Spring Run-Off

Top early-season trails.

When the sun starts shining and the temperatures rise, Montanans itch to ditch the ski gear and make the change to warm-weather sports (until that late-May blizzard inevitably hits). Spring is a great time to stretch the legs and hit the trails running. Don't be turned off by ice patches and muddy trenches; these trademarks of spring can actually be fun obstacles and a nice change of scenery from the long, monochrome winter. Stay at a low elevation to avoid excessive snow, bring traction aids for ice, and have fun jumping over puddles and watching wildlife wake from their long slumber.

Bozeman Creek / Sourdough
A great after-work or quick weekend run, Sourdough maintains a gentle incline to the bridge over Bozeman Creek approximately five miles back. Runners can veer left at the bridge and continue another three miles to Mystic Lake on single-track (this section is known as the Wall of Death and is popular with mountain bikers in the summertime), or continue on the double-track about four miles to the lake. The main trail gets plenty of use, which keeps it fairly level and free of major puddles or muddy obstacles. This is a dog-friendly trail with a vaulted toilet at the parking lot, and an outhouse about three miles in.

Bear Trap Canyon
Typically sunny and always fun, this reliable early-season trail follows the gorgeous Madison River up Bear Trap Canyon and remains fairly quiet most of the time. Enjoy the gradual gain in elevation on the well-developed trail (although there are some rocky sections requiring fast feet and technical maneuvering) and watch fly fishers cast for trout as you buzz past. Turn around at anytime—Bear Trap Creek is a good spot, at about four miles in—or continue on the full seven miles to the power plant below Ennis Lake. There’s a toilet at the trailhead and dogs are welcome, but watch out for rattlesnakes during the warmer months.

Missouri Headwaters State Park
Only 30 minutes from Bozeman, this park stays dry much of the year and offers great views of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers, as well as the surrounding bluffs. Missouri Headwaters trails are rich in history, and have preserved the wildness and serenity of the river plains. Check out the historical markers along the trails and give a nod to the raptors soaring overhead. Pets must be leashed on all trails, and facilities can be found at several parking areas.