The love for hiking is strong in Southwest Montana, where outdoor adventures fuel many people’s days off. And hiking has plenty of proven benefits as well, both for mental and physical health. Studies indicate that cardiovascular exercise from hiking can lower blood pressure and increase heart health. Plus, the positive benefits of being in nature may be linked to reduced stress overall.
The good news is that hiking is accessible to people of many ages and ability levels in this part of the state, with plenty of hikes to choose from to help you take advantage of all of those positive benefits. Before you set out, be sure to grab some bear spray and the ten essentials. Then after you prepare, the only thing to do is to put your feet to the trail. Here are five beginner-friendly hikes in Southwest Montana to get the blood flowing and deepen your connection with nature.
Located just across the road from the popular and challenging College M trail in Bozeman, you’ll find the start of the Drinking Horse Mountain loop trail. This 2.1-mile hike still offers about 700 feet of climb in elevation, with views from the top to reward you. If the way is too steep for your fitness level, you can still enjoy the flat stretch from the parking area, past the Bozeman Fish Technology Center, and up to the base of the mountain.
Located outside Bozeman in the Hyalite Recreation Area, Palisade Falls is an easy 1.2 miles round trip with only 250 feet of elevation gain. It is wide and paved, though some wheelchair users might find that the grade makes it inaccessible in places. You’re rewarded with a rocky open area that leads up to this impressive cascade.
As a 1.6-mile hike along the Gallatin River’s south and west forks, the Ousel Falls Park Trail near Big Sky walks you through a densely forested area to the base of the falls or an overlook if you prefer. Bring a picnic and enjoy the cooling mist on a hot day.
The trail to Horse Butte Lookout takes you up an old roadbed to a historic 40-foot fire tower that shows off views over Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone. At the top, shaded picnic tables allow you to relax while you enjoy looking out over the landscape. It’s a round-trip hike of four miles, climbing steadily from the parking area.
This 2.5-mile hike to Pine Creek Falls outside of Livingston is the perfect way to (metaphorically) dip your toes into the waters of hiking. AllTrails rates it as moderate, and you’ll gain 390 feet of elevation on the walk. This heavily trafficked trail makes a great intro to hiking, since you’ll likely have others around. Just be sure to take your time on the steeper sections, and you’ll be able to enjoy a refreshing mist at the waterfall when you get to the top.
For more information on ways to seek health and wellness in your everyday life, CHP offers affordable medical services to the greater Southwest Montana community. Reach out to your nearest clinic to schedule an appointment.