through dense forest along the East Gallatin. Toodle the paved paths west, across 19th, and out past the Regional Park, flushing ducks and swerving around gophers before taking a break on a bench alongside a tranquil pond.

cross bike, biking, bozeman

Need a quick workout? Loosen the legs on Story Hill, then put your head down and grind uphill, past the old dump, through a roller-coaster of winding roads, before screaming down Sypes Canyon. Hang a left, find machine-mode and pedal hard, as hard as you can, till the sweat pours and your quads burn. Take a cool-down lap around Cherry River and head home.

Getting the point? The options are endless, and you’ve got all season to find your favorites. Wide-open straightaways, tree-lined gauntlets, brush-choked meanders where every mile per hour feels like ten—it’s choose your own adventure, with some rides strenuous, some effortless, and all fun as hell. A crossbike is a Huffy for adults, and as you wander the open road, exploring both alley and avenue, field and forest, letting the wind blow you where it will, you’ll feel like a kid again—light-hearted, healthy, and free, the world before ye.

A digital map of the Main Street to the Mountains trail system can be found on the Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s website ( Printed maps are available at outdoor shops around town.