The 12 Best Day Trips from Bozeman

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: February 24th, 2023

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in southern Montana, Bozeman is a destination that promises outdoor adventure and myriad outdoor splendors.

Founded as a supply hub servicing the historic mining towns of Bannack and Virginia City, Bozeman has since become a center of tourism, boasting a massive selection of hotels, restaurants, and other travel services for visitors to the state.

Still, what makes Bozeman one of the best tourist cities on which to base your visit is its central location in southern Montana. Serving as a doorway to the state’s Rocky Mountains, visitors to Bozeman are only a short drive to many wonders.

From the legendary Yellowstone National Park to deserted ghost towns in the mountains, these are the 12 best day trips from Bozeman all tourists need to visit.

The top 12 Day Trips from Bozeman

  1. Big Sky
  2. Chico Hot Springs
  3. Yellowstone National Park
  4. Livingston
  5. Missouri Headwaters State Park
  6. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
  7. Virginia City
  8. Bannack State Park
  9. Butte
  10. Garnet Ghost Town
  11. Helena
  12. Lost Creek State Park
big sky
Image: m01229

1. Big Sky

Located 45 miles from Bozeman, Big Sky is one of the best road trips from the city and offers a massive variety of outdoor activities year-round.

The road to Big Sky is one of the most beautiful in the state and leads visitors through the awe-inspiring Gallatin Canyon. While the drive to Big Sky takes only a little more than an hour, the route is truly something to experience, and visitors should take their time to enjoy the journey.

But of course, while the drive is fantastic, the destination is what makes Big Sky one of the best day trips from Bozeman. Known for world-class skiing, the Big Sky Resort offers fantastic outdoor adventures for visitors of all ages and interests.

In the winter, the region beckons with its ski slopes, snowshoe tours, and Enchanted Forest Trail. The area opens up throughout the warm summer into miles of pristine hiking trails, zipline tours, and the renowned Big Sky Golf Course.

2. Chico Hot Springs

chico hot springs
Image: Ted McGrath

Operating in Paradise Valley since 1900, Chico Hot Springs has been a popular tourist destination in southern Montana for over a century. And now, thanks to modern transportation, the Hot Springs is easily accessible and serves as a fantastic day trip for travelers visiting Bozeman.

Nestled amid the towering mountain range, Chico Hot Springs offers breathtaking scenery while engaging in a massive selection of adventure sports and relaxation.

While visiting the site’s eponymous hot springs is a must, other experiences offered at Chico include hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, snowshoeing, and much more.

Chico Hot Springs is only 48 miles from Bozeman. This means it takes less than an hour to reach and allows for an entire day of exploring everything Paradise Valley has to offer.

3. Yellowstone National Park

yellowstone national park
Image: Jocelyn Catterson

Heading 90-miles directly south of Bozeman will lead visitors to Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance.

As the most popular gateway into the park, the West Entrance provides guests access directly to the park’s geysers. The most famous attraction here is Old Faithful, but there are over 150 different geysers just waiting to be explored within one square mile.

Once they’ve had their fill of geyser country, visitors can venture further into West Yellowstone, where they can engage in several hiking trails, including the Gallatin Sky Rim Trail and the Yellowstone National Park loop.

Alternatively, those seeking to explore the park without all of the footwork can arrange to venture along one of the horseback riding trails, which are available through several outfitters in the region.

4. Livingston

Image: Ted McGrath

As a city, Bozeman features one of the most suitable infrastructures and services for hosting tourists. But the city has also become a modern community in recent years and no longer boasts the traditional charms of a small Montana town.

Luckily, visitors won’t have to venture too far to explore these old-timey Western stylings, as Livingston is easily accessible via a brief 250mile drive to Bozeman’s east.

Described as the way Bozeman was before the Californians arrived, the historic railway town now serves as a window into the big city’s past. Preserving history, Livingston was once the home of figures such as Calamity Jane, Tim Cahill, and Thomas McGuane.

Today the town’s local history museums and art galleries are some of the region’s top must-visit attractions, along with the traditional stylings of the Murray Hotel and other monumental buildings.

5. Missouri Headwaters State Park

missouri headwaters state park

The Missouri Headwaters State Park marks and preserves the area where the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers merge to form the longest river in North America— the Missouri River. The historic countryside once served Lewis and Clark as they made a weeklong camp by the headwaters during their expedition in 1805.

Today, thanks to the State Park’s efforts, visitors can explore the same landscapes as these intrepid explorers along one of the region’s many hiking trails, or they can venture into the waterways via a kayak or fish from the shores.

For an even more immersive experience of the park’s history, visitors can opt to stay overnight in one of the park’s traditional tipis.

Informational signs are scattered throughout the park and provide visitors insight into the preservation of historical and environmental significance.

6. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

lewis and clark caverns state park
Image: Tjflex2

The first state park of Montana, the Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, is home to the most extensive cave system in the American Northwest and is one of the most decorated limestone caverns in North America.

The park offers fantastic hiking, camping, and cave-delving opportunities through some of the region’s most awe-inspiring geological wonders and is only 50-minute drive west of Bozeman.

The best way to experience the caverns is via a guided tour operated by the state park. In only tour hours, the park’s informative guide leads groups to all of the cavern’s most fantastic attractions while leaving plenty of time in the day to explore the other park’s riddled throughout the countryside.

7. Virginia City

virginia city
Image: Larry Myhre

The historic ghost town of Virginia City is an absolute must-stop attraction when visiting Bozeman. The abandoned mining community was once a booming city and was even designated the territorial capital of Montana in 1865.

The city of Bozeman was first founded as a simple servicing station along the Bozeman Trail, which at one point connected Virginia and the surrounding gold rush region of Montana to the monumental Oregon Trail.

At its peak, Virginia City was home to over 10,000 people. However, as the gold mines dried up, many residents migrated out of the area. As a result, Virginia City was left largely abandoned by the twentieth century, much like many other mining cities in the Alder Gulch area.

Designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1961, Virginia City has remained a preserved monument to Montana’s gold rush era and offers day-trippers the opportunity to explore many of the city’s original buildings that still stand today.

8. Bannack State Park

bannack state park
Image: Scott Akerman

Another National Historic Landmark preserving Montana’s gold rush past, the Bannack State Park is located a little further from Bozeman but is still a fantastic day trip for those that wish to explore the site of Montana’s first significant gold discovery.

Situated 140 miles from Bozeman, Bannack State Park requires two and a half hours of driving through the beautiful mountains of southern Montana.

However, the park itself is well worth the journey, and visitors will spend hours exploring the historical preservation that includes over 50 preserved 19th-century buildings lining the town’s Main Street.

9. Butte

when to visit butte

While staying in Bozeman, visitors will want to make the 85-mile journey over to Butte to explore the fruits of Montana’s prosperous mining industry.

As one of the State’s largest cities, Butte is home to many cultural and historical attractions and monuments, including Montana Tech, the Copper King Mansion, the Berkley Pitt, and the Granite Mountain Speculator Mining Memorial.

Deemed the “richest hill on earth,” no exploration of Montana’s southern mining history would be complete without a visit to Butte’s World Museum of Mining.

While here, be sure to venture into the city itself and explore some of the state’s most stylish boutiques and welcoming restaurants.

10. Garnet Ghost Town

garnet ghost town
Image: John Manard

Another ghost town serving as a fantastic day trip from Bozeman is the historic silver mining community of Garnet.

Located near Philipsburg, Garnet is a little further drive, but it is well worth it to explore the history of the preserved state park. The ghost town features many of the original buildings from its 19th-century heyday and is maintained by the state.

Informational signs are scattered throughout the town, guiding visitors through the history and infrastructure of the community. Garnet Ghost Town is a fantastic way to delve into history as you explore these early mining communities’ inner functions and operations.

When visiting Garnet, be sure to stop by nearby Philipsburg for an inside look into the state’s modern Sapphire mining industry.

11. Helena

Image: Roger W

No visit to Montana would be complete without a visit to the state’s capital, Helena. Luckily, Helena is located only 98 miles north of Bozeman, making it a fantastic destination for a day trip.

The city offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities and is home to the State Capitol building, the Cathedral of Saint Helena, and the Original Governor’s Mansion.

When finished exploring the monuments of Montana’s political heart, visitors will want to turn their gaze to the city’s cultural and artistic influences.

Several of the state’s top art museum galleries preside in Helena, including the famous Holter Museum of Art, which displays some of the leading contemporary pieces by artists from the Pacific Northwest.

From local history to culture, Helena has it all and is an absolute must-visit when staying in nearby Bozeman.

12. Lost Creek State Park

lost creek state park

If you’re looking to escape the city for a relaxing hike along a crackling creek, then a day trip to Lost Creek State Park is precisely what you need.

Located 115 miles from Bozeman, Lost Creek State Park features a variety of trails through Deer Lodge County’s limestone cliffs and white granite formations.

The most popular hike in the area follows the water to Lost Creek Falls, a 50-foot cascading waterfall surrounded by plenty of natural scenery. Occupying the park’s habitats are native species of golden eagles and bighorn sheep that are frequently observed from the well-maintained trail.

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About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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