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Bozeman/Big Sky ski area, Montana

Great Destination:

Value for Money:

Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Much of “A River Runs Through It” (1992) was filmed in and around Bozeman.
  • Montana-born newscaster Chet Huntley conceived the idea for Big Sky Resort and was a founding investor (1969).
  • Moonlight Basin was America’s first new destination ski resort in 20 years when it debuted in 2003.
  • The headwaters of the Missouri River are near Three Forks, west of Bozeman.
  • Big Sky boasts the longest vertical run for skiers (4,350 feet) in the U.S.

Fly-fishing, skiing

Bozeman is a small city of around 40,000, in southwest Montana. It is only 45 miles north of the Big Sky Resort, one of the state’s best-known ski facilities, and 90 miles north of Yellowstone, one of America’s best-loved national parks.

But the small metropolis has distinguishing attractions of its own. Located in the fertile Gallatin Valley, which Native Americans called the Valley of Flowers, the city is 4,474 feet above sea level and almost completely surrounded by the Rockies.

It has a lot of physical appeal for visitors, as suggested by the 40-plus properties and 11 historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bozeman, although small, also boasts attractions associated with larger cities, such as art and other museums, an opera company, a symphony and a ballet.

Nevertheless, this is a mountainous region of Montana, an area better known for outdoor activities than for cities. It is particularly noted for fly-fishing and skiing — plus biking, camping, hiking, horseback riding, rafting and just about any other sport generally associated with such rugged terrain and wide-open spaces. Much of the area is protected, too, either through the U.S. National Park Service or as part of the system of national forests.

Big Sky is the area’s famous ski destination, but the Bridger Bowl is closer to Bozeman, 16 miles north. In addition, Big Sky shares its 11,166-foot mountain with a newer resort (from 2003) called Moonlight Basin.

Big Sky and Moonlight Basin, located in the Gallatin National Forest, are 48 miles north of the West Yellowstone, Mont., entrance to Yellowstone National Park. They promote excursions to the park, but even without driving that far, resort guests have their pick of activities of the sort cited above.

The ski resorts add choices of their own, too. For example, Big Sky provides guided wildlife viewing safaris; it also has a zipline allowing guests to fly through the trees. Moonlight Basin schedules fly-fishing lessons for the novice. Both resorts offer horse-drawn sleigh rides that conclude with food and entertainment.

No surprise, venturesome travelers rate the Bozeman/Big Sky area very highly.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Do your whitewater rafting on the Gallatin or Madison River.
  • Buy your tickets and attend the three-day Rockin’ the Rivers outdoor rock concert, held in summer in a natural amphitheater near Three Forks. Overnight in the adjacent campgrounds.
  • Big Sky is the place for mountain biking in the warmer months of the year.
  • Rent a teepee for your camping experience at Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks.
  • Hike and fish in the Hyalite Canyon south of Bozeman. Also, camp there for a night or longer. Or, hike in the Spanish Peaks Unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness near Big Sky.
  • Cheer on the contestants at the 320 Guest Ranch rodeo, held on July 4, outside Big Sky. Or, find another area rodeo that fits your schedule.

Things to do for Centrics

  • In winter, there is more than skiing at Big Sky. Ride on a dog sled, don snowshoes for a walk across snow or join a sleigh ride dinner event.
  • Do your fly-fishing in the Gallatin Canyon on the Gallatin River south of Bozeman, where fishing scenes for “A River Runs Through It” were shot.
  • At Big Sky, join a full-day guided trek by horseback to view area wildlife and scenic mountain vistas.
  • Get in the swing of Bozeman’s festivities at, for example, the Wild West Winterfest in February or the Sweet Pea Festival in August.
  • If dinosaurs get your attention, set aside time for Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies to see its major collection of dinosaur fossils. The museum is part of the Montana Dinosaur Trail, too.
  • If you like the look of the authentic Old West, see the Livingston downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The designated area encompasses 436 buildings.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Bozeman counts nine historical districts in the National Register of Historic Places. Plan a self-guided walking tour of one or several of them. One is the Main Street Historic District, and another has a suggestive name, too: the Bozeman Brewery Historic District.
  • Spend a day eyeing the scenery and visiting small towns along the Madison Valley west of Bozeman, or choose from a number of other scenic drives in the area.
  • Shiver when you get a good look at just how Indians once hunted buffalo by stampeding them in huge numbers over the side of a cliff. Interpretive displays provide some background information, too, at the Madison Buffalo Jump State Park between Three Forks and Bozeman.
  • Taste a hometown brew, the beer made by the Bozeman Brewing Company.
  • You can choose downhill or cross-country skiing at Big Sky and Moonlight Basin. And in summer, play golf at Big Sky.
  • See a few museums in Bozeman, such as the Gallatin Pioneer Museum, for a better understanding of the area, and, for something quite different, the American Computer Museum which chronicles more than computers. It covers 20,000 years of human technology.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Bozeman Convention and Visitors Bureau at