Getting away close to home.
As summer turns to fall, the countless tourists that clog up our trails from July 4 to Labor Day head home, and Bozemanites are free to enjoy our outdoors unencumbered. It’s at this time of year that we like to indulge in a weekend getaway or two, and where better to spend our money than right here in southwest Montana, at any number of local establishments? With a basecamp taken care of, all you have to plan is the recreation.
When cell service wanes, Montana’s true beauty reveals itself. Countless summer tourists barrel down Gallatin Canyon each year, but in autumn, it gets a little sleepier. That’s why fall is the perfect time to book a night at the Inn on the Gallatin, just a few hundred yards north of the Storm Castle turn-off. If you arrive before 3pm, grab lunch at the café. Any remaining time before check-in should be filled with a leisurely stroll along the Gallatin, which is a stone’s throw from the inn’s cabins and RV hookups. The riverside communal grill area boasts a fire pit and hammock, perfect for swapping fishing stories with your inn-mates once you’ve settled in. Come morning, make use of the canyon’s bountiful (and now empty) hiking trails, such as the Hidden Lakes—an idyllic fishing option—or Storm Castle. Credit the call of the outdoors or the café’s hearty breakfast, but guests at the Inn like to rise early and soak every hour of daylight out of the experience, and you should too.
Fish in, fish out on the Gallatin
Further on down the canyon is another O/B favorite, the Cinnamon Lodge. The rooms and cabins are ideal in their simplicity, but the real draw is the bar. Piled-high Mexican platters will fill any belly after a long day of hunting, fishing, or hiking, and the margaritas will loosen even the tightest trail-worn muscles. If you’re lucky enough to stay in a cabin, post up on the porch and watch the river roll by, wetting a line if you so desire.
East of Bozeman, not more than 45 minutes away, sits the refurbished Pine Creek Lodge. This road-side retreat buzzes in the summer, with well-attended weekly concerts and travelers from near and far. But book a room after the fall equinox, and it’ll just be you and the wind. Well, not quite. While occupancy does dip a bit, the lodge’s bar and shipping-container cabins stay popular. Located within walking distance of the Yellowstone and just up the road from the Pine Creek trailhead, you’ll find more than enough action to occupy your time. Refuel at the lodge’s restaurant—we recommend the mac-and-cheese and a Pine Creek ale—or jump in the car and check out some of Paradise Valley’s other culinary offerings. Compared to summer, the whole valley is a ghost town. For those of you really looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, check out Pine Creek’s monthly rentals, which are available come winter.
Falling into paradise
Madison Motor Inns
A bit further afield, but still well within weekend-driving distance, are several options near Ennis, and the Madison is an excellent choice come fall. If you like variety, check out the Rainbow Valley Lodge. Now, we know what you’re thinking: a fishing lodge in the Madison Valley sounds expensive. But Rainbow Valley has rooms for two for less than a Benjamin, and in our opinion, you can’t put a price on solitude. For larger groups, check out their cabin options. If you do, the rivers and mountains will be yours alone, and so will the bartender’s attention at the Gravel Bar.
Slow and easy in Ennis
For a more traditional motel-cabin stay, the Sportsman’s Lodge has you covered. When we say traditional, we don’t mean average—Sportsman’s is like an all-inclusive Mexican beach resort, Montana-style. It’s got a welcoming bar where you can kick back and watch the game; it’s got casino games if you’re feelin’ lucky; and it’s got a full-service menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whether you’re sneaking in some early-season ice climbing up the Sphinx, or hoping to fill your freezer with a bull elk from the Gravellys, you’re sure to appreciate this Ennis stalwart in the “off-season.”