Three days in Bozeman, MT

Bugsy in the Bozeman sculpture park

Bozeman is a super cool town! It has good food, good beer, good cocktails, and great hiking, and we loved our time there. Unfortunately, our time there was quite smoky from the wildfires in CA and OR, and some local trails were closed from a fire nearby, so we didn’t get a complete Bozeman hiking experience, but I suspect we’ll be back for more fun in the Bozeman area!

Campground

our campsite in Bozeman

We stayed at the Bozeman Trail Campground, an easy drive into town. It’s a pleasant place with nice trees but the sites are packed in a bit like sardines, and in Fall 2020 there was noisy construction next door. Still, we’d stay there again for the location, and because despite the close quarters we liked it there!

Exploring Bozeman

Bugsy running on Peets Hill

Bugsy’s favorite place in Bozeman paws-down is Peets Hill, a place so awesome we took her there each day of our stay. Peets Hill is a huge off-leash park, with trails and views of downtown and lots of happy residents and doggies. It’s an incredible city asset. Park behind the library and stroll through the sculpture park on the way to Peets.

architecture in Bozeman
house in Bozeman's historic district

After your bird’s eye view of town from Peets Hill, you’ll appreciate these historic walking tours of downtown Bozeman’s architecture. Fred Willson will be your new best friend. What a neat town! Note that the cemetery is not dog-friendly; we skipped that walking tour, but had a blast following the other two.

Hiking

I had several hikes near Bozeman earmarked, but they are in the Bridger Foothills north of Bozeman, and were closed because of the Bridger Fire. Bozeman was also getting some smoke from the fires in California and Oregon, so hiking to big vistas got demoted. We still had a super time hiking around Bozeman!

Bugsy hiking in Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park

On the drive in from Hamilton, we stopped at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park for a hike. Parking the Airstream was easy in the lot near the campground, and the 6.3-mile loop is dog-friendly, not strenuous, and pretty. The park was Montana’s first state park, and has one of the largest limestone caverns in the northwest. The campground looks fantastic too, if you need a place to stay.

hiking near Livingston, MT

On day two, our plan was to hike Livingston Peak for the big views, and then check out the cool little town of Livingston just east of Bozeman. Since the big views would be smoky, we chose a lower trail instead and loved it, even with the smoke. It’s a 6-mile loop through Gallatin National Forest with views of neighboring ridges and a lovely forest. This trail is also dog-friendly, but we gave sweet Bugsy the day off.

Drinking

Beer

Here’s J to talk about beer. Have I mentioned he loves beer?

There are 13 breweries in the Bozeman area, that according to Edible Bozeman, a local rag we picked up. In Bozeman proper and its immediate suburbs there are eight. We knew going in that we wanted to visit MAP Brewing and Mountains Walking Brewing, the former because it is set on a lake with mountains in the background and the latter because it was recommended to us.

Bugsy sitting outside the tasting room at Mountains Walking

Mountains Walking turned out to be our favorite among the bunch – and second on this trip perhaps only to Fargo‘s Drekker – both due to its delicious and plentiful supply of hazy IPAs and sours and its hip little patio scene in the cool Brewery District neighborhood. Lauren loved her milkshake IPA and wished it weren’t 8% ABV, while I couldn’t decide amongst my favorite NE IPAs and doubles. We wound up at Mountains Walking twice, the second time to stock up on their cans to go. Mountains Walking also has an interesting sounding pub food menu, although we just stuck to the beers there. Anyway, supposedly there are 90 breweries in Montana; perhaps I’m doing a disservice to all the ones I didn’t visit, but I’d be surprised if there are any better than Mountains Walking. Note that their patio is not dog-friendly; they allowed Bugsy to chill just outside the human seating area. We were surprised she agreed to that setup.

sour flight at Bozeman Brewing

A half block down the road from Mountains Walking is Bozeman Brewing Company, the oldest brewery in town. They are sour aficionados and L had a flight of two Goses, a cranberry Bret saison, a guava dry hopped sour, and a raspberry and cherry lambic, while I sipped on a perfectly adequate New England IPA.

beers on the patio at Outlaw Brewing

Outlaw Brewing is in a crappy Costo-like area north of town, but close enough to Map Brewing, and they had a bunch of NE IPAs on their tap list so we decided to check it out. Despite the blah surroundings, they’ve got a nice large Aspen tree-lined patio (although it’s not dog-friendly) with a street taco food truck. Lauren tried their seasonal tangerine, guava, mango sour and liked it. I had one of their seasonal NE IPAs and found it drinkable. 

beers on the patio at MAP brewing

After Outlaw, we hit MAP Brewing. We’re not sure why all of the letters are capitalized as it’s not an acronym. Rather, we were told it was named that because all great adventures start with a map. Huh. We were a bit disappointed, both with the scene and the beer. Regarding the former, it is, in fact, in a beautiful spot, but it really had more of a restaurant feel to it and their small concrete patio wasted a lot of the cool outdoor space. Why not go ahead and put some tables on the grass? Dogs are not allowed on the patio, and beer is not allowed in the grass area beyond the patio.

Livingston, MT street scene

Finally, after hiking, we stopped by quaint Livingston to check out the town and Neptune’s Brewing (the town’s other brewery, Katabatic, was unfortunately closed). Neptune’s is a decent sushi joint that serves up its own brewed beers as well as cocktails. Their beer selection was a bit limited when we were there, but they were serving a yummy beer that I enjoyed while L sipped on a painkiller. 

Non-beer

Bugsy and cocktails at Wildrye Distilling

We stumbled upon Wildrye Distilling when picking up dinner from Lot G next door, which you’ll learn about below. Our drinks were good so we returned for another one the next night. Wildrye’s spirits are made with a focus on Montana-grown ingredients, and their cocktails are creative and tasty.

Bugsy on Peets Hill

If you want to pick up a coffee to take on your morning Peets Hill stroll, try Wild Joe’s, a few blocks down Main St from the library. It’s a cool, bustling neighborhood spot, and my latte was yummy.

Eating

bowls from Lot G in Bozeman

We got to town hungry after our L&C Caverns hike and googled where we could get a healthy bowl for carryout. Lot G has interesting, healthy bowls made fast, but they’re on the small and expensive side. But they really hit the spot.

sushi surfboard at Neptune's

After hiking near Livingston we wandered around the cute western downtown and landed at Neptune’s on main drag. Sushi and pain killers in central Montana? Really random but really delicious. Neptune’s also brews beer and J liked the IPA, as described above. Their patio is dog-friendly.

Next time

Hike recommendation from our campsite neighbor: Fairy Lake, a short loop close to town.

3 comments

  1. I was in Bozeman in 1972 for a Cattlemen’s Conference when I worked for a publisher of cattle and dairy magazines (didn’t know that about me, did you?) it was beautiful country and the people were wonderful (of course all cattlemen tend to be great people).

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