The vernal equinox occurred on Saturday, March 20, signifying the beginning of spring. With the onset of this new season, we can expect warmer temperatures, longer days and more opportunities to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Some of those recreational opportunities may have to be put on hold for the next month and a half as the Bozeman Ranger District temporarily closes Hyalite Road to motorized use.
The annual spring thaw will close access to Hyalite by motorized vehicles from Thursday, April 1, through Saturday, May 15. This closure is to ensure that the road’s subgrade melts after it has become saturated with snowmelt. These conditions can be dangerous because Hyalite receives so many visitors, which creates unstable road conditions, surface cracking and potholes. During the winter months over 20,000 recreationists visit Hyalite per month, and during the summer over 80,000 outdoorsmen and women visit the recreation area. This traffic flow makes Hyalite one of the most popular recreation areas in Montana. In addition, with more Americans wanting to travel, Bozeman and the Mountain West have become tourist destinations because of eased restrictions and fewer people.
This annual closure does offer a chance for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the reservoir and the canyon in new and exciting ways. “Hikers, bikers, runners and other recreationists all enjoy and look forward to experiencing Hyalite in a different way during this 1.5 month closure,” said Lisa Stoeffler, Bozeman District Ranger. “The plowing and winter access provides a fantastic winter opportunity. We are thankful to Gallatin County and Friends of Hyalite for their community involvement helping continue to keep Hyalite plowed.”
For those who plan to trek up the canyon road for an adventure, be sure to pack some essentials, like plenty of food and water as well as bear spray. Also, while walking, running or biking up the canyon, be aware of your surroundings as loose rocks and debris may tumble onto the road as a result of melting snow and ice. It is also important to keep in mind that there will still be a vehicle presence as crews will be working to maintain both the road and the dam.
The closure will provide an opportunity for volunteers to venture up Hyalite to clean up litter and garbage at popular areas in and around the reservoir. This project will be hosted by Friends of Hyalite, a local non-profit that works to ensure and protect year-round recreation opportunities for anyone who wants to visit the area. According to the mission statement found on the organization’s website, “Friends of Hyalite works with the Forest Service to care for Hyalite Canyon so that it remains wild, our water quality remains high, and everybody can continue to access and enjoy this special place.” Friends of Hyalite will host a clean-up day on Saturday, May 15 from noon - 4 p.m. for more information, check their website at hyalite.org.
Hyalite is of great importance for more than just outdoors enthusiasts because it is part of the ancestral land of the Apsaálooke (Crow), Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), Salish Kootenai (Flathead), Tséstho’e (Cheyenne) and Shoshone Bannock peoples. So, protecting this land is not just about caring for our environment, it is also about respecting the heritage and history of Native American tribes.
Additionally, from Thursday, April 1, to Tuesday, June 15, the Buffalo Horn Trail, Porcupine Creek Trail and Teepee Creek Trail, all in the Gallatin Canyon south of Big Sky, will be closed to pack and saddle livestock and mountain bikes. During the spring, these trails are very soft and muddy, and recreational use can cause increased damage to the trail. Other roads in the Custer Gallatin National Forest will also be saturated and muddy, so plan ahead and use common sense when enjoying the great outdoors in and around Bozeman.
For additional information or questions regarding trail conditions visit www.fs.usda.gov/custergallatin, or call the Bozeman Ranger District at (406) 522-2520.