Beyond Bozeman: A Look Outside the Bubble

Backpacking through Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica last April, Mariann Van Den Elzen ran into three folks from the Bozeman/Big Sky area. The following week, in Puerto Viejo, two Missoulians on bikes stopped her to ask, “Hey! Do you want to see a sloth?” In total, Van Den Elzen met seven people from Montana during her three-plus weeks in Costa Rica.

At least 2.5 million people visit Yellowstone each year, many of them coming through Bozeman. About 70% of Montana Travel’s business comes from people visiting Bozeman to view wildlife, fish, backpack, hike, ski, and camp. According to Tiffani Leigland, “Between people coming to see Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, the number of visitors to Bozeman is easily in the millions.”

When so many people spend their vacation time in the Bozeman area, why are Bozemanites so itchy to travel somewhere else? It’s not like adventure can’t be found near home; there’s kayaking the Gallatin, fishing the Yellowstone, climbing in Hyalite, mountain biking and backpacking in the local ranges, skiing, and the list goes on.

“Bozemanites are looking for something new and fresh,” says Van Den Elzen, “a different climate, a different set of challenges.” So, although the number of adventures to be had locally is infinite, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more cultures to explore, languages to learn, rivers to be run, and mountains to be climbed. Plus, you can’t surf or deep-sea fish in Bozeman.

And why, for a town of 32,000 people, are there so many travel companies? Although a lot of us like to plan our own trips, Bozeman seems to be a mecca for travel companies that will plan the trip of your dreams. Lena Conlin, co-owner of Crossing Latitudes, says, “We all like to live in a beautiful area where we can enjoy the outdoors on our own when we are not out leading others.” In other words, it’s the lifestyle, the same reason most of us are here.

Jim Klug, co-owner of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, makes another point. “Walk into any bar on a Friday evening, and look at the guys with the dirty hats; they are living the life,” he says—and they might even work for him. Local travel companies are able to find employees who know how to recreate and how to teach their clients to do it, too.

If you’re ready to book a trip to an exotic locale, and likely meet a bunch of other Bozmanites while you’re there, check out the following companies.

Adventure Women
“The Grand Dame of women’s adventure travel since 1982” was started by Susan Eckert in Chicago. She moved her company to Bozeman, and when she isn’t enjoying the benefits of living in the Gallatin Valley, Eckert and her guides lead trips all over the world.

In Bhutan, for example, her clients hike, sightsee, visit Buddhist temples, and participate in humanitarian projects. They sail, snorkel, and scuba dive in the Caribbean or go on a photo safari in Africa. “There are so many interesting people and cultures in the world,” says Eckert. Discover more about her guide service at

Boojum Expeditions
Not for the weak-hearted or the out of shape, Boojum Expeditions’ trips include horseback riding through Mongolia, Tibet, Uruguay, and Patagonia, and overland trips in Mongolia.

And it’s dangerous. According to the website, “Any travel in remote terrain… has its inherent physical dangers. We cannot guarantee your safety; we would be irresponsible to do so and you would be naïve to believe us… your comfort, safety and the quality of your experience are of paramount importance to us and we bring 20 years experience to every trip we run.” Edge on over to 587-0125.

Crossing Latitudes
Lena Conlan was trying to find a way to spend more time in her native Sweden when she and her husband, Tim, started Crossing Latitudes in 1985. Former National Outdoor Leadership School instructors, the Conlans wanted to “continue to work outdoors and offer unique backcountry experiences.”

Crossing Latitudes offers camping by sea kayak or hiking, inn trips, educational trips, and also designs private tours. Visit them at 585-5356.

Off the Beaten Path
Celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, Off the Beaten Path (OBP) continues to believe that “people should be given the opportunity to truly experience the place to which they are traveling. Connection to local experts and interesting characters was and is at the heart of the OBP experience,” says CEO Cory Lawrence.

Off the Beaten Path’s trips take clients to South America on small ship expeditions, private guided journeys, fly fishing expeditions, and ranch vacations, as well as adventures around the Pacific Northwest and western United States. Check out

Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures
Klug says fishing around Bozeman “is like a starter drug.” Bozemanites get “get a little taste of what’s out there and realize there are so many more challenges and opportunities.” Yellow Dog customers can take advantage of opportunities like angling for bonefish in the Bahamas or wrestling a rainbow trout on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

Klug thinks Bozeman is home to so many travel companies because the same people that guide international adventures want to have their own at home. He adds, “We sell the lifestyle because we live the lifestyle.” Visit

How Far Will You Go?

Don’t forget to pack O/B along on your international adventures—what could be better than coming back from vacation and immediately winning a weekend getaway? Past prizes for the How Far Will You Go contest include all-expense-paid weekends at Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley and Jackson Hot Springs in the Big Hole Valley. It’s easy: just throw copy of Outside Bozeman in your suitcase or backpack, take a few pictures while you’re gallivanting around the globe, and send them to [email protected] when you get back. Winning photos appear in the following issue, and prizes are awarded at that time. Visit for details and contest deadine. Good luck!

Summer 2006 Winner
International adventure tour guide and experiential educator Julie Hanen wins this season’s How Far Will You Go contest, taking O/B along on a two-month tour of South America (she emailed from Peru). Julie snapped the winning photo on Easter Island, known as Rapa Nui in the local tongue. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean some 2200 miles west of Chile, Julie writes, "Rapa Nui is calculated to be the most isolated place on earth. So what a better location to take a picture and share with you one of the many places that Outside Bozeman has traveled with me.” Julie goes on to explain that the large stone heads of Rapa Nui were “meticulously carved from the side of a volcano and carried many miles to their resting spots where they were believed to hold the spirits of the ancestors, watching and protecting over the island.” Well done, Julie—you’ve won yourself an armful of goodies from the Outside Bozeman treasure chest. Thanks for packing O/B along, and may the travel gods watch over you as you make your way back to Montana.