Is a Montana adventure on your bucket list? The gateway to the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone country, Bozeman, Montana, is the perfect base for exploring the splendors of the Big Sky state. Montana is big on stupendous scenery and exhilarating outdoor activities – and much of it is accessible by embarking on some fun day trips from Bozeman, MT.
Spending time in Bozeman opens the door to a myriad of amazing experiences throughout Montana. Discover enthralling landscapes of mountains, rivers, canyons, forests, and rolling plains. Explore the wild beauty of iconic Yellowstone Park. Walk in the footsteps of 19th-century fur trappers and follow the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Head east and experience the Old West charm of Livingston, MT, or revel in resort life in the beautiful Paradise Valley.
Ready to max out your Montana time? Fire up your itinerary with this complete guide to the top-rated Bozeman side trips!
Big Sky, MT
The name says it all: If you want to experience the larger-than-life splendor of Montana, chart a course for Big Sky, MT. Set 45 miles south of Bozeman, a stopover at Big Sky makes for one of the most incredible days out from the town. The destination is spectacular—and so is the journey through the gorgeous Gallatin Canyon.
Montana’s leading winter resort, Big Sky is most well-known for its superlative skiing. But don’t limit your options: This awesome playground welcomes outdoor enthusiasts of all ages at any time of year!
As the weather warms, Big Sky beckons visitors with miles of hiking and biking trails, river rafting, ziplining, golfing, and fly fishing. Feeling adventurous? Check out the awesome lift-served downhill mountain biking.
Slip into a canoe and paddle around Lake Levinsky, or mosey down a scenic trail on horseback. Want a stunning bird’s eye view? Take the tram over 11,000 feet to the summit of Lone Peak, where you can soak in amazing 360-degree vistas.
Ready for a breather? Head back down the mountain and browse the shops, or grab a craft beer and burger at a Big Sky pub.
If you’re intrigued by the American West’s colorful past, a stopover in historic Livingston, MT, is a must. Just 30 minutes from Bozeman, this quaint town feels like a world apart. Nestled on the banks of the Yellowstone River between the Crazy and Absaroka mountain ranges, Livingston is often touted as the low-key Bozeman of the past.
Livingston began life as a railway town in 1882, and its historic brick buildings and rugged Old West charm offer intriguing hints of the past. The downtown area – with its taverns, saloons, and historic train depot – exudes a special Old West, honky-tonk vibe. That unique ambiance has made it fertile ground for writers like Tim Cahill and Thomas McGuane.
Visit the beautifully preserved Livingston Depot Center. Built in 1902, the former train depot is now a museum and community hub. Stroll down Main Street, and you’ll take in a breathtaking view of Livingston Peak, towering above the horizon to the south. Cast a line at this world-famous flyfishing destination, or go kayaking or tubing down the beautiful Yellowstone River.
Browse the town’s myriad of galleries, boutiques, and bookstores. End your day with a meal at one of the lively restaurants in Livingston’s funky downtown. Top it off with a pint or cocktail and a big dose of nostalgia at the legendary Murray Hotel.
Chico Hot Springs, MT
In the mood for some outdoor adventure? Or are you craving some laid-back downtime? You can grab plenty of both at Chico Hot Springs, MT. Less than an hour from Bozeman – and a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park – this stunning natural attraction makes the perfect Bozeman side trip for families, couples, and nature enthusiasts.
Nestled in the Paradise Valley amid the towering Rocky Mountains, Chico Hot Springs began life as a retreat over a century ago. Today, it’s an iconic year-round Montana getaway serving up breathtaking scenery along with a slew of fantastic recreational options, including hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, and snowshoeing.
Then there’s the star attraction: the hot springs that put this destination on the map. Settle in and soothe those aching muscles after an action-packed day or treat yourself to some luxurious pampering at the resort’s spa.
If you’re ready to refuel, chow down on a delicious meal at the resort’s onsite restaurant. Or, for a more upscale experience, take a 10-minute jaunt north to the ultra-luxe Sage Lodge, where you can savor a cocktail and take in the property’s gorgeous view.
Up for an overnighter? Rent a luxury cabin at Chico Hot Springs, or book yourself into the site’s historic hotel.
Yellowstone National Park, MT
No Montana adventure would be complete without a stopover at one of the country’s most beloved destinations: Yellowstone National Park, MT. Brimming with mountains, rivers, forests, waterfalls, and spectacular wildlife, this awe-inspiring site sprawls across more than two million breathtaking acres. It’s an absolute American must-see!
Grab your hiking gear and drive 90 miles directly south of Bozeman. Go slow: This route takes you through the gorgeous Gallatin Valley, one of the most scenic stretches of highway in the United States.
You’ll arrive at Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance, putting you in the heart of Yellowstone’s stunning geyser country. Take in the fire-and-brimstone of Yellowstone’s legendary geysers on Firehold Canyon Drive. Pay your respects at the legendary Old Faithful, the park’s star attraction.
When it comes to hiking trails in Yellowstone National Park, you’re spoiled for choices that’ll lead you to everything from pine-scented forests to hot springs to rugged limestone outcrops.
Take in the highlights of West Yellowstone on the Yellowstone National Park Loop. More experienced hikers will want to trek the Gallatin Sky Rim Trail, a spectacular route offering astounding views from atop its rocky volcanic ridgelines. Want to test your mettle? Do it on the Mystic Falls to Cherry Creek Loop, a challenging 7-hour trek that’s ideal for backpacking, birding, and camping.
Whatever your choice, keep your eyes peeled, and you may just catch thrilling glimpses of wolves, moose, elk, and North America’s oldest wild bison herds.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, MT
If you like to go deep when it comes to adventure, take the plunge at the Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, MT. A 50-minute drive west of Bozeman, this 3,000-acre nature preserve is Montana’s first state park and home to the most extensive cave system in the American Northwest. Head down under, and you’ll discover what makes this an awe-inspiring Bozeman side trip.
The Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is one of North America’s most elaborately “decorated” limestone caverns. Take a guided tour of an otherworldly underground gallery that’s filled with stunning geological wonders. Climb spiraling staircases, and you’ll be amazed to see crystal-clear pools that have been carved into marble rocks over eons. Marvel at massive twisting limestone formations that were forged millions of years ago.
Ready to come up for air? If you’re in the mood for hiking or biking, explore the 10 miles of above-ground hiking trails that wind among mountains and meadows for some awesome panoramic views.
If you’re looking for a breather, check out the Visitor Center, featuring a half-hour video, interpretive displays, a cafe, and a gift shop. If you’ve been captivated by your caving experience, book a campsite, rent a cabin, or hunker down in an onsite tipi.
Missouri Headwaters State Park, MT
Want to steep yourself in the rich past of the American West? Make your way to the Missouri Headwaters State Park, MT, and explore one of the most important sites in the country’s history.
Take a 40-mile jaunt west of Bozeman, and you’ll reach the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers – aka the mighty Missouri River, the longest river in North America. This is where Lewis and Clark camped during their momentous 1805 expedition across the American West.
Today, the Missouri Headwaters State Park preserves this treasured landscape as a public recreation area. Check out interpretive panels that offer fascinating insights into the epic Lewis and Clark journey, along with the stories of the fur trappers and intrepid mountaineers who hunted and traded there.
Walk in historic footsteps along one of the park’s many scenic trails. Picnic on the shores that Lewis and Clark’s crew camped out on. Slip into a kayak and paddle in the waters that carried both Western explorers and generations of Indigenous peoples. Cast a line into the Gallatin or Missouri rivers, or wander the shores of the Madison River to spot wildlife.
Take a 15-minute detour to the legendary Madison Buffalo Jump. This towering limestone cliff was used by Native Americans for 2,000 years to stampede herds of bison, providing them with a vital source of food, clothing, and shelter.
If you want to soak up some Old West charm, put picturesque Helena, MT, on your Montana must-see list. Just 98 miles north of Bozeman, Helena is Montana’s capital city, and a visit to this town makes a fantastic day trip.
Founded in 1864 by four gold miners who struck it rich, Helena began life as “Last Chance Gulch.” While gold was king in the 1880s, Helena had more millionaires per capita than any place in the country.
The town’s name may have changed, but its rich legacy survives. Today, Helena is a thriving mosaic of past and present, brimming with historic landmarks and vibrant cultural hubs. Explore the 120-year-old Montana State Capitol building, featuring a vast domed rotunda and magnificent paintings and sculptures highlighting the state’s history.
Tour the arresting Cathedral of Saint Helena and gaze up at stunning stained glass windows that date back to 1904. Savor the beautifully-preserved elegance of the Queen Anne-style Governor’s Mansion. Stroll the campus of historic Carroll College, or browse the beautiful facades in the Mansion District.
If you’re a culture vulture, check out the state’s premier galleries and museums, including the renowned Holter Museum of Art, a showcase for works by leading contemporary artists of the Northwest.
Bannack State Park, MT
Ready to dig into a slice of Old West history seasoned with a dash of ghostly intrigue? Bannack State Park, MT, serves up the perfect blend.
Buckle up for a two-and-a-half-hour drive through the stunning mountains of southern Montana. Your destination is an enthralling National Historic Landmark dedicated to preserving Montana’s colorful gold rush past. Bannack State Park is the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery – and it’s got stories to tell!
Bannack was once a thriving town at the height of the mining heyday. But when the precious metals played out, Bannack’s bubble burst, and the community dissolved.
Explore this eerily preserved ghost town, and you’ll encounter relics that are poignant reminders of those boisterous mining days. Take a ramble for intriguing glimpses of pits, old mine shafts, and derelict buildings.
Stroll through town, and you’ll discover over 50 carefully-preserved 19th-century buildings stretched along Main Street. Many of them – like the iconic Hotel Meade – are open to the public. Many are rumored to be haunted—so step inside and get those spidey senses tingling!
Mammoth Hot Springs, WY
Yellowstone National Park is known for its spectacular geyser basins – and Mammoth Hot Springs, WY, is one of its hotspot stars. A 90-minute drive from Bozeman just south of Yellowstone National Park and over the state border in Wyoming, this natural wonder offers visitors an amazing experience.
Mammoth Hot Springs is a vast complex of hot springs fuelled by a molten magma chamber hidden deep underground. Over thousands of years, the hot water from the spring has left massive calcium deposits as it cooled on the surface.
The result is an eye-boggling, postcard-worthy scene: a collection of stunning, steaming limestone terraces in hues ranging from angelic white to sunset pink to rich red.
Take a drive around the terraces to view Mammoth’s 50 hot springs or enjoy mesmerizing close-up views as you stroll the boardwalks covering the Upper and Lower Terraces. Spot favorites like the 37-foot-tall Liberty Cap, the multi-colored Minerva Spring, and the vivid Orange Spring Mound.
For a change of pace, hit one of the many scenic hiking trails. Designed for a variety of skill levels, these pathways will take you through a tapestry of landscapes ranging from sage meadows to panoramic views from towering igneous peaks.
Intrigued by Montana’s fascinating history as a mining hotspot? Want to dig deeper? There’s no better place to do it than in Butte, MT. Set about 85 miles northwest of Bozeman, this is a town with stories to tell!
When gold supplies dwindled in the 1880s, copper became the mineral of choice for a newly-electrified world—and Butte was sitting on a huge stash of this precious ore. Butte quickly became the hub of one of the most productive mining areas in the world. Fortunes were made, and Butte was dubbed the “Richest Hill on Earth.”
But declining prices brought an end to the glory days, and today just one mine operates. Explore Butte’s colorful past at the World Museum of Mining, set in a historic mine yard. Scope out the site’s original structures and equipment. Feel a chill as you climb into the cages that ferried miners on a dangerous daily trip 2,700 feet down the shaft.
Walk the streets of Hell Roarin’ Gulch, the museum’s vivid re-creation of an 1890s mining town featuring 15 historic structures packed with thousands of artifacts from Butte’s heyday.
Back in town, take a stroll along streets filled with stately Victorian buildings, now home to restaurants and boutiques. Don’t miss the renowned W.A. Clark Mansion, the eye-popping 34-room home of one of Montana’s wealthiest 19th-century Copper Kings.
Seeking the perfect urban launchpad for a trip into the past? Set your sights on Billings, MT. Nestled on the Yellowstone River about two hours east of Bozeman, Billings is the biggest city in Montana. And as a gateway to multiple historical and natural attractions, the city makes for an ideal side trip from Bozeman.
Born as a small railway town in 1882, Billings earned the nickname “Magic City” for its rapid growth in its early days. Today, it’s a magnet for both history buffs and outdoor explorers.
The top Billings tourist attraction is the site of Custer’s Last Stand. Today, the rolling fields on the Little Bighorn River are bathed in eerie silence, and the former battleground is now a national monument commemorating the nearly 300 lives lost.
Surrounded by a wealth of wilderness areas, Billings offers loads of adventures for visitors. Take a trek along the Rimrocks, stunning sandstone rock formations overlooking Billings and dating back 80 million years. Head five miles out of town to the Pictograph Cave State Park and be awed by its 2,000-year-old rock paintings.
Head about an hour southwest of Billings to explore the rugged beauty of the beautiful Custer-Gallatin National Forest. For more outdoor adventure, journey 100 miles south of town, and you’ll discover 120,000 acres of diverse landscapes in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Hike, bike, swim, fish, and bird-watch—then camp out under the stars if you’ve got extra time in your itinerary!