Two Montana transplants share what they wished they’d known when landing in this snowballing community.
Here at GearJunkie, we hear about the best of Bozeman all the time. Our friend Conrad Anker lives there, and so do two of our regular contributors. The latter two recently did what a lot of young professionals and families are doing all over the country: move to a magical mountain town.
Like many communities featured in GearJunkie’s Great Urban Outdoors series, Bozeman is booming. And this tech-magnate town of 45,000 has the double whammy: good jobs and plenty of places to play. Skiing is just 25 minutes away at Bridger Bowl, and at Big Sky at a higher elevation.
But whether you’re about to put down roots or are just shooting through Bozeman for a weekend adventure, it can be hard to know what’s worth exploring — and what’s not. To help you get the most out of Bozeman, we caught up with our trusty locals. They told us what they wished they’d known before they moved to town.
One gave us a big caveat: “Just tell them not to move to Bozeman because they’re all driving up the rent. Missoula has milder winters.”
With that, here’s what the locals know and where they’d go if they were you.
The Cannery District: A Can’t-Miss
If you’re looking to accomplish a lot in a hot little area of Bozeman, make a beeline to the Cannery District. The name immortalizes The Bozeman Canning Company, which opened in 1918 to seal Bozeman’s bumper crops of peas, beans, and carrots.
Today, new businesses, from restaurants to retail, are popping up almost daily in this up-and-coming area of town. Seven Sushi is a favorite, as is 406 Brewing. For you outdoor enthusiasts, have some fun exploring the Gear Wizard, which sells and services new and used summer and winter gear, including vintage bikes.
Functional movement studio Epic Athletics is a nice spot for an indoor workout if you want to jump on a RealRyder stationary bike or do some TRX. Iconic hunting brand Sitka Gear even has its headquarters in the Cannery District.
Outdoor Adventures Close In
In Bozeman, it’s easy to squeeze in adventures. Many are not far from town. One of the most accessible is the M Trail. The “M” comes from the trail’s landmark letter, which some Montana State University students made way back in 1915.
There are two ways to go up here: steep or mellow. Hikes range from 30 to 90 minutes, and both deliver sweeping Gallatin Valley views. Hikers only here, please.
Instead, bikers can sink their teeth into the Sourdough Canyon Trail. It’s also called Bozeman Creek Trail, as it parallels a big water source for the town. Here, you can go up to 20 miles round trip or as short as 1.5 miles.
Plan ahead and you can reserve the trail’s 1930 Mystic Lake Cabin, one of many Bozeman backcountry haunts popular among locals and visitors alike. These are ideal jumping off points for hunting and fishing, among other outdoor pursuits. For anglers wanting a day trip on the river, the Madison, Gallatin, and Yellowstone rivers are all within reach.
Leverich Canyon is a classic semi close-in (a double-digit flat, paved ride out of town). A little further out, but worth the trek, is the stunning Bridger Ridge Traverse. This is a much longer day hike that delivers stellar views and several peak bags: Saddle, Bridger, and Baldy peaks. Along the way, you’ll also pass Bridger Bowl Ski Area, another must-do for winter sports enthusiasts.
After You Work Up an Appetite
Of course, even if we don’t want to admit it, many of us play outside so we can stuff our faces. Isn’t the foodie part half the fun of navigating a new town? If food is a focus in your active life, our local experts have a few eateries (OK, drinkeries) to put on your Bozeman bucket list.
Montana Ale Works: This brewery in a retro railroad freight house has been beloved among locals for 18 years now. Expect an extensive lineup of regional craft pours and upscale comfort food like naturally raised Montana beef and bison burgers.
Open Range: If you’re feeling a little spendy, head to Open Range for craft cocktails, including classics like the old-fashioned and originals like Blind Date. Chase it down (or the other way around) with the kitchen’s signature cast-iron-seared meats.
Haufbrau House: If you’re getting right down to the drinking part, do it in a dive bar long appreciated by locals. Haubrau is just like it sounds. There are 21 local beers on tap, $3 happy hour microbrews, live music (classic rock, folk, country), open mic nights, and that famous barbecue Lanny burger.
More Local Bozeman Intel
Over-the-top occupancy: Rentals are at record levels — 100 percent full — so don’t plan to roll into town and find some open digs. Get creative.
Spire Climbing Gym: This local rock spot will feed your weekly wall habit — not to mention America’s insatiable appetite for indoor urban rock-climbing gyms.
Commuter convo: The Bozeman Commuter Project has everything you want to know about how to ride your bike around town. And, if necessary, get your rig fixed at Ownhouse Cycling, a locally owned bike shop established in 1879.
Snowfill Dog Park: Bringing Fido along for the adventure? This pet play park is where all the local canines cavort.
Madison River Salmon Fly Honey Rye: Never mind Montucky Cold Snacks, this is the quintessential local Bozeman beer. Stock up.
Gas station casinos: Just a heads up, this is one Bozeman weird-ism we just can’t explain. You don’t have to join the party, but be prepared to confront these at a convenience store corner near you.