You don’t have to pay for a monthly gym membership to get active. Luckily, in southwest Montana, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and move your body – free of charge.
In areas like Bozeman with an intensely active and outdoorsy culture, it can seem intimidating to hit the trails. But the truth is that there are tons of mellow, beginner-friendly trails in the area that are perfect for gentle walks, jogs or taking your stroller or dog out. Most of them require nothing other than a pair of closed-toe shoes.
“I was in that same exact boat when I moved to this town,” said EJ Porth, Associate Director of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, an organization that has conserved and created many of the trails in town. “I was intimidated by all the outdoorsy people. Then I realized we have trails for all abilities.”
Town trails, like many of those GVLT creates, are not the same as backcountry trails. They tend to be flat and wide, and you don’t need expensive gear and hiking boots. There are plenty of trails you can stop at on your way home from work or while you’re running errands.
“I always feel really good when I go for a walk,” EJ said. “So, I always tell people ‘Just go for a walk. You’ll feel better.’”
To those who are looking to start exercising outside, EJ offers these tips:
Loops are a great place to start. Start with a single loop, and progress from there as you feel comfortable.
Bring a water bottle so you can stay hydrated.
Dress in layers. Wear comfortable clothing that you can take off if you get too hot or add layers if you get cold.
Wear closed-toe shoes of any kind – no rugged hiking boots needed.
Look for trails with benches so that you can sit down and take a break if you need to.
The GVLT website has detailed information on every trail, so you can find out if they have parking lots, benches, bathrooms, playgrounds for kids, and whether or not dogs are required to be on a leash. Use this information to help you decide on trails you’ll feel comfortable with.
Cherry River Fishing Access - This gravel, 1-mile loop is just off Frontage Road, with a large parking lot, a bathroom and benches along the path. Stroll with uninterrupted views of the Bridger Range.
Bozeman Pond - Located right next to the Gallatin Valley Mall, this park has a large parking area, a bathroom, a playground for kids, as well as an off-leash dog park. Walk the flat, wide trails for your choice of a 1-3.5 mile loop.
Gallatin County Regional Park - On the north end of town, this large park is easy to navigate and has everything from bathrooms, dog parks, plenty of seating and views of the Bridgers. Take a 1-2-mile figure-eight loop around two peaceful ponds.
The Galligator Trail - This shaded trail connects the Montana State University campus and Downtown Bozeman and is heavily used by walkers, runners and bicyclists. It’s about 1.5 miles in length and can be made longer by connecting to Peets Hill, Lindley Park, and Highland Glen Nature Preserve.
Sourdough Trail - Start in Tuckerman Park on Goldenstein Lane, with a gravel parking lot. Take this flat, quiet loop through the trees along Bozeman Creek, with benches available for resting.
Myers River View Trail - A flat, 2-mile loop gravel trail that looks out over the Yellowstone River. Benches are available along the path, and leashed dogs are welcome.
Sacajawea Trail - This ¾-mile gravel trail takes you to Sacajawea Park and Miles Park with playgrounds and fields for kids. This trail is great for walking, biking or off-leash dog walking.
Moja Dog Park Trail - This off-leash dog park is also home to a trail that loops beside the Yellowstone River and Fleshman Creek, then winds into the woods. The flat easy loop is less than a half-mile round trip.
Boundary Trail - The Boundary Trail is accessed on the northeast end of town, running parallel to Boundary Street and continuing along the Yellowstone National Park border up to Baker’s Hole Campground. It’s a popular trail for locals and their dogs year-round. At about 5 miles long out-and-back, hikers are able to turn around and head back whenever they choose.
Need some direction to get started? Community Health Partners is part of GLVT’s TrailsRx program, offering free TrailsRx brochures that include a prescription pad, list of easy and moderate TrailsRx loops or routes, physical activity log, and walking tips. If you’re interested in getting into outdoor exercise, connect with a provider at your nearest CHP clinic and ask about TrailsRx. It’s a great way to reap mental and physical health benefits at no cost, with no side effects.