Don't let a little snow and cold weather stop you from getting out to the mountains this winter! Winter in Bozeman offers some of the greatest hiking of the year. The trails aren't nearly as crowded and the landscapes look entirely new. Here is our list of the best winter hikes in Bozeman.
This trail is 5.5 miles out and back and while it stays very busy in the summer months, it slows down in the winter making it a great time to go. The frozen lake and snow covered peaks that surround it (including Jumbo Mountain) are a spectacular sight. The hike climbs 1,600 ft and is a fairly moderate hike, depending on your ability. It can get icy and slick so be sure to bring your Yaktrax.
Getting there: Take US 191 west south past Gallatin Gateway towards Big Sky. After around 9 miles, just past House Rock, you will see the Lava Lake trailhead sign on the right. Follow the dirt road for a short distance until you reach the trailhead parking area.
This trail is 3.5 miles to the top with 2,800 feet of elevation gain, making it more strenuous than some other hikes on this list. But, the view from the top is worth it! You get a great view of the snow-covered peaks in the distance and the Gallatin River below. When you get to the top, you will see the Garnet Mountain lookout cabin at the top. If you're really lucky and can get the cabin reserved, we suggest staying there for the evening! In the warmer months, there's the option to approach the hike from Rat Lake, this is a longer way to go, but definitely a less strenuous climb.
Getting there: Take US 191 south from Bozeman towards Big Sky. Just past the Inn on the Gallatin, turn left to cross the bridge to Storm Castle Road and then a right. If you want to take the steep way up, take the road to the Storm Castle trailhead, the Garnet Mountain trail is right across the road. This is the suggested route for the winter because the road closes about a mile from the trailhead during the winter.
Photo credit: Zac Finley
The Spanish Peaks Trail is on Ted Turner's property in Gallatin Canyon and is the starting point for a few different trails, one being to Pioneer Falls. The drive to the trailhead is pretty awesome in itself and there's a very likely chance you will see buffalo and maybe even a moose! (Make sure to check for road closures in the winter) The hike to the falls is around 4 miles, but there is not a big elevation gain so is doable for all levels. The trail takes you through meadows, past streams and gives some of the best mountain views as a backdrop. Around the 3 mile mark you reach a fork, take a right and head a little over a mile more to the falls. Depending on the snow level, this one can be done in Yaktrax, but snowshoes might be helpful if it's been a snowy season.
Getting there: Take Hwy 191 towards Big Sky and soon after you enter the canyon take a right onto Spanish Creek Road. Enjoy the beautiful drive until you reach the Spanish Creek Campground. The trailhead begins at the campground across the creek.
Photo credit: Carla Knoll
This trail is close to Bozeman so if you don't want to drive far in wintery conditions this is a good choice. The trail takes you through the forest and switchbacks up to an overlook at the 2-mile point offering big views of the Gallatin Valley. This is part of the Bridger Foothills trail so you can veer off at any point to take your hike across the foothills in either direction. This is a fairly moderate hike and will likely be slightly less snowy than hikes on the south side of Bozeman.
Getting there: North on 19th, right on Springhill Rd, right onto Sypes Canyon and then three miles to the trailhead. (This is a neighborhood, so be respectful of no parking signs)
Photo credit: Michele Eckhardt
Another hike close to Bozeman, Drinking Horse Trail is located directly across the street from the M trailhead. This one begins at the Fish Hatchery and is just about 2 miles long. It's a pretty hike through the snowy forest and over the river. Soon after crossing the bridge the trail splits. The left fork is slightly steeper than the right. We suggest making a loop to make the most of this beautiful hike! At the top, you can enjoy views of Bozeman on one side and Bridger Canyon on the other.
Getting there: Take Bridger Canyon Drive and take a right at the Fish Hatchery
Photo credit: Zac Finley
Leverich Canyon is mostly used as a mountain bike trail so most hikers steer clear of this trail during the summer months. However, in the winter the number of mountain bikers sharply decreases (except for a few fat tire bikes) making it a good choice for a winter hike. The trail makes a nice loop and is close to Bozeman. The road to the trailhead is notoriously bad and the parking is limited, which can be a deterrent (meaning fewer people!)
Getting there: Nash Road to South 3rd to the trailhead
Photo credit: Sharon Henderson
Grotto Falls is one of the many beautiful winter hikes in Hyalite Canyon. The road is plowed to the trailhead (although can still be treacherous in the winter) making this a popular spot year-round with hikers and ice climbers. Speaking of that, if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse or two of ice climbers on your way up. The trail is only 2.4 miles round trip and there is little elevation gain, making it easy for all hiking abilities. The frozen falls this time of year are like a winter wonderland! If you want to continue hiking, you can continue on to see more waterfalls all the way up to Hyalite Lake, depending on snow and trail conditions.
Getting there: Head up Hyalite Canyon past the reservoir. Veer right at the marked fork on the south end of the reservoir and continue on the dirt road until you hit the trailhead.
This is a popular backcountry skiing trail and also a nice winter hike. The trailhead is just before Hyalite Reservoir and the trail is only around 2 miles to the lake. You'll find a lot of cross-country skiers at the beginning of the hike. The trail climbs steadily through the forest, switchbacking its way to Blackmore Lake. The round trip hike to the peak is 10 miles and you'll climb 3,540 feet. Of course, if you are skiing down, it will go fast!
Getting there: Hyalite Canyon, take a right towards the well-marked trailhead. It is right before you hit the reservoir parking lot.
Photo credit: Zac Finley
A popular cross-country ski trail and a perfect one for a winter hike with the kids. History Rock is a 1.4 mile hike to the rock itself and once there, kids love to check out all the names engraved on the giant rock over the years. It has little elevation gain, but a few short steep sections. This hike stays relatively quiet year round. If you want to hike further, the trail continues on. If you are feeling really ambitious you can follow the trail all the way South Cottonwood Creek!
Getting there: Hyalite Canyon, past Langohr Campground, take a right at the well-marked trailhead before the reservoir.
Photo credit: Carla Knoll
A frozen waterfall is a sight to behold and Ousel Falls is an easy one to get to in the winter. It's 1.6 miles, there is little elevation and it's an easy drive to the trailhead because it is close to Big Sky. This trail gets quite a bit of use, so the snow stays nicely packed down.
Getting there: Take Us 191 and go right towards Big Sky. Take a let on Ousel Falls Rd to the trailhead.
Photo credit: Zach Menk