Bozeman continues to be one of the fastest growing communities in the Lower 48 states. And it’s no wonder! Our mountain town hosts the state’s biggest university and is surrounded by mountains brimming with trout-rich rivers, ski slopes, wildflower-festooned alpine meadows and ranchland as far as the eye can see.
When my family arrived in Montana in 1990, Bozeman was home to around 23,000 people and the county had about 51,000. Today, more than 45,000 people call Bozeman home and Gallatin County’s population hovers around 97,000 people!
With all the growth has come a burgeoning real-estate market, with solid Victorians and bungalows (often remodeled, expanded and updated), funky and traditional homes in the city, and new construction to the north, south, east and west. Nearby Four Corners, Big Sky and Belgrade offer even more choices.
We play hard here! We have miles of urban and mountain trails, many within walking distance, and four-season recreation, from skiing to horseback riding, trail running, kayaking, mountain biking, and miles of blue-ribbon trout streams. In the winter, skiers keep their eye on the powerful Blue Light on the roof of the Historic Baxter Hotel, which flashes whenever Bridger Bowl gets 2 or more inches of new snow.) For some real get-away time, Bozeman has easy access to national forests and wilderness areas and it’s just 90 minutes to Yellowstone National Park.
Long powered by agriculture and the university, the economy in Bozeman has expanded to include high-tech, manufacturing and home-building companies. Thousands of students who attended Montana State University simply fell in love with Bozeman and never left. They are the talent pool for the region’s high-tech industry (Oracle, Zoot Enterprises, ILX Lightwave and Omega Biologicals, among others). Other manufacturers include Simms Fishing Products, Gibson Guitar, Mystery Ranch, and West Paw Design. The university itself is a major employer, with strong biomedical, environmental, energy and high-tech research facilities. Plus we have lots of engineers, lawyers, architects, fly-fishing guides and outfitters and dozens of nonprofit organizations that work to protect the natural environment and help people meet their basic needs.
People move here for the quality of life and big-city amenities. Bozeman’s Gallatin Field Airport -- with direct flights to San Francisco, Chicago and New York -- is now the busiest airport in the state. The bus-transit system Streamline moves people around town, sharing the road with bicyclists and the occasional cowboy on horseback.
Bozeman boasts an opera company, symphony orchestra, Broadway plays and lots of high-quality community theatre. An impressive list of big-name performers come through Bozeman and there is enough live music to keep you dancing through the week. Museum of the Rockies has one the world’s largest fossil collections in the world, along with a Living History Farm. And our historic downtown offers shopping, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, bars and breweries and a wonderful array of art galleries (there are monthly art walks in the summer). Healthy food options abound at the local farmers’ markets and the local co-op ranks as one of the most popular places in town.
Local newspaper: Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Everybody has to eat!
Luckily, Bozeman is bursting with great restaurants.
It's got to be Sola Cafe on the south side of town. Tiffany has the best granola ever! Try it after a nice long run in the winter when it's 10 degrees out -- hot and healthy. Yum!!!
Another new fav of mine is the Storm Castle Cafe near MSU. Huge breakfasts! Not greasy and a wonderful menu. I think it is open for lunch too. And Nova, downtown, is amazing and is always packed. Cool menu!
If you love good food and lots of it you have got to try Starky's! Homemade matzo-ball soup along with many other delicious selections. The cookies to die for! Owners Kathy and Glen are awesome. Check out at starkyonline.com . Stop by and say Pam sent you!
So many to choose from, especially in the summer when you can sit outside and enjoy the Montana nights! If I had to choose one as my fav it would be Montana Aleworks. Always happening with pool tables, cool inside bar and great food. I love the fish tacos! Best in town.
I also recommend The Emerson North (in an old school converted to an artists’ community), a small, cozy restaurant and bar with "WOW," really great food. Emerson Cultural Center. 14 North is another good spot with a great menu, unique dishes, fine dining and very hip. Love it! And the owner of the Mint Bar and Restaurant in Belgrade expanded to Bozeman with Open Range. The filet is to die for!
Sports bars: The Grantree-Best Western. True story. It is really where the locals go. Many TVs, lots of seating, clean, and really good food. What's better than a huge pizza and cold beer while watching your game!
Spectators also rocks. Specs is always crowded, with great burgers, pizza, plenty of beer on tap, TVs all over and pool tables. Not a quiet place for a romantic dinner, but fun and reliably good food.
Bakery: The locally owned and family operated Wild Crumb bakery at 600 N Wallace Ave. specializes in traditional, organic, artisan breads and pastries. Savory or sweet, you can’t go wrong here! Baked fresh daily. Particularly good is the gorgonzola-walnut sourdough bread, but they also serve/sell breakfast pastries, mouth-watering fruit or chocolate-truffle tarts, sandwiches and cookies.
Microbreweries: If you are a fan of tasting local brews, Bozeman has lots to offer. There’s Bozeman Brewing, Bridger Brewing, Bunkhouse, Mountains Walking, Outlaw, White Dog, and 406, among others.
Hiking with Rover
Pam's picks for the best dog-friendly hiking trails:
#1. Bozeman Creek: On the south side; plenty of water and shade for "Rover.” Lots of walkers, joggers, bikers and most important: DOGS! In the winter you’ll cross paths with walkers, runners, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and more dogs!
#2. Triple Tree Trail: South and east of town.
#3. South Cottonwood: Watch out for mountain bikers.
#4. Drinking Horse Trail: Across from the M, north of town, Story Hills. Water, trees, a nice two-mile loop.
#5. Peets Hill: In Lindley Park, near the Bozeman Public Library. Once again, bikers, runners, old and young walkers and lots of dogs! Nice trail that leads to and from many other trails.
ENCLOSED DOG PARK
Snowfill (in Bridger Mountain foothills): Thirty fenced acres of just people and dogs (along with a pump and bowl for water). One lap is 1.25 miles, I usually choose to do two laps. My old dog just strolls (I don't worry about her because she can't really get lost), while the younger dogs run around making new friends and burning off some steam from their not-so-stressful days.
Favorite Bike Rides
I keep this information pretty close in order to keep these places special! Shoot me an e-mail and I'll tell you where the low-traffic roads are so you can have a great ride after a long days' work.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
This place needs no introduction! From Bozeman, there are two ways to get there: east to Livingston and then south, through the north entrance in Gardiner. Or south past Big Sky to the west entrance in West Yellowstone.
FLOATING & FLY FISHING
This is mecca for anglers! Bozeman-based anglers have easy access to the Gallatin, Madison, Jefferson Missouri and Big Hole rivers. See our Livingston page for more information about fishing the Yellowstone River and Park County’s famed spring creeks.
For guided trips, fishing reports and gear, check out River’s Edge Fly Shop (in two locations), Montana Troutfitters, the Montana Angling Company or Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop (now called Big Sky Anglers) at the corner of Canyon and Madison in West Yellowstone. Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures is also a premier fly-fishing outfitter and booking agency that will help you plan your Montana trip (or put you on more exotic waters in the Seychelles, Iceland or Belize).
For whitewater rafting, check out the Montana Whitewater Rafting Company, which has four locations, including its home base between Big Sky and Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191 through the Gallatin Canyon.
Floating the Madison in inner tubes has become exceedingly popular. Several spots in town rent tubes and other gear and will bus you to and from the put-in and take-out.
BRIDGER BOWL: On the east slope of the Bridger Range, Bridger is about two miles wide at the ridgetop, with four large bowls and long, wide-open terrain with glades, chutes and gullies down to the base.
Developed as a nonprofit ski area by local skiers and dozens of volunteers in the 1950s, platter and T-bar lifts gave way to chairlifts designed to accommodate all levels, beginner to expert. Various other nonprofit organizations grew up around Bridger, including Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) and Eagle Mount.
Bridger Bowl Ski School helps get novices young and old prepared for the varied mountain terrain and the mountain is extremely family friendly. Hard-core skiers, meanwhile, head for the Ridge, which “presents some of the most challenging skiing and riding within any ski-area boundary,” according to www.bridgerbowl.com, including steep chutes, rock cliffs and snow fields that end in cliffs, with no hazard markings, grooming or marked trails. All skiers and snowboarders on the Ridge must have an avalanche transceiver.
BIG SKY RESORT: Started by NBC News’ anchorman and Montana native Chet Huntley, Big Sky Resort opened in 1973. Now owned by Boyne Resorts -- and expanded with the purchase of adjacent Spanish Peaks (a private club) and Moonlight Basin Resort -- it has become one the nation’s largest ski complexes with 5,800 acres.
Located 50 miles south of Bozeman, Big Sky rises to a summit elevation of 11,166 feet and averages more than 400 inches of snow a year. The extensive trails network, 23 chairlifts and 11 surface lifts accommodates beginning to expert skiers.
The Lone Peak Tram takes expert skiers to the summit in winter, and hikers and tourists in the summer. The adjacent Mountain and Meadow villages are home to a year-round population, lodging, dining, conference center, employee housing and commercial centers. Summer activities include tram rides, hiking, 40 miles of mountain-bike trails, daily shuttles to Yellowstone National Park’s west entrance, golf, zipline tours, archery, horseback riding and tennis. There are cross-country trails at the nearby Lone Mountain Ranch.
SHOWDOWN: Showdown is Montana’s oldest ski area. It opened in the Little Belt Mountains, northeast of Bozeman, in 1936. With all natural snow, lift and base-camp modernizations and renovations, the mountain today accommodates skiers of all skill levels -- including the Sluice Goose Caboose beginner chairlift and Little Belt Conveyor for access to the bunny hill. A vertical rise of 1,400 feet spread over 600 acres, well-groomed trails with twists and turns, and affordable lift tickets make for some of the best skiing outside of Montana’s resorts.
Showdown is well off the beaten path, so there’s no slope-side lodging, but accommodations can be found within 30 miles. And there are hot springs for soaking in White Sulphur Springs.
MUSEUM OF THE ROCKIES
Home to the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the United States, including the largest T-rex skull every discovered, Museum of the Rockies was founded in 1957 as part of MSU and is now affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.
Jack Horner spent 34 years building the paleontological collection. There are 13 T-rex specimens, including one of the only two complete dinosaur skeletons ever found (the other is “Sue,” at the Chicago Field Museum) and a triceratops found in Jordan, Montana. Horner himself was partial inspiration for “Jurassic Park,” earned a MacArthur genius grant, and wrote eight books before he left Bozeman in 2016.
Other collections focus on area history: Native Americans; frontier days (a Living History Farm with costumed interpreters demonstrate daily life in the original Tinsley House and gardens); and up through World War II. The Taylor Planetarium seats 104 people and the museum recently added a Curatorial Center for the Humanities.