Bozeman Women’s Activity Group.

Does exploring Montana’s alpine world, while soaking up breathtaking scenery, appeal to you? Then grab your hiking boots and backpacks and come join the BWAGs, the Bozeman Women’s Activity Group. This group’s trail is open to women of all ages who are looking for fun, fitness, and friendship.
What started out 35 years ago as a child care co-op, while the women played ping-pong, has transformed into a remarkable support system, fitness regimen, and social network for more than 100 women in the Bozeman area.

The idea of BWAGs (pronounced bee-wags) originated in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1968. Margaret Emerson, a Bozeman resident living in Christchurch at the time, became involved in the Bishopdale Women’s Activity Group. “These women got together for various activities, to have fun, and enjoy each other’s companionship,” says Emerson, who got involved in the tennis group and began thinking about making a similar group in Bozeman.

When Emerson returned to Bozeman the following year, she engaged a few of her local friends in ping-pong and volleyball and modeled it after the Bishopdale group. “As the years went by we added more activities,” she remembers. “It filled the need for women in Bozeman who were housebound, and it was a way to connect with other women.” Today, it’s one of the leading networking opportunities for new area residents. Emerson is amazed at how the group seems to perpetuate itself automatically.

I heard about the BWAGs while living in California several months before moving to Bozeman. Their love of the outdoors enticed me and I was anxious to meet these women and go hiking with them. My very first hike was up Storm Castle, a few miles southeast of Squaw Creek Ranger Station, along the Gallatin River. The trail leading up to Storm Castle has six large switchbacks and crosses junipers and limestone formations, lodgepole pine, and spruce trees. As we hiked the forested trail hugging the rocky cliffs up to the peak, we laughed and told stories. These women were so warm, friendly, and inspirational. After making the climb, the trail emerged on a plateau along large rock formations. Here the group settled in, ate lunch, laughed, and told more stories.

Since that first hike four years ago, I’ve traversed a variety of mountains, crossed blooming alpine meadows with trickling creeks, and enjoyed numerous panoramic views. Each BWAG hike has been an unforgettable day’s adventure.

Today there are not only hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing groups, but quilting and pool-shooting as well. Ages range from the low 30s to well into the 70s. The BWAGs are a diverse group of both native Montanans and community newcomers who bring a variety of passions, and interests to the group.

“There have been many new, wonderful experiences for me since I left the Chicago area and relocated to Bozeman,” says Jeannie Hermes, a BWAG member since 2002. “However, my very best experience has been joining the BWAGs. Every week brings the joy of discovering a new trail, climbing a new peak, discovering a new flower, and best of all, meeting a new friend.”

While the majority of hiking and skiing activities take place in the Gallatin National Forest or the Bridger Mountains, the BWAGs occasionally head off to the Crazies or the Beartooths. A popular trip in the fall is to Yellowstone National Park to hear the elk bugle.

One thing not included in these outings is men. However, the husbands of some of the members decided that these gals were having way too much fun, so a few of the men got together and started their own group. Appropriately enough, they call themselves the BMAGs. So whether you’re a BWAG or a BMAG, you’re invited to join other outdoor enthusiasts throughout the area for some recreation and fun. As Cathy Weeden, longtime member, says, “BWAGs is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I love exercising while seeing such beautiful views, and making such great friends.”

The BWAGs meet at 8:30 am in the summer and 9:00 am in the winter, departing from the parking lot of the Museum of the Rockies. For more information about the BWAGs and BMAGs, contact Patti or David Steinmuller at (406)585-8549
or check out the BWAGs website at