Western Adventure: on the Bozeman Trail

Hyalite Canyon

June 8th, 2022:

I’m closing out my 2022 Western Adventure in my second home – Bozeman MT. I originally moved to Bozeman in 2002 to attend Montana State University. I ended up transferring to Belmont University to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter (now I’m in software sales and creative writing – but hey).

After Belmont I ended up back in Bozeman and owned a talent agency helping emerging and mid-market touring musicians. I love Montana and would love to move back some day. Bozeman has grow exponentially since I moved away in 2014, but continues to maintain it retains its mountain cool vibe. The biggest issue with Bozeman is cost of living – a familiar thread throughout the US and beyond.

Bozeman lies in the heart of the lush Gallatin Valley and is surrounded by The Bridger Peaks and fortressed by numerous canyons. Bozeman is an outdoor lovers haven with dozens of miles of greenway trails and accessible city and county parks.

The town is infused with history from its founding in 1864 (named after explorer and local legend, John Bozeman – remember The Bozeman Trail near Buffalo WY). You can dig into the pioneer past at The Gallatin History Museum in Downtown Bozeman.

Speaking of museums – if the Jurassic era is more your speed check out the world-renowned Museum of the Rockies (which has ties to the move franchise and lots of dinos on display)

Historic Downtown Bozeman features the best of western shopping from eclectic art galleries, jewelry shops, boot mercantile and outdoor wear.

I could spend days writing about the amenities Bozeman has to offer. It has great dining, scenery, outdoor access and culture that you won’t find in many towns of this size. The mix of adventurers, high tech, local industry and the university have long attracted a mix of cultures to the area.

Every August you can check out The Sweet Pea Festival for the Arts – a three day festival dedicated to cultivating arts and culture. I used to volunteer at Sweet Pea and we were excited to bring a lot of local talent like Little Jane and Pistol Whips and the late, but great Ben Bullington to the stage – along with national acts like Jerry Douglas and Hot Club of Cowtown.

I mention Sweet Pea because at its heart – Bozeman is a community of culture and western appeal.

Music: If you are looking for top music – Bozeman has a plethora of talented local musicians as well as touring acts that frequent venues like The Emerson Cultural Center and The Filling Station.

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks provides top quality Bard approved entertainment every summer (performing a residency in June/Aug in Bozeman – typically)

Bozeman has tons of great restaurants – but what really makes Bozeman foodies swoon – the COFFEE

I am a coffee snob and Bozeman has the best coffee shops per capita of just about anywhere. For years there wasn’t a Starbucks and frankly they don’t need one.

Between Wild Joes on Main Street or Zocalo, Ghost Town or City Brew…the list goes on…Bozeman should really market a coffee trail for java lovers.

My favorite is a huckleberry latte or cream Italian soda at Wild Joes.

~

Getting back to Bozeman was bittersweet – as I love the area and miss living there. I’m grateful to be in NC, but Bozeman has a piece of my heart.

Arriving into town around four o’clock, I first grabbed a parking spot downtown off Main Street and perused my old haunts – including my old apartment The Hamill Building.

I visited the amazing Bozeman Library (Also home to an amazing coffee shop – The Lindley Perk) and grabbed an Italian Soda at Wild Joes.

My favorite downtown gift shop is The Montana Gift Corral

I also stepped into several of the art galleries and outdoor shops.

Main Street is filled with delicious restaurants – for an old standby I love MacKenzie River Pizza or Ted’s Montana Grill (the original one in the Historic Baxter Building)…for breakfast/lunch – The Western Cafe has the old west ambiance mixed with hearty hashbrowns and delicious Montana eats. Nova and Main Street Over Easy are excellent choices too (especially if you are gluten free like me)

Downtown Bozeman (circa 2014)

For a quick coffee, snack or lunch – the central downtown Co-Op is amazing! The larger (original co-op), which is further west on Main is worth a stop too.

I wasn’t super hungry so I decided to spend the next ninety minutes driving around my favorite spots in Bozeman including the glorious Hyalite Canyon, which is part of the National Forest…well hidden – this Montana gem is a mini National Park – with creek access, beautiful views and miles of hiking trails.

Palisade Falls in Hyalite Canyon

After exploring my old haunts, I felt my stomach grumbling. After much discernment I decided to eat at the Montana Rib and Chop House. I originally discovered this regional chain in 2003 while visiting Sheridan WY and consistently have enjoyed their chicken and steak dishes.

I couldn’t resist the filet – the juicy steak was one of the best I’ve ever eaten (along with Buck T-4s) and only $25.00 (approximately).

I settled into The Lewis and Clark Hotel on Main Street. This Bozeman icon is known by its iconic sign. Built in the 1970s to service travelers en route to Yellowstone and also nearby Montana State University – you know you have arrived in Bozeman when you pass the lit Lewis and Clark sign.

The hotel has had a major overhaul and the rooms are deluxe. The hotel is known for top hospitality (local ownership since the 70s). Their pool and spa is legendary.

For dessert I grabbed a pint of Wilcoxson’s Huckleberry Ice Cream and settled into my room.

I hate that I will have to leave Montana and the west, but more adventures await for this American Nomad…stay tuned.

*Note* Unfortunately several days after I left Yellowstone, historic flooding devastated the park with damage that hasn’t been seen for centuries. The communities of Gardiner, Cooke City and Red Lodge were heavily hit.

Yellowstone was forced to close for nearly a week and many of the roads will not be fully accessible for sometime.

That being said – Yellowstone Country is open for business! Please visit:

Gardiner – enjoy The Paradise Valley

Red Lodge

Cooke City

To donate to Yellowstone Flood Relief – click here

They are waiting to check you in!

I will do a blog series on Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City and Red Lodge in the coming weeks so you can plan your getaway!

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