Stone Creek Road
Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Not to be confused with the Stone Creek Trail portion of the Bangtail Divide, this easy jaunt follows Stone Creek Rd. along its namesake waterway. This canyon drains out of the Bangtail Mountains on the east side of Bridger Canyon, directly south of Grassy Mountain. The creek begins at a 7,700-foot ridge and tumbles 2,300 feet downhill in 4.4 miles to Bridger Creek. Stone Creek Rd. passes through a beautiful rolling mountain and meadow landscape. It is more of a stroll than a backcountry hike. The road heads up into the drainage on a gradual incline along the north bank of cascading Stone Creek. This is also a popular cross-country ski trail.
From downtown Bozeman, drive 12 miles up Bridger Canyon to Stone Creek Road on the right. Turn right and look for the nearest pull-out. Or drive 1.2 miles to the trailhead and do the route in reverse, to Bridger Canyon Rd. and back.
Stone Creek Rd. is an easement through private property; users must remain within the road easement at all times. For decades, the owners allowed access all the way up Stone Creek Canyon, to the intersection with the Bangtail Divide. Following new ownership and a dubious Forest Service land swap, access became much more restricted. The Bangtail Divide trail was re-routed up and around the canyon, and the new property owners have been much less receptive to hikers, runners, and cross-country skiers. Proceed past the trailhead at your own risk (of an ass-chewing; they can't legally do anything more).
However, the short length of road between Bridger Canyon Rd. and the Stone Creek Trailhead is a permanent legal easement and thus fair game. The views of the Bridgers are fantastic and the forest and foothills along Stone Creek are pristine. It's great for a quick lunch lap, or to give the dog some exercise after you spent a day on the slopes at Bridger. Enjoy yourself, be courteous, stay on the side of the road to let vehicles pass, and report any harassment to authorities.