Bozeman Montana is often the start and end point for a Montana or Yellowstone vacation. Instead of just passing through, why not make it your base as there are so many great things to do in Bozeman Montana for the whole family. From hikes, to breweries to one of the best dinosaur museums in the country, there is something for everyone. Continue reading for our list of what to do, where to eat and where to stay.
Where is Bozeman Montana?
Bozeman Montana is a beautiful city located in the Rocky Mountains. This college town is often thought of as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park or a stopping off point on the way to Glacier National Park. It is here that many out of state visitors fly in, rent their car and begin their epic holiday. This large city is nestled by a valley, surrounded by the looming Rockies and is soon to be Montana’s 4th largest metropolis.
The city is characterized by a young population as it is home to Montana State University, has a thriving arts scene and is just a short drive away from one of the most popular national parks in the United States.
I’ve heard that these days it is even nicknamed BozAngeles due to the influx of Californians moving in. I can totally see why especially with the direct flight from LAX to Bozeman!
If you’re considering Bozeman as a starting point for your next trip, here’s a list of the best things to do in Bozeman, MT so you might just consider staying a few days!
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21 Super Fun Things to Do in Bozeman Montana
Museum of the Rockies
One of the first places you need to put on your Bozeman itinerary is a visit to the Museum of the Rockies. This museum, located at the Montana State University campus, is home to the largest collection of dinosaur remains in the United States. Here you will find dinosaur fossils and remnants of ancient civilizations.
In addition to the collection of artifacts from the time of the dinosaurs, you will also find seasonal exhibits, the Taylor Planetarium and permanent exhibits on the Native Indians who call this land home.
During the summer months there is also a Living History exhibit outdoors of the museum that is well worth your time. Here you will find patrons dressed in period clothing showcasing activities of times gone past.
Hit the Trails with the Locals
There are so many amazing hikes to do in and around Bozeman I would have to spend months in town to try them all. Depending on what you are in the mood for and how much time you have, we can recommend a few options to get out and get some fresh air.
Bozeman Creek / Sourdough Canyon
Our top pick for a shaded, colorful (in Fall) hike is the Bozeman Creek /Sourdough Canyon hike. This trail is located just 10 minutes outside of town, but feels worlds away. This is a 20 mile round trip hike if you go all the way to Mystic Lake, but I recommend just pottering along the creek for as far as you feel up to and then returning back the way you came. This is my top thing to do in Bozeman Montana as you will mostly be adventuring with locals not tourists!
For a short family friendly hike that is filled with locals out walking their dogs, check out Tuckerman Park. The aspen lined trail follows along a bubbling creek with various sit points for the parents to chill while the kids splash and play. During the fall there is an aspen grove at the end of the trail that is beautiful!
No matter what is on your itinerary you will surely find yourself in downtown Bozeman during your stay. And rightly so! The downtown area of Bozeman is hopping with bars, hip shops and tons of great places to eat. Parking is typically pretty easy in the surrounding area making it a great place to park and explore. Spend time shopping in the local shops like the Great Rocky Mountain Toy Company, various art galleries and tons of clothes shops.
Bozeman Hot Springs
If you aren’t going to be in Gardiner outside of Yellowstone to hit up our favorite hot springs, then this is your second best shot at a large fun hot springs experience. The Bozeman Hot Springs is a local favorite as well as a hotspot for out of town guests. They have indoor and outdoor pools with live music occasionally as well.
If you happen to be in an RV or looking for camping options, this is the perfect place to stay. The Bozeman Hot Springs is located just 15 minutes from downtown Bozeman making it convenient for trips into town during your stay.
Grizzly Bear Rescue
Unfortunately we were unable to visit the Grizzly Bear Encounter during our recent visit due to time constraints, but it is on our list for our next visit. Founded in 2004, Montana Grizzly Encounter is co-owned by film and TV personality Casey Anderson. The center aims to provide a sanctuary for grizzly bears that are rescued from inhumane captivity.
While here you can get an up close encounter with grizzlies, watching them play and bathe and go about their day. If your luck is like ours and you never see grizzly bears in Yellowstone this may be your best bet to get up close and personal with them.
Go Fly Fishing
Other than visiting the national parks of Glacier or Yellowstone, the biggest reason people flock to Montana is for it’s fly fishing opportunities. One of the best places to experience fly fishing is with Bozeman’s best – Montana Angler Fly Fishing.
They offer half day or full day fly fishing tours as well as overnight float excursions and even wilderness trips via horseback. If you have a fishing adventure in mind, I am sure they can help you realize this dream, which is why this is one of the best things to do in Bozeman Montana during your visit.
Bike Around Town
For those looking to stay a little closer to solid ground, consider renting bikes for an excursion around town or even to the nearby forests if you have a hitch. The go to rental option in Bozeman is Owenhouse Cycling (no relation to me I promise!). We visited with the owner Tom as we planned our biking trip around town. There are numerous bike trails that offer guests the opportunity to check out Bozeman from 2 wheels as well as options to get out of the city center and into some neighboring nature areas. Our top tip for bike riding is to start at the shop and head out towards xxx. In the fall, the colors are popping with yellows and oranges.
Take a Scenic Drive
If you aren’t planning to venture around outside of Bozeman too much on your visit, one of the best things to do in Bozeman Montana is to plan a scenic drive for at least one days of your trip. One option is to drive through the Gallatin Canyon which follows the Gallatin River around the southern Madison Range. Instead of just driving, you can make various stops along the way. Our favorites on this route include hiking at Bear Trap Canyon (mentioned below), soaking in hot springs in Norris, eating a steak dinner in McAlister and possibly even fly fishing in Ennis! If your timing works out there also amazing BBQ at Riverside BBQ in Big Sky that is well worth your time. You can read more about this drive here as well as other spots you can stop in to check out.
Best Day Trips From Bozeman That Are Worth the Drive
While Bozeman is a wonderful destination on it’s own right and like we mentioned the gateway to Yellowstone, it is also a perfect spot to day trip from. There are a ton of amazing day trip destinations located a stone’s throw from Bozeman, allowing you to add more to your Montana itinerary without having to switch hotels every few days. Some of our favorite day trip destinations are shared below.
Lava Lake Hike
One of our favorite hikes in the area of Bozeman is Lava Lake Hike. This is a 6 mile round trip hike with about 1600 feet of elevation gain, making it somewhat strenuous for some. Overall, I would say most people can do this hike as long as they take their time. If you have the ability, this is a great day trip. Hike up to the lake, have a picnic lunch and spend the day playing around the lake before heading back down later in the day. Do pack layers as the weather can be chilly and unpredictable in the Cascade Canyon.
Bear Trap Canyon Hike
Located about 1 hour from Bozeman, this is a popular trail following along the river. You will find tons of fly fisherman out on the water if you want to give it a go on your own out here. The hike itself is 15 miles round trip, but as an in/out hike you can hike as far as you want. Pack a lunch, bring plenty of water and enjoy a day out in the some of the most pristine wilderness areas of Montana.
If you are visiting Bozeman during the winter, you probably already know to head down to Big Sky Ski Resort for their beautiful skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports. If you don’t know, now you do! Visiting during the summer or perhaps you are looking for somewhere to eat on your drive to West Yellowstone, we implore you to stop at Riverside BBQ. This place is delicious, offers outdoor seating and is right along the river making it the perfect place to visit for a day trip or stopover.
Located just a 3o minute drive to the east of Bozeman is the original city entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the town of Livingston. This small town is big on adventure and often known as the hub for float trips and world-class fly fishing excursions. Whether you are going on a tour or just exploring the Yellowstone River on your own, if you need to rent any gear, head over to George Anderson’s Yellowstone Angler. There are a variety of options for float trips, but the two that have been recommended to us include: Rowdy’s River Guides and Rubber Ducky Rentals. If an excursion is not on your to do list, just potter around this old town, check out the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, grab lunch and head back to Bozeman.
One of the best old mining ghost towns left in Montana is Virginia City. This is a stop the entire family will enjoy. From the small gauge train between Virginia City and Nevada City to the delicious Creamery Ice Cream shop to gold mining and more you will be hard pressed to get out of here in less than a few hours! If you have time, make sure to stop into the Montana Picture Gallery for old timey photos. They were closed during our visit, so we know we will have to return just for that.
Ennis is the home to fly fishing and a cute little town that is worth passing through. If you happen to need food, pop into the “Pharmacy” (Yesterday’s Soda Fountain) as locals call it for an old fashioned soda and snacks. Their breakfast offerings are delicious as I bet their lunch is too! Shop around the small stores or book a fly fishing excursion if you have time.
Underground Mine Tour in Butte
If you have never been underground in an old mine, this is your chance! Head out on a day trip from Bozeman to Butte (about 1.5 hours one way) where you can explore the World Museum of Mining, have lunch and go underground on a real mine tour. This underground mine tour is not to be missed if you are anywhere near!
While this is a long day from Bozeman, it is totally doable as Butte is located on the main highway. If you want to make a longer day of it, add on the Lewis & Clark Caverns listed below. For lunch in town, we recommend the Hummingbird Cafe for delicious sandwiches, salads and deserts on your way to the mine.
Lewis & Clark Cavern State Park
If you have never been on a cavern tour, you are in for one of the best cavern tours around. Unfortunately they had just closed tours right before our visit, so I have to rely on this full review of the caverns by 2TravelDads to get a feel for exactly how the tour goes. I’m a bit of a nervous nelly in small spaces, so I am not sure I could have done the tour, but I’m so intrigued I can’t wait to go back and check them out. Either way know that tours only operate in the summer months.
If caverns aren’t your thing, there are also 10 miles of hiking and biking trails here to get out and stretch your legs in beautiful scenery.
One of my favorite small towns in Montana is Philipsburg. This is one place I would recommend you actually stay over if you can. The Broadway Hotel in town is fantastic, offering a fun home like environment right in the middle of town. While here you can go sapphire mining, eat locally made ice cream and load up at the 3000 sq foot candy store in town (closed on Saturdays). You can do this as a day trip, but it is 2 hours each way which is another reason we suggest staying over a night!
Where to Eat in Bozeman
There are so many amazing places to eat in Bozeman, I can’t even begin to list them all. If you look up where to eat in Bozeman, every page you come across will have a different list – that’s because they are all so good! Here are a few of our favorites that we really enjoy when we visit Bozeman. Have others we need to try next time, pop us a comment below and we will try it out for sure.
Are you a fan of southern fried chicken? If so, then you must make a stop at Roost on your way into or out of town. Roost is Bozeman’s eclectic take on southern chicken. Try the Nashville Hot Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, fried okra and more. This is definitely a guilty pleasure type establishment, so no diets allowed!
Montana Ale Works
Even before I arrived to Bozeman, I had already been recommended by several friends to visit the Montana Ale Works. This is a local institution well worth the visit. Montana Ale Works is the go to place for a variety of local beers, bison burgers and so much more. My son loved his Wild Alaskan salmon kids meal while I went with the special of the day – a delicious mac and cheese with bacon!
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is eat out for breakfast. I don’t know why because I get the exact same meal almost every where I visit. But that gives me the ability to say with certainty that the breakfast options at Jam, located in downtown Bozeman is the jam. Pun intended. Even on a weekday morning, this place is packed which tells you it is a local favorite year round.
As I mentioned below on where to stay, Farmer’s Daughter located at the RSVP is a great option for delicious smoothies, fresh and healthy breakfast items and delicious steaming coffee. The service is typically quick and the offerings are conducive to getting them to go so you can hit the road early.
Where to Stay in Bozeman
The RSVP Hotel is my go to for where to stay in Bozeman Montana. It is located just a few minutes drive from the downtown area making it convenient for those who want to spend more time in town, but it is also easy to get to and from the highway.
Apart from convenience I just love the aesthetic of this former motel. It is hip, modern and loaded with beautiful amenities that any boutique hotel fan will admire. From the silk floral bathrobes to the Doterra Essential oil diffusers and beautiful decor, there is so much to love. While breakfast is not included, the on-site restaurant Farmers Daughter serves lovely fresh healthy options to get your day going.
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