Easy Ennis

Need a two-day getaway, but don’t want to blow wads of dough or spend hours on the road? Then pack a few things, shut off the cell phone, and head south to Ennis, where a laid-back and fun-filled weekend awaits—all within an hour’s drive of Bozeman.

God created summertime for swimming, and Ennis is the place to do it. Soak up the sun on the northern shore of Ennis Lake, where you can relax in a lawn chair after a leisurely swim through the warm, shallow water. Bring along a stand-up paddleboard or canoe and peruse the eastern shoreline, or paddle into the narrow canyon above the dam. With the bright sun overhead and nothing on the agenda except an eventual beer run, relaxation comes easy.

Feeling frisky? Let the spirit of summer trigger that youthful exuberance and go airborne. The head of Bear Trap Canyon has cliffs from which to launch one’s eager—and most likely, ungainly—form. Be careful to make a tight, vertical entry after your flailing 30-foot drop—a body-length bruise can sure put a damper on one’s day.

Be advised: Ennis Lake is powerboatin’ country, so either bring along your own jet skis or prepare yourself for the incessant whine of internal-combustion engines transporting happy humans across the water. A more serene experience can be had farther south, at Cliff & Wade Lakes, where a no-wake rule keeps things calm and quiet.

In the Flathead Indian tongue, Ennis means “place of many fishes.” Okay, that’s not true, but it could be—Ennis is world-renowned for its freakish abundance of trout and near-limitless fishing opportunities. Stash your gear in the trunk and stop into Shedhorn Sports or one of the fly shops in town for advice on where to go and what to use.

For the active outdoor Bozemaniac, nothing kicks off a weekend like a Saturday-morning race—and Ennis has a few that’ll keep your ensuing laziness and debauchery blissfully guilt-free. See the sidebar for dates and locations.

Horseback Riding
What Montana summer is complete without a trail ride? Embrace your state’s frontier past and saddle up for an unforgettable ride into the rugged, remote backcountry around Ennis. A great half-day trip is Jack Creek, the drainage spilling out of Moonlight Basin. You’ll meander through a tight canyon along a gurgling stream before breaking out into vast alpine meadows, with Fan Mountain, Cedar Mountain, and other peaks of the Madison Range rising overhead. For reasonable rates and an easy-going guide, contact Tim Beardsley at Adventures Outfitting.

When the day’s done, head downtown and ease into the evening with a Moonshine Mule at Willie’s Distillery, then amble along in search of sustenance. Scarf down a burger and beer at the Gravel Bar Grill, or stroll to the west end of town for a buffalo-chicken pie at Pit Stop Pizza. Before bedding down for the night, slip into the Longbranch Saloon for a well-deserved nightcap and some friendly banter with the locals.

No matter what your outdoor angle, you can rest assured that Ennis has you covered. The important thing is that you slow down, take your time, and abide by the placid pace of small-town life. It’s summer, after all, and the livin’ is easy in Ennis.