Don’t Miss These Must-See Spots You Can Visit From Bozeman in a Day!
Bozeman is a popular city in Montana in which to base yourself for your Montana adventures. If you’re staying in Bozeman, don’t miss exploring areas around the region on these best day trips from Bozeman.
These day trip destinations will help you make the most out of your trip to Bozeman and Montana’s Yellowstone Country. Travel Montana Now team member, Jackie, lives in Bozeman, so we think we have the inside track on all the cool things to do around this iconic Montana city!
From ghost towns and state parks to cool small towns and gorgeous hikes, read on for the best day trips to take from Bozeman.
If you’re looking for some history and a remarkably preserved pioneer town, Virginia City is the day trip for you. Virginia City is a larger town by Montana’s standards. Mixed within its contemporary attractions are over 150 buildings from the late 1800s.
These buildings are so well preserved that they still house businesses to this day. Some are decorated to reflect the gold rush time period. You can buy a souvenir or get a bite to eat in one building, then head next door to get a taste of life back then. It’s a unique experience in Montana that is an unforgettable day trip from Bozeman.
Lewis and Clark Caverns: Go Underground Less Than an Hour from Bozeman
Travel beneath the surface of Montana’s land with a day trip to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, located less than an hour drive west of Bozeman. Lewis and Clark Caverns is largely considered to be one of the best state parks in Montana.
What makes this place so special? Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is a massive cave that has created some of the best geological marvels. Gaze at stalactites and stalagmites as you walk along a boardwalk that takes you over an underground river running through the cave.
Each visitor to Lewis and Clark Caverns must explore it with a guide. But you’ll be glad about this since the guides are experts in the area. You’ll learn about the caverns as well as the history of the cave and its surrounding towns and plains.
Bannack State Park: An Eerily Preserved Mining Ghost Town
Visit a mining ghost town that is rumored to be haunted by actual ghosts with a visit to Bannack State Park, another iconic state park in Montana.
Bannack was once a thriving town at the height of the mining heyday in Butte and Anaconda. However, once the mining bubble burst, Bannack was quickly deserted and eventually shriveled into a decaying block of buildings.
Fortunately, the history of the town was saved by it becoming a state park in 1954. The buildings today are in various states of disrepair and preservation. Many you can still walk in, including the Hotel Meade, which is frequently reported to be the location of supernatural occurrences.
Livingston: Quick Drive, Different Vibe
Livingston is just 30 minutes east of Bozeman, but it feels a world away for multiple reasons. This town has a bustling Main Street, but it’s nowhere near the size of its big-city cousin to the west.
As you go over the pass between Bozeman and Livingston, the weather can rapidly change. Bring lots of layers to Livingston. It’s known for its high wind gales and rapidly fluctuating weather patterns. The weather is worth it to brave for the views though.
On one end of Livingston, you’ll have gorgeous views of the river and mountains. On the other end, you can walk alongside historic buildings and the historic train depot. Livingston also has several fun bars and breweries.
Natural Bridge Park Near Big Timber
Big Timber is a small mountain town east of Bozeman. It has a bustling little downtown area with a strong community feel. Before you delve into the fun of downtown Big Timber, you have to drive a bit farther into Custer Gallatin National Forest.
Just past the entrance to the forest, you’ll come to the Natural Bridge. It’s a nature-made marvel that showcases the sheer power of river water cutting through the solid earth.
After you walk along the trail and read the informational signs about the river and natural bridge, head back to Big Timber for a beer and some good pub food at the popular Timber Bar & Grill.
Butte: Learn About Montana’s Mining Heyday
Butte is one of the biggest cities in Montana with a storied history. It’s even home to Montana Tech, the state’s preeminent STEM university.
However, Butte is often overlooked by those journeying along I-90 between Missoula and Bozeman. Don’t let this be you! Looking to escape Bozeman and want to check out another city? Make a day trip of it to Butte.
Butte was once called the “richest hill on earth” since it is where the huge copper mining boom of the late 1800s happened. Absolute fortunes were made in Butte. The remnants of its mining past can still be seen with a drive up the hill to overlook Berkeley Pit. You can also learn about the horrific dangers that can occur in mining at the Granite Mountain Speculator Mining Memorial.
Back down in town, walk around the old stately Victorian buildings and mansions that now house restaurants, boutiques, and B&Bs (such as the acclaimed Copper King Mansion). Tour a mansion still decorated with turn-of-the-century style on a visit to the Clark Chateau.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Butte, MT
Gates of the Mountains Day Trip Excursion
Follow in the footsteps…er, make that paddles,…of Lewis and Clark with a day trip to the Gates of the Mountains. Though this incredible excursion is closer to Helena than Bozeman, it’s still doable in a day.
An excursion to Gates of the Mountains includes a boat ride down the same river Lewis and Clark once traversed. It leads to a bend in the river so majestically framed by mountain peaks, that Lewis called it the “gates of the mountains.”
You can read more about Gates of the Mountains and boat excursions there in our incredibly detailed Gates of the Mountains and Holter Lake guide here.
One of the worst natural disasters in the history of Montana happened at Earthquake Lake. In fact, before this natural disaster occurred there was no Earthquake Lake.
In 1959, a 7.2-point earthquake happened just off the shores of Hebgen Lake in the Gallatin Valley by the Madison River. The earthquake caused a landslide that tragically covered a campsite near Hebgen lake, killing 28 people. The landslide also ended up damming up part of the river and forming Earthquake Lake.
On a day trip to this site, take time to visit the Earthquake Lake visitor center. You will get a panoramic view of the 5-mile long lake and can learn more about the history and stories of the day the earthquake occurred.
Ringing Rocks State Park
Ringing Rocks State Park is located near Whitehall and has a pretty cool “musical” feature. If struck correctly, the rocks make a ringing noise. Don’t forget to bring a hammer or something to ring the rocks with. The road can get pretty rough so be careful going there in wet, snowy, or icy conditions.
Chico Hot Springs: Relaxing Day Trip South of Bozeman
About halfway between Livingston and Gardiner (i.e. the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park) you’ll find Chico Hot Springs.
Popular Chico Hot Springs a resort built around natural hot springs that geothermally warm the pools of the property. Chico Hot Springs is an excellent weekend or night getaway from Bozeman. It can also be visited without an overnight stay with the Chico Hot Springs day pass.
Day passes can be purchased upon arrival in the saloon or gift shop. We recommend calling ahead before making the drive to Chico Hot Springs. You’ll want to make sure there aren’t any restrictions on day passes before arriving.
If you are in Chico Hot Springs and unable to soak in the pools, grab a bite to eat at the delicious ranch-style restaurant located onsite.
Or head up to the super-luxe Sage Lodge just about 10 minutes north of Chico Hot Springs. You can enjoy a cocktail or multi-course dinner overlooking the lodge resort’s gorgeous property.
Read More: Best Hot Springs in Montana
Rafting Day Trip on the Gallatin River
One of the best adventure activities to do on a day trip from Bozeman is river rafting.
The Gallatin River stretches down south from Bozeman along Big Sky Canyon and through Gallatin Valley. Several outfitters offer river rafting trips for both half-day and full-day excursions from Bozeman, West Yellowstone, and Gardiner.
You can usually choose what type of river rafting adventure you want in terms of how wild it gets. If you want some big rapids, look for a river rafting tour that takes you along the wild mile of the Gallatin River.
Garnet Ghost Town + Sapphires
Near Phillipsburg and Southwest Montana, there were once thriving silver mines. It rose to prominence quickly, made some people really rich, and then almost seemingly just as quickly the silver rush was over. As a result, the town (Garnet) that was built around the industry quickly dissipated.
What’s left of that once booming silver mining town can be seen at Garnet Ghost Town. It’s a state park that has preserved some of the buildings and erected info signs teaching visitors about this era in Montana’s history.
While visiting Garnet Ghost Town, also make time to see the small town of Philipsburg, which is known today for its sapphire mining. You can even dig through gravel yourself to discover your own gems. Read more about Philipsburg and sapphire digging here.
—> Read More: Best Ghost Towns in Montana
Big Sky: One of the Most Popular Day Trips from Bozeman
No trip to Bozeman would be complete without a day trip to visit its famous neighbor to the southwest: Big Sky.
Big Sky Mountain Resort is what most people associate with Big Sky. However, it’s so much more than the famous ski area. Big Sky Mountain has world-class skiing and fun adventures in the summer. Down the mountain, you’ll find more exciting activities in Big Sky Canyon.
Go fly fishing, river rafting, and hiking in the summer. In winter, go snowmobiling and snowshoeing. There are also restaurants and shops at Big Sky Resort and the Big Sky town center back down the mountain.
—> Read More: Best Summer Activities in Big Sky
Best Day Hikes Near Bozeman
Craving some more adventure on your explorations from Bozeman? Here are some of the best day hikes to do near Bozeman.
Hyalite Canyon is just a short drive south of Bozeman. It’s full of scenic hikes. Palisade Falls is an especially popular one. This trail is an easy 1.1 mile there and back hike up to gorgeous Palisade Falls.
Ousel Falls in Big Sky
Ousel Falls is a lovely hike that can be shorter or longer. You can hike the distance you want, depending on how much time you have or how far you want to go.
The beginning is easy as you’re going all downhill alongside the mountain to a bridge that takes you over the river. Stop here and just play along the riverbank before heading back up the mountain to the parking lot by the trailhead.
Or continue on for another mile or so to the actual Ousel Falls. This is a great stop for a picnic or to just take some photos of the cascading water. Take a rest before you head back, keeping in mind that the downhill switchback you did at the beginning will now be an uphill switchback on your return to the parking lot.
Ousel Falls is located in Big Sky about a 45-minute drive from Bozeman. It’s kid-friendly; just keep an eye on them by some of the overhangs along the switchbacks.
This is a strenuous hike that has a big pay-off. Located in Big Sky, this hike will take a few hours to go at a moderate pace. You’ll want to bring lots of water and be sure-footed by steep cliffs, but the reward is great at the top of the mountain. You’ll get an incredible view of the peaks and valleys.
Enjoy Your Time Exploring Bozeman and Beyond!
Hope this article gave you some great ideas on how to see more of the region around Bozeman on some fun day trips. If you need more tips on what to do in Bozeman as well, be sure to check out our top things to do in Bozeman article and Museum of the Rockies guide.