Fall in Southwest Montana is truly magical. As the weather cools and the cottonwoods shift their leaves from green to gold, I find myself spending as much time outdoors as I possibly can. Recreation opportunities abound in the Bozeman area this time of year and the hardest decision is often picking just one activity for a stunning autumn day. If this is your first fall on campus, figuring out exactly what to do and where to go can be a challenge in itself, especially if you are just getting started in outdoor sports. So, here is my guide to Bozeman’s various outdoor adventure opportunities for this fall season.
Hiking is a great place to start your journey into outdoor sports. It requires little gear, no special skills and there are countless trailheads just a short drive from campus. That being said, make sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of food and water, as well as a rain layer just in case highly variable mountain weather throws you a curveball. The College ‘M’ Trail is a relatively easy hike within a few minutes of campus and is an absolute must for any new student. For those with their sights on something more ambitious, Sacagawea Peak offers an incredible climb with stunning views both East and West of the Bridger Mountain Range.
Whether you have years of cycling experience or you’re just getting started on a mountain bike, Bozeman is the place to be. The Bozeman area has trails for every skill level and every ride distance. Painted Hills Trail – just off of Kagy boulevard about 2 miles southeast of campus – is a great place to start and is mellow enough that it can even be done on a gravel bike. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, try Leverich Canyon Trail or make the approximately 30-minute drive to the Copper City Trails near Three Forks, Montana. Mountain bikes and other necessary equipment are available for rent at the Outdoor Recreation building.
While not famous for rock climbing like California or Utah, Montana still offers plenty of opportunities for climbers of all disciplines. Bear Canyon, Hyalite Canyon, Bozeman Pass and Gallatin Canyon are all great places to explore within a short drive from town. If you are new to rock climbing and want to learn the ropes – pun intended – in an indoor environment, Spire Climbing Center is a top-notch indoor climbing facility just down the street from campus. Spire offers lessons for beginning climbers and discounted rates on monthly memberships and day passes for MSU students.
Bozeman is something of a mecca for fly fishing and is home to prominent fly fishing companies such as Simms Fishing Products and Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures. With countless streams and rivers flowing through Southwest Montana, the options are nearly endless for anglers. The Gallatin, East Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers are all wonderful streams with ample public access and all are worth a shot this fall. Fly rods, reels, waders, and boots are available for rent at the Outdoor Recreation building. For flies and specific information about local rivers, stop at one of Bozeman’s local fly shops (Montana Troutfitters is my personal favorite). Fishing should be productive on local streams all the way up until Thanksgiving or later.
As fall approaches, make the most of the place you’ve decided to live for the foreseeable future. Get outside, try something new and bring some friends along, too.