Top 10 Bozeman Landmarks
I’ll admit it: This was a tough one to write. Bozeman is such a unique place that it is hard to name just ten things that qualify as distinctly, quintessentially Bozeman. With a little help from my friends, I’ve come up with the following list.
The “M” is likely to be the first thing most of us see when we arrive in Bozeman, whether by car or plane. Montana State University students created the “M” in 1915, and teams from the university still trek up the mountain to maintain the iconic symbol every year. Of course, anyone can make this trek, and trek might be a bit of an overstatement. You can charge right up the hill or take a more meandering path through the trees that will bring you to the “M” after a 1.5-mile hike. Regardless of whether you hike up to it or see it from afar, the “M” is a sure sign you have made it to Bozeman.
The Baxter’s Blue Beacon
The Baxter Hotel on Main Street is Bozeman’s tallest building, but it is not the height that causes so many area residents to stare at its roof. Instead, it’s the blue light that flashes only when Bridger Bowl, the local ski hill, has received new snow. The mere presence of this light is a sure sign you are in a ski town, and the hotel it sits atop is one of Bozeman’s many historic buildings. The Baxter Hotel was designed by Bozeman’s most famous architect, Fred Willson, in the late 1920s. Although it is no longer used as a hotel, it is still one of the city’s most notable landmarks.
If you haven’t been to the Haufbrau, you are missing out on an essential part of Bozeman’s bar scene. The burgers are incredibly tasty and super affordable, but most people head to the Haufbrau for the drinks and live music. That’s right – live music every night. The Haufbrau is one tip of Bozeman’s Barmuda Triangle, a landmark in its own right, which comprises the Molly Brown and The Scoop. A night in this area is one of Bozeman’s rites of passage, once you are 21, of course.
Montana State University
What would Bozeman be like without Montana State University? It is hard to imagine. More than 16,000 students enroll in the University every semester, and enrollment keeps increasing. MSU is a hub of the Bozeman community and home to several historic buildings. A walk around campus can easily become a Bozeman history lesson. Montana Hall has stood sentinel over the University since 1896 and is one of the most recognizable landmarks on campus.
Frog Rock stands guard at the entrance to Bozeman Pass. As you enter the pass, look south and you will see an enormous collection of limestone that resembles a frog quite strikingly. The massive rock welcomes travelers arriving from the east and is also a lesser-known rock climbing opportunity. Because it is not the most popular climbing spot in the area, climbers will have relative peace and quiet as they decide which of the dozen or so routes they want to take to the top.
If you are from out of town, I know you are thinking, “Bozeman has a beach?!” It’s true. You’ll find Bozeman Beach in the East Gallatin Recreation Area off Manley Road. While it’s not the soft, sugar sand of Florida, the beach does have sand, lots of it. It also has several picnic areas and a pavilion, so it’s a great place to gather for picnics, parties, and family reunions. Kids love jumping off the giant dock and just about everyone likes paddling around on a SUP or kayak when the sun is beating down.
Not the dog, the horse. An enormous yellow horse has been watching over Main Street from its perch above Bangtail Bikes for about 50 years. Old Yeller only left its post twice – once when knocked down by hooligans trying to ride it in 2000 and once for a brief makeover in 2010. The horse is owned by the Masons, whose lodge occupies the upper floors of the building, so no matter what store occupies the retail space below, this iconic horse will continue to spin above the corner of Main St. and Bozeman Avenue.
Hyalite Reservoir and its drainage offer every kind of outdoor recreation opportunity imaginable. No trip to Bozeman would be complete without a trip up to the reservoir. Hikers, bikers, climbers, anglers, campers, and boaters can all find something to do in this picturesque playground just south of town. Those who don’t want to do any more than take in the splendor of the great outdoors will be happy here, too, as several waterfalls are easily accessible in this area.
Have you ever seen a monkey riding a motorcycle? Bozeman’s motorcycle-riding monkey is a statue that perfectly demonstrates the city’s quirky, artistic community. He’s been riding along the north side of Airport Road for decades and is one of several funky statues that adorn a local residence.
After you cruise down Airport Road to see the Motorcycle Monkey, you will find yourself at a crossroads. Turn left (north) on Springhill Road and continue the scenic drive you’ve started. Before long, you will reach the iconic big, yellow barn on the east side of the road. The barn was originally built in 1917 and was used to house draft horses, but the space now serves as an events center that hosts weddings and parties. With the Bridger Mountains as a backdrop, the barn is an idyllic piece of area history.
I realize this list is not comprehensive. A place as special as Bozeman has so many defining landmarks it would be impossible to name them all. This is just a sampling of Bozeman’s special places, the places that help define our unique mountain town.