Top 10 Montana Summer Roadtrips from Bozeman

Sarah Cairoli

I know we live in the most beautiful place on Earth, but let’s face it, sometimes you just have to get away. You don’t need a week to make an escape; there are several fun places to go that are less than a day’s drive from Bozeman.

Yellowstone National Park & Cooke City
Distance from Bozeman to Cooke City via Red Lodge: 210 miles

You have several options for entering Yellowstone, but I recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to get to Cooke City during the summer months because Gardiner and West Yellowstone are easier to access year-round. From Bozeman, head southeast to Red Lodge, where you can hop on the Beartooth Highway, possibly the most scenic 68 miles you will ever drive. The road will take you to an elevation of almost 11,000 feet before bringing you to Cooke City. In the summer, the town’s population triples (to a whopping 300 residents) so you can truly get away from it all here. This quaint town is full of Wild West charm and a beautiful place to start exploring the park.

Glacier National Park
Distance from Bozeman to Glacier National Park: 310 miles

Let’s not forget our state’s other National Park. You could spend the entire summer exploring Glacier country. Every visitor should drive the Going-to-the-Sun road. There are several horseback riding trails in the Many Glacier/Logan Pass area, so contact Swan Mountain Outfitters if you’d like get out of the car and see some backcountry. If you’d prefer to view the park by boat, tours are available on Saint Mary Lake. Independent spirits can also rent boats at several locations throughout the park. Glacier has something for everyone—hikers, bikers, kayakers, scenic cruisers, and explorers. No matter how you get there, I highly recommend a stop at Sunrift Gorge.

Virginia City & Nevada City
Distance from Bozeman to Virginia City: 66 miles

What was the Wild West really like? Look no further than Virginia City and Nevada City. Learn about the conflicts between the road agents and vigilantes as you step back in time and explore. There are several ways to tour the area, including horse-drawn wagons, a stagecoach, and train. Several old buildings are preserved for viewing. Ice cream parlors and an old-time candy shoppe are great places to stop for a snack, and the Brewery Follies are not to be missed. Nevada City is just a couple miles from Virginia City and is a replica of an old mining town. On the weekends, volunteers reenact life during the gold rush days.

 The Sip & Dip  - Great Falls
 Distance from Bozeman to Great Falls: 186 miles

Great Falls may not be the first place you think of when you get a hankering to visit a tiki bar, but the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge is the closest place to Bozeman that you’ll find that tiki vibe. A glass wall behind the bar gives patrons a direct view into the swimming pool. Every night (and every other Sunday for brunch), mermaids perform in the pool for the entertainment of those in the bar. The Sip ‘n Dip is so unique that GQ Magazine voted it the #1 bar on Earth, so great it is worth flying for. While in Great Falls, visit the waterfalls on the Missouri River and be sure to stop at Taco Treat for the sauce; Great Falls natives can’t seem to get enough of that stuff.

Helena’s Archie Bray Foundation
Distance from Bozeman to Helena: 97 miles

There are several reasons to visit our state’s capital, but the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts is a must-see. In 1951, Archie Bray created the foundation and converted his brickyard into a creative artists’ retreat that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still an active community of artists who offer classes and exhibitions all year. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. The ceramic collections are inspiring, and there is always something new on display. Art enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Bray’s Brickyard Bash and “Garden Party” on July 28.

Missoula’s Music Scene
Distance from Bozeman to Missoula: 202 miles
Missoula has a live music scene like no other city in Montana. Check out the schedules at the Wilma Theater, Big Sky Brewing, and the Top Hat Lounge. They’ve got something for everyone; you can go to the symphony one night, see Luke Bryan the next night and still make it downtown to see any of the talented local bands that make Missoula night life so vibrant.

Fort Peck Reservoir
Distance from Bozeman to Fort Peck: 386 miles

If you are looking to put some distance on those tires and you like to catch fish, go to Fort Peck Reservoir in northeastern Montana. The lake, created by a 3.8-mile long dam on the Missouri River, is home to more than 50 species of fish. The immense size of this lake is difficult to describe, but to provide some perspective, the lake is surrounded by the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge composed of more than one million acres of public land. Fort Peck Marina is the easiest place to access the water, but boat launches are also located at Hell Creek Bay and the south fork of Rock Creek Bay.

Paradise Valley
Distance from Bozeman to Pine Creek: 35 miles

If you don’t have time to venture too far, you are just one mountain pass away from Paradise, valley that is. The Yellowstone River snakes through this picturesque valley full of camping, hiking, and fishing opportunities. Pine Creek Lodge rents cabins and campsites in addition to offering a series of live music shows in its beer garden. July has a full lineup including Bozeman favorite Pinky and the Floyd on July 20. If a tent is too rustic for you, Chico Hot Springs offers a variety of rooms and, of course, access to two hot springs pools.

The Magic City - Billings
Distance from Bozeman to Billings: 142 miles

If you have young kids and are looking for a way to add some excitement to the summer, you should head to Billings. Kick off the day with a stop at Zoo Montana. Then, stop for lunch and some game time at Chuck E. Cheese’s. My kids’ favorite stop is Get Air Billings, a trampoline park that wears them out almost as much as swimming. If they still have any energy after bouncing, take the kids to The Reef Indoor Waterpark at Big Horn Resort. Waterpark admission is discounted if you spend the night at the hotel, and after all that activity, you might need to get some rest before making the drive home.
Choose Your Own Adventure
That’s right—you can’t go wrong. Montana is a beautiful state. Grab a map, close your eyes, point to a spot and go there. On your way, you’re sure to find fishing holes, hiking trails, scenic vistas, and small town diners with tasty fare and friendly service.    

This was made by

Sarah Cairoli

Sarah Cairoli is a local writer, tutor, and mother who has been enjoying all Bozeman has to offer for the past decade. She can be reached at (at) hotmail [d0t] com,)

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