The last best place.
Life in Bozeman—what could be better? Especially for someone who’s experiencing it for the first time. With a full four seasons and a landscape that offers nearly infinite outdoor opportunities, southwest Montana is as good as it gets. But, things have changed in the past 20 years. Cool places don’t stay quiet for long. The surge in popularity is visible everywhere, from the price of beer to the number of cars at trailheads. So, when it comes to moving here, does the dream align with reality? Let’s find out.
You’ve heard and fantasized about the Gallatin Valley since you were a kid: the iconic Bridger ridgeline, trout-filled rivers in every direction, the small-town feel. Your friend, who’s a born-and-raised Bozemanite, has been bothering you for years to come check it out for yourself. He even offers you a place to live: his nice two-bedroom apartment above the garage. After seeing one too many of his “I love life!” posts, you finally decide to quit your job in California and make the move. It’s late in the day when you arrive, but the sun lingers over the silhouetted Tobacco Roots. You stop on the side of the road to admire the view. Wind blows through your hair as you stretch your arms wide and marvel over the magnificent purple sky. It’s big, just as they said it would be. There are the Bridgers, those must be the Spanish Peaks… beautiful, snow-capped peaks everywhere! Already you can tell that this place is wild, carefree, and bountiful. When you reach your friend’s house, you realize that it’s in a perfect location up Sourdough Road. Far enough from town for room to breathe, but close enough to ride your bike to work. Speaking of which, your new environmental consulting job offers a good salary and flexible schedule, so you have plenty of time to play. You spend your first year paddling the Yellowstone, climbing in Gallatin Canyon, fishing the Madison, and taking powder laps before work. Your pal introduces you to the local crowd and within months you have a wide friend-net and a handful of secret haunts, both in-town and out. You feel at home. You’ve found your people, and your place! It’s even better than you imagined. Bozeman life is the best life.
Tired of your raft-guide gig in Colorado, you decide a life change is in order. You load up the rig and head to Bozeman, mostly because it’s been rated the best outdoorsy place to live for 10 years in a row. You arrive in the middle of an afternoon thundershower—whoa! You’ve never seen anything like this. The thunder is way too loud, the lightning way too close. You pull into the Walmart parking lot, pull out your phone, and start looking at rooms for rent. The high prices and rigorous application process cause you to hyperventilate and fog up the windows. You open them a crack, only to have a crosswind whisk your registration papers off the sun visor and out into the maelstrom. The temperature plummets and you crank the heat—since when does it snow in June? After two weeks of living out of your Subaru, you finally find a place to live. For $650 a month, you get to share a room with a dude named Jerry. On your first outing of the summer, your Subaru breaks down—along with with everyone else’s, apparently, as there’s a two-month waitlist for an appointment at the shop. To improve your financial situation, you pick up three jobs, but after six months, you’re still living paycheck to paycheck, and your car still hasn’t been fixed. The few weekend days you manage to get outside, all the trails and access points are crowded, even by Colorado standards. You’ve tried to make friends, but everybody’s busy, except for Jerry, who, even though he’s lived here for four years, constantly pines for the good ol’ days. Aprés consists of drinking PBR at your house, because at $7 a pint, you’ll go broke before you get drunk. Why did you decide to come to Bozeman? You hear Missoula is better, or Kalispell, maybe. Anywhere but freakin’ Boz Angeles.