Chill Out

Where and how to camp this season.

Summer has dwindled away—the air bites at your nose and cuts through your fleece, painted leaves float to the dying grass, and everyone seems to be preparing for the first snowfall. You look at your sleeping bag and tent, thinking it’s time to switch out the camping gear for the snow toys. Not just yet, cowboy. There is still plenty of time for camping—as long as you’re equipped with the right knowledge and gear. Here are some tips on where to go and what to bring during the fall season.

Forest Service Cabins
All Bozeman district Forest Service Cabins are equipped with woodstoves and fire pits to keep you warm during the fall months. Firewood is provided at most cabins starting in September, excluding Windy Pass, Yellow Mule, and Fox Creek cabins. Here are a few cabins to extend your camping season in comfort: 

Mystic Lake Cabin is located deep in the Gallatin Nation Forest, accessible via the 10-mile Bozeman Creek trail or the 5.5-mile New World Gulch trail. The cabin is equipped with cooking pots and utensils, so leave the extra weight at home. Several trails wind through the area, including the Mystic Lake loop—don’t forget your fishing gear. 

Fourmile Cabin is situated at the base of the Absaroka Mountains and is easily accessed using the 3.5-mile gravel road branching off the main drag. Electricity illuminates the cabin at night, allowing for a refrigerator and electric stove. Fishing is made easy with Fourmile Creek just steps away, and the Boulder River is right around the bend. Miles of trails head west from the cabin into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness for hiking or horseback riding.

Big Creek Cabin is the largest in the Yellowstone district, with 11 beds and enough chairs for everyone at the dinner table. Located in Paradise Valley, where views of the Gallatin and Absaroka ranges fracture the sky, this cabin offers access to several hiking trails. Yellowstone is just a short drive away and there’s some good fishing in Big Creek. Make sure you have four-wheel-drive to get to this cabin. 

Tent Camping
Designated campgrounds are only open until the middle of September, but public land such as national forest and BLM land allow dispersed camping. Bring the proper gear and a positive attitude, and you’ll have a blast. Contact the Bozeman ranger district office for restrictions and regulations. 

What to Bring:
A dry pair of socks. The ones you’ve been hiking in all day don’t count. Moisture equals cold, and cold feet aren’t fun.
Hat. Most of your body heat is lost through the top of your head.
Gloves. Enough said.
Sleeping bag. Bring a bag with a lower temperature rating than the forecast calls for. If you don’t have a quiver of bags, fleece liners can make your summer bag warmer.
Sleeping pad. Necessary to separate your body from the cold ground. Insulated inflatable pads are best.
Hot beverages. Nothing beats a cup of hot cocoa and peppermint schnapps on a frosty autumn night.
Layers. It can get pretty hot during the daytime and pretty cold at night. Make sure to pack it all.
Headlamp. Autumn nights are shorter, so don’t forget to set up your tent early—wouldn’t want to be fumbling with stakes and tent poles in the dark.
Lots of food. Your body is working overtime to keep you warm; fuel it accordingly.