How to Spend 3 Days in Bozeman, Montana

tourist on lava lake hike montana

The Montana Hype is Real

Thanks to storylines of the Duttons, Montana is having a moment, and we are here for it.

This was our first venture to the Rocky Mountains region, and we were not disappointed.

Bozeman was officially founded in 1864 as a key route for those seeking out their own piece of the gold rush. Today, Bozeman – nestled in a prairie dotted with farmland and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains – is renowned as a gateway to the surrounding natural wonders, which include Yellowstone National Park and various ski areas.

We knew we were in for an incredible 3-day visit from the moment we landed at the Bozeman airport, which featured walls of windows peering out at the mountains, log cabin accents, and fireplaces – yes, fireplaces in the airport.

Downtown Bozeman was a short drive from the airport. We had rented a car, and suggest that you do too – you’ll want control of your transportation to be able to see all that the area has to offer.

Considering how much hype has been made of Montana in recent years, we felt that Bozeman was not as busy as we had anticipated – and this is good because the town really isn’t that large. We found that the prices at local eateries, coffee shops, breweries, boutiques, etc. were pretty similar to what we were used to paying back home in the midwest.

Although it has become a more popular destination in recent years, Bozeman still felt very authentic and we found there was a good amount of both locals and visitors out and about.

Speaking of locals, we were beside ourselves at how kind and friendly everyone was. Keep in mind, we are from the midwest, home of “Midwest Nice” people. The locals in Bozeman put that to shame. We truly enjoyed every interaction.

Below is the itinerary we followed during our stay.

Arrival Evening in Bozeman

Our first evening was centered around understanding the lay of the town and finding a local restaurant for dinner. Just like any mid-sized American town, mostly everything was centered around the Main Street, which is comprised of several blocks of shops, restaurants, breweries, theaters, etc.

We strolled for a bit and then made our way to Montana Ale Works.

Walking in, we were impressed with the ambiance – it’s located in the historic Northern Pacific freight building and the decor had a modern American West feel to it. Also, it was super busy with what appeared to be mostly locals, which was a good sign.

Fortunately, the wait wasn’t too long, but honestly, we wouldn’t have minded waiting a while if we needed to – the food and experience was that good.

As we found with many places we visited in Bozeman, there was a hyper-local focus on where they sourced everything from, including the beer and spirits. We started with beer flights from local breweries and the flathead trout starter.

For entrees, we got an elk burger – in general, we loved that there were local meat options that we didn’t see often on menus back home – and the Gallatin Valley salad. Overall, 10/10 – highly recommend Montana Ale Works.

Per usual for our travels, we knew we wanted to wake up early and beat the crowds to the trails, so after dinner, we called it a night.

We loved our quaint cabin that we stayed in just outside of Bozeman. It was quiet and the river-side views were lovely.

Day One in Bozeman

Morning Carbs at Wild Crumb

We woke up with the sun, and immediately set out to find some sustenance before hitting the hiking trail.

There are several great bakeries in Bozeman, but we can’t speak to many of them because we went to Wild Crumb this first morning and couldn’t bring ourselves to try anywhere else the rest of the weekend.

The pastry options were truly mouthwatering – this day we settled on a cinnamon roll, sourdough baguette, and carrot bread.

tourist visiting wild crumb in bozeman, montana

Lava Lake Hike

Adequately carbed up, we set off for Lava Lake Trailhead.

A note here that would not recommend trying to see Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park all in one weekend. Both places have so much to offer that it really is better to break them into two trips, especially since the park is 2+ hours away from Bozeman. We opted to visit the Custer Gallatin National Forest and state parks around Bozeman instead.

The drive south into the mountains with the Gallatin River flowing alongside the road was breathtaking. We did lose cell signal, so we recommend downloading the map of the area to your phone.

We were glad we arrived early – the parking lot was already almost full.

The out-and-back hike had decent elevation gains, followed a pretty creek, and rewarded us at the top with the most incredible views of the lake. We stayed a while and explored around the shoreline. On our way back, we passed several groups, which made us all the more grateful for our early start.

Overall, it took us about three hours.

looking out at a lake in bozeman, montana
Lava Lake Hike
Lava Lake Hike Montana
Lava Lake Hike
Lava Lake Hike Montana
Lava Lake Hike

Deli Sandwiches at Finks

By the time we made it back into Bozeman, it was late morning and we were pretty hungry.

We had plans for a heavier dinner, so we went with deli sandwiches from Finks Deli – same owners as Wild Crumb – and it was delicious.

We took the sandwiches to go for Bozeman Brewing Company, which allows outside food.

tourist visiting bozeman brewing company with sandwich

Local Brews + Main Street Strolls

For us, there’s nothing better than some refreshing brews after a hike. Fortunately, Bozeman has several great breweries.

We visited Bozeman Brewing Company – super local/low-key, great beers, old school vibe, popcorn! – and Mountains Walking Brewery across the street – modern, brewpub, and some Asian inspired flavors/ingredients, which was really unique.

bozeman brewing company flights
Bozeman Brewing

After, we spent a few hours strolling along Main Street and stopping in several shops and outfitters.

Before heading back to rest and get ready for dinner, we stopped for a flight at Shred Monk Brewery, which ended up being our favorite brewery of our visit.

Dinner at Blackbird Kitchen

Our dinner reservation was for Blackbird Kitchen, an open-kitchen Italian restaurant in a restored historic bank building.

You’ll definitely want to make a reservation in advance if you plan to dine here.

The meal and the experience was excellent – a romantic ambiance, great service, and absolutely delicious food. We had the bread basket, little gem lettuce salad, broccolini with smoked ricotta salata, tagliatelle ragu pasta, and the funghi pizza.

We ate so much food and had zero regrets.

blackbird kitchen in bozeman montana
Ambiance at Blackbird Kitchen – this was taken at the end of the night when we closed it down… it was full during the dinner service.

Day Two in Bozeman and Big Sky

Fly Fishing with Gallatin River Guides

Still full from Blackbird Kitchen, we woke up early for our second full day, which included a morning of fly fishing.

When we asked acquaintances who had been to the area what we needed to do, everyone said fly fishing. We went through Gallatin River Guides and did a half day walking and wading trip.

For four hours, a private guide, and all the gear we needed, it was $450 plus a tip. This was definitely a more pricey activity than we usually do, but we decided to splurge on it, and we were glad we did.

tourist fly fishing on the gallatin river with gallatin river guides
Fly Fishing on the Gallatin River

We left for Big Sky, where the outfitter was located, and loved the scenic 45-minute drive from Bozeman (again, we recommend downloading the area map due to spotty cell service).

The trip started at 8a and ended at 12p.

Despite different experience levels, it was enjoyable for us both. We only caught two trout that morning, but being out in a remote, breathtaking setting was the real highlight.

Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing in Montana

Deli Sandwiches in Big Sky Village

After fishing, we decided to go into Big Sky for lunch.

If you’re not familiar with this area, Big Sky is a ski resort town. It’s a pretty typical resort town in that there is a mountain-vibe village center with shops and restaurants surrounded by condominiums and houses.

We were craving something more on the casual side, so we settled on Blue Moon Bakery, which had great deli sandwiches and salads.

tourist eating at blue mountain bakery in big sky montana
Blue Mountain Bakery in Big Sky

Cocktails and Horses at Lone Mountain Ranch

Before heading back to Bozeman, we wanted to experience a true Montana ranch, so we stopped at Lone Mountain Ranch, which had a public restaurant called Horn and Cantle.

We loved walking around the grounds and seeing the horses on the ranch.

tourist visiting lone mountain ranch in big sky montana
The Saloon at Lone Mountain Ranch

We ended up getting a cocktail at The Saloon, located inside Horn and Cantle.

Although we did not eat there, the menu looked incredible and the ambiance was fantastic, so if you’re looking to splurge on dinner one night, it would be worth looking into. They had a buffet lunch option that looked good, but it was limited, so you couldn’t be too picky.

Evening at Bodhi Farms

We made the 45-minute drive back through the beautiful Gallatin River Valley, stopping at a roadside stand for Utah peaches (pro tip: always stop at the roadside fruit stands) and prepped for our evening at Bodhi Farms.

What was unique to us about Bozeman compared to other mountain towns was that Bozeman is located in a valley surrounded by the mountains and so there is sprawling farmland all around the town. We loved all the horse farms and fields we passed as we made our way around the area.

Bodhi Farms is located outside of Bozeman and is actually a boutique eco-resort where you can stay in glamping tipis. They are pretty expensive, though, so if you aren’t wanting to splurge on your accommodations, do like us and visit them for their on-site farm to table restaurant, Field Kitchen.

And it is very much that – the tables are situated along the creek and all the cooking and bartending takes place in an open air kitchen just a few yards away. It was quaint and intimate, and we loved the sound of the creek and crickets.

It was a really neat experience, and one that we had not had before on our travels.

tourist having dinner at bodhi farms in bozeman montana
Field Kitchen at Bodhi Farms

The cocktails and the food were truly incredible.

We indulged in the bread basket, pan seared potatoes with charred tomato sauce, flathead lake trout dip with farm pickled veggies, arugula lentil salad, pheasant with roasted vegetables, and the seasonal berry galette.

tourist having dinner at bodhi farms in bozeman montana
Field Kitchen at Bodhi Farms

If you’re traveling with a group, they have family style skillet entrees that sounded absolutely delectable. They also offer a weekend brunch and the menu looked really good.

Spend some time exploring the grounds and taking in the beauty of this farm. You’ll want a reservation. This experience was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Departure Day in Bozeman

On our last day in Bozeman, we woke up early and made our way back to Wild Crumb for another tasting of their incredible pastries, including the huckleberry scone.

It may have just been the time of year we were there – late August – but huckleberry is something you will see as an ingredient at most establishments, and we have to say – it’s pretty good!

We also grabbed a coffee at Treeline Coffee Roasters next door.

The surrounding neighborhood is historic and pretty cute – if we weren’t wanting to get to our hike early, we would have spent some time exploring this area with coffee in hand.

treeline coffee roasters in bozeman montana
Treeline Coffee Roasters

Grotto Falls Trail

We then made our way south for a morning hike at Grotto Falls, located in Custer Gallatin National Forest.

It’s a 2.4-mile out and back trail that includes a really scenic waterfall. We were the only ones on the trail and had the waterfall to ourselves. We loved the solitude and spent quite a bit of time there.

We did pass several people on our way out, so as we always recommend – get there early if you want to avoid crowds.

Brunch at Jam!

After our hike we were hungry, and being that it was a Sunday, the natural choice was brunch. There were several options that stood out to us, but we settled on Jam!

There was a wait, but fortunately it is located on Main Street, so we put our name in and strolled around the shops. If you’re in a time crunch, you can call ahead to add your name to the list.

It was worth the wait.

We had the beet & root hash and the red chili & corned beef hash. They also have crepes, pancakes, omelets – really anything a brunch lover could want.

tourist eating brunch at Jam in bozeman, montana

After brunch, we strolled Main Street, stopping in Shred Monk and Bozeman Spirits next door, a local distillery.

We enjoyed the rooftop patio at Shine Beer Sanctuary.

beer at shred monk brewery in bozeman, montana
Back at Shred Monk Brewery!

shine beer sanctuary in bozeman montana
Shine Beer Sanctuary

After that, it was time to head to the airport, which was simple and quick to get through. We were sad to leave Bozeman, but we knew that we’d be back one day!

Bozeman, MT Visit Considerations

  • We can’t speak to what a visit during the cold winter months would be like. We were there in late August and found it to be much cooler than it was back home in Kansas City. We were comfortable in layers as it did get warmer during the afternoon and then chilly at night.
  • There were so many great options for dining, and we were impressed with the amount of ethnic cuisine options. We loved the options we chose, but there are plenty to choose from, especially around Main Street.
  • We would not recommend trying to see Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park all in one weekend. Both places have so much to offer that it really is better to break them into two trips, especially since the park is 2+ hours away from Bozeman.

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