Out of Town: Summer Day Trips
Everyone needs a break from bustling Bozeman life. Head out to one of these summer destinations.
As the mud slowly disappears and the rain makes way for sunshine, Bozemanites flock outside and celebrate the ever-needed return of summer. Montana in the summer is somewhat of a religious experience—perhaps because we know our time with our beloved warmth is so limited. Sundresses are donned, bikes are tuned, slack lines are hung, and rivers are floated. Locals and tourists alike keep downtown alive and the restaurant patios are always buzzing with friends, first dates, and fabulously delicious plates.
For myself, and the rest of my fabulous coworkers at The Emerson Grill, summer also means more tables and fewer days off. We’ve been spoiled all winter traipsing around Bridger Bowl to get our pow on before every 4:00 shift, so we welcome the extra income the summer business brings. But sometimes, after serving countless plates of delicious Bolognese or our ever changing fresh fish special to locals on our patio, we just need a day to get out of town, relax, and bask in the sun. So when that day off finally arrives, the car is already packed and we are outta here.
But where to?
Here are some of my favorite destinations for out-of-town summer day trips:
1). Montana Rodeos
Take a day to refresh your YEE-HAW at a Montana rodeo. The Annual NRA Gardiner Rodeo is held just across the pass on June 13th and 14th at the Jim Duffy Arena on Highway 89, just north of downtown Gardiner. You can clap your hands for your favorite cowboys in events such as Bull Riding, Bareback Bronc Riding, Steer Wrestling, and more. Tickets are $5 each or 3/$10. For questions about the rodeo, you can contact the organizers at 406-848-7710.
For a list of more rodeos, visit the official Montana State Travel Site at visitmt.com.
2). Yellowstone National Park
We’ve all been there when our family comes to visit but this time, just take a day for yourself and a friend. Wander around Lamar Valley in search of wolf or coyote calls. Keep your eyes peeled for grizzlies and black bears as your peruse around the park. We’ve all driven the park loop, but this time, make sure to get out and explore something new.
Try taking a four-mile roundtrip hike up to Grizzly Peak. You can find the trailhead one mile south of Beaver Lake on the Mammoth-Norris road. The hiking trail will guide you through a twice-burned lodgepole pine stand and through pleasant meadows. Grizzly Lake is long, narrow, and heavily wooded, providing you with the peace you want on a day off from work. Once you reach the lake, take a well-earned dip in the cool waters and play a game of cribbage with your partner.
3). Hot Springs
You can’t visit Yellowstone without enjoying a hot bath on your way out of the park. Soak in the Boiling River! After that Grizzly Lake hike, you’ve earned another swim. Remember to bring sandals to walk across the rocks without stubbing a toe or slipping in the water.
If you like music with your soak, take a drive to the Norris Hot Springs—a favorite hang-out for the Emerson Grill staff. You can enjoy the sounds from the local musicians and treat yourself to the wines, beers, organic pizzas or Chicken Apple Sausage Dog (OMG). Speaking of dogs, your four-legged friend can even tag along on this adventure because these springs are pet-friendly. Visit norrishotsprings.com for more information.
4). Emerald Lake
Mountain bike or hike the 4.5-mile trail up to Emerald Lake in Hyalite. Make it special and pack a delicious lunch to share when you reach the lake. Try a favorite summer recipe from Robin Chopus, the owner of the Emerson Grill. Perfect to fill you up after a trek to Emerald Lake, this recipe is easy to put together the morning before you head out of town.
Robin’s Pear Chicken Salad Recipe
1 Fresh roasted chicken
2 stalks of celery
½ bulb of fennel
1 tbsp. chopped tarragon
½ c. chopped red onion
1 ripe pear
½ c. golden raisins
¼ c. real mayonnaise
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Select a fresh roasted chicken from your favorite market and pick it apart into large, yet edible chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add 2 stalks of finely chopped (¼”) celery.
Add ½ bulb of finely chopped fennel.
Add 1 tbsp. of finely chopped tarragon.
Add ½ c. of finely chopped red onion.
Add a ripe, ½”diced pear.
Add ½ c. of golden raisins.
Slowly stir in ¼ c. of real mayonnaise.
Stir in ¼ c. of extra virgin olive oil.
Add the juice from 1 lemon.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
If necessary, slowly add more real mayonnaise until you have reached your desired texture.
Don’t forget to pick up two fresh croissants from our local bakery to enjoy with your pear chicken salad. Pair the meal with a fruity Sancerre. The dry, fruity, and acidic tones of the wine will perfectly compliment the pear chicken salad. If you bring along your furry friend, make sure to pack extra water and snacks for Fido.
5. Visit a Ghost Town
Due to the short life of the Gold Rush, Montana boasts dozens of ghost towns across the state. Elkhorn and Virginia City are two of the most popular ghost town destinations within two hours of Bozeman.
Elkhorn lies 90 miles northwest of Bozeman of off I-15. Once a gold and silver mining town, the buildings have been preserved as outstanding examples of frontier architecture. Bring your camera to snap photos of the historic Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall located in the center of the ghost town.
A bit more modern than Elkhorn, Virginia City is another popular ghost town. It is a scenic 66 miles southwest of town off of HWY-287. Last year, the town celebrated its 150th anniversary. Once a booming gold and silver mining town with a population of over 10,000 in 1864, a mere 132 people reside in the historic town. Virginia City offers a brewery, an opera house, and live music events throughout the summer. Peruse through the antique shops and imagine what it might have been like to live in the past.