Austin and I moved to Bozeman, Montana last summer and I found myself Googling this phrase a lot: What to do in Bozeman, Montana. Now that we’ve been here for almost a year (HOW?!), I wanted to write an article to help out other new residents or people visiting the area!
I always say that Bozeman is the perfect hub spot to see so much of Montana and some of Wyoming, too. It’s only 1.5 hours from Yellowstone, 3 hours from Helena, 4-4.5 hours from Grand Teton National Park, and 5 hours from Glacier National Park. Let’s not forget that Bozeman is an awesome city as well! There’s a lot to do all year round and if you’re visiting for any number of days, this itinerary should help you figure out what to do.
This Bozeman summer itinerary will mainly be focused on Bozeman, itself, not the surrounding areas that I just described above. That said, I do recommend adding a few days to your trip to see those other cities and national parks.
Let’s get to it! Here’s what to do in Bozeman, Montana from a local’s perspective:
Day 1: Arrive in Bozeman + Check out Downtown
Of course, I don’t know exactly what time you’ll arrive in Bozeman, but when you do, check into your hotel or Airbnb and get settled in! There are a few prominent hotels right downtown including Hotel Baxter and Lewis and Clark Motel (the fanciest motel I’ve ever seen).
There are also some unique Airbnbs nearby that I would highly recommend. The Yonder Yurt is a yurt in Bozeman that’s in the rural area for a more secluded stay. There’s also the Blue Barn on Over Yonder Farm if you’re interested in more of a farm stay. This next one isn’t in Bozeman, it’s in the next town over (Livingston), but it’s so cool that I’m going to mention it anyway. The Centennial Inn is an old train car that was converted into a place to sleep!
Once you check in, walk or drive to downtown Bozeman. There are so many boutiques, outdoor shops, book stores, antique stores and more that line main street. Walk around for the afternoon! There are also plenty of coffee shops and restaurants if you get tired or hungry. Since you’re visiting in the summer, Genuine Ice Cream will have their Air Stream stand setup on main street. I highly recommend trying their ice cream!
Day 2: Sunrise hike + Hot Air Balloon Ride
You can’t visit Bozeman in summer and not go hiking! There are too many incredible views to pass up. I’d suggest getting up early and heading out on a hike first thing in the morning. I like to use the AllTrails app to find hikes where I’m at.
A few of my favorites in Bozeman are the “M” trail that takes you up to the big, white “M” in the side of the mountain, or Drinking Horse Mountain Trail. Both of these will take you up to pretty high elevation to get views of the entire Bozeman area.
You’re hike will probably take 2-3 hours in the morning, but after that, you’re going to be doing something VERY exciting: a hot air balloon ride! Since living in Bozeman, I always see hot air balloons floating around – even in winter! Most of these are with Endeavor Ballooning, a company that does hot air balloon and airplane tours in Gallatin County.
You’ll want to book pretty far in advance for this, but I’d highly consider adding this once-in-a-lifetime experience to your itinerary!
Once you’re done with the hot air balloon, it’ll likely be late afternoon, and you’ll probably be tired. Take it easy the rest of the afternoon. For dinner tonight, I’d head to Red Tractor Pizza. They have some of the best pizza in town (remember, I used to live in Chicago!) and everything is farm-to-table. You can order their pizza for delivery, or go in and sit down to eat.
Day 3: Rent ATVs
Your third day in Bozeman is going to be just as adventurous as your second! I’d get up early and get a good breakfast in. The Western Cafe is a great place to go for delicious breakfast food, so stop in before heading to pick up your ATVs.
There are a few places to rent ATVs or side by sides in Bozeman – the two I’d recommend trying are Summit All Terain Rentals or Big Boy’s Toys. Both of these places really only do rentals. The thing to keep in mind with this is that you need to have a truck or some kind of vehicle that can tow the ATVs (the rental companies will supply the trailer). You’ll need to tow them to wherever you’ll be riding.
If you’re not as comfortable navigating the mountains by yourself, or you don’t have a vehicle that can tow the ATVs, you can also book a tour! I’d suggest driving to Butte to go on a tour with Montana ATV Adventures. They have both half and full day tours and they’ll even take you through a nearby ghost town!
You’ll probably be getting back to Bozeman late tonight, so I’d suggest just grabbing something quick for dinner and then heading to bed.
Day 4: Scenic Drive + Montana Grizzly Encounter
Since the last two days were filled with adventure, day 4 will be a bit slower. You’ll start with a scenic drive starting in Bozeman. You’ll drive from Bozeman, through the Gallatin Canyon, and stop in Big Sky. There are several pull over spots to stop, take photos, and take in the scenery.
After Big Sky, you’ll continue on to Hebgen Lake where you can stop for a picnic lunch. After some time at Hebgen Lake, you’ll come to Earthquake Lake which was formed by an earthquake back in 1959. The next town you’ll come to is Ennis where you can stop at Norris Hot Springs if you have some extra time.
For more information and exactly what to do at each spot, check out this post that tells you exactly what you’ll need to know about this scenic drive.
Depending on how long you spend at each spot, you’ll likely get back to Bozeman sometime in the afternoon. If you’re up for one more activity, head over to the Montana Grizzly Encounter. This is a grizzly bear rescue and education sanctuary. You can learn about the grizzlies here and see the bears that have been rescued.
Day 5: Museum Day
Bozeman has a few Museums that are definitely worth visiting when you’re in town. The most popular and largest of them is the Museum of the Rockies. You’ll find an entire dinosaur exhibit which will teach you about the types of dinosaurs that were in the area and where their remains were found. You’ll also find more exhibits about Native Americans, pioneers, and early live along the Rocky Mountains. If you only have time for one museum in Bozeman, this is the one I would recommend.
If you’re looking for history about southwest Montana, specifically, I’d also check out the Gallatin History Museum. This museum actually used to be a jail house and a few of the cells are still up! Now, the entire building offers a glimpse into the past of Gallatin County.
If art is more your thing, Bozeman also has several art galleries around town. There are two right on main street and I’d recommend visiting Old Main Gallery which features photography and paintings by local artists. Most of these are also of local scenery. It’s amazing to see Montana through the eyes of a local artist!
Day 6+: Yellowstone National Park
This wouldn’t be a post about what to do in Bozeman, Montana without mentioning Yellowstone. If you have a few more days in Bozeman, I’d recommend spending one or two days exploring Yellowstone National Park! The northern entrance is about an hour and a half away, so it’ll make for a long day, but it’s possible to see a lot of the park in addition to driving to and from Bozeman.
If you just have one day to see Yellowstone, I’d venture around the northern loop and see Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and a few stops in between. If you have more than one day, then I’d also spend some time in the southern loop to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful, and more!
I have an entire post dedicated to showing exactly how to spend a weekend exploring Yellowstone and how to make the most of your time. You can check that out here!
What are you most excited for?
I’m so excited that you’re going to be visiting Bozeman, Montana! I’m so happy to be able to call this city home for the time being and I know you’re going to love it. Let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for!