October 2010: Gallatin National Forest/Yellowstone National Park

Bozeman, Montana

John Bozeman opened the first wagon trail through a break in the mountains that American Indians called “Valley of the Flowers.” Revered as a sacred hunting ground, the Sioux killed Bozeman and no one dared try his trail again for nine years. Eventually in 1899 President William McKinley established the Gallatin National Forest by setting aside 45,000 acres that has grown to 1.8 million acres, including most of the northern and western boundaries of Yellowstone National Park and six mountain ranges. Gallatin shares much of the restless geology of its famous neighbor - on August 17, 1959, at 23 minutes before midnight, two massive blocks of the earth’s crust dropped 10 feet tilting lakes, dropping houses into giant sinkholes and triggering a landslide that buried 19 campers. 

The city bearing John Bozeman’s name is a gateway for approaching Yellowstone Park from the north and a base point for exploring the Gallatin National Forest. Around Bozeman, check out Peet’s Hill, a ridgeline trail designed for dogs to be walked under voice control. North of town, on the flank of Mount Baldy is a great letter “M,” constructed of rocks by the Montana State University Class of 1918. Two trails, each about one mile in length, lead to the highly visible landmark that requires 80 gallons of white paint each year. 

Any type of canine hike can be sculpted on the more than 2000 miles of trails in the Gallatin National Forest. Popular short trails penetrate the Hyalite Canyon (out of Bozeman on South 19th Avenue) to reach refreshing waterfalls. The hikes can be extended to take as much of a mountain ascent as you want; the Hyalite Peak Trail leaves a deep glaciated valley at 7,000 feet and tops out on the summit seven miles later at 10,299 feet. Grotto Falls is 2 miles into this trek and Hyalite Lake comes another three miles up the trail. 

One of the marquee canine hikes near Bozeman is the 3.5-mile journey to Lava Lake (south of town off US 191). It is a steady climb along Cascade Creek on a rocky path - sturdy wooden bridges over energetic mountain streams make appealing rest stops. Your destination is a secluded alpine lake tucked into the Spanish Peaks. For mountain-climbing canines the tallest peak in the Bridger Range, 9,670-foot Sacajawea, can be tagged by a steep, 2-mile climb at the Fairy Lake Campground.

South of I-90.