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Best Hikes to Spot Spring Wildflowers in Bozeman, Montana

    Spring is in the air and that means that it’s the perfect time to put away your snow boots and take out your hiking boots! Montana is a breathtaking place full of majestic mountains and endless rolling hills. And Montana only gets more beautiful in the spring, the mountains are snow capped while the runoff fills our rivers. The trees have green buds blooming, and wildflowers are turning the once grey landscape into an iridescent rainbow. If you’re in Bozeman during this beautiful time, check out these hikes for some of the best spring wildflowers in Southwestern Montana!

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Drinking Horse

Best Hikes to Spot Spring Wildflowers in Bozeman, Montana

Photo courtesy of Brandi Cole of Alltrails

    You won’t have to venture far from Bozeman to find hiking trails overflowing with beautiful spring wildflowers. The Drinking Horse trail is a short five miles from Downtown Bozeman, and is one of the many trails that’s part of the National Trails System. Drinking Horse is situated on forty acres of land near the Bozeman Fish Technology Center. The trail features a beautiful bridge over Bridger Creek and is shaped into a figure eight to give hikers different difficulties and multiple breathtaking angles of the Gallatin Valley and Bridger Canyon.

    Some of the beautiful flowers you can see along the trail include few-flowered shooting stars, Rocky Mountain iris, yellowbells, Oregon grape, Hood’s phlox, Parry’s townsendia, Draba, springbeauty, Wyoming kittentails, and so many more! These beautiful flowers can be seen as early as the second week of spring all up and down the hillside! When hiking don’t forget to stay mindful of the trail while also taking time to sit on the benches and admire the beauty around you.

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History Rock

 

Best Hikes to Spot Spring Wildflowers

Photo courtesy of Kristin Payne of Alltrails

    Bozeman’s largest playground undoubtedly has to be Hyalite Canyon. With endless trails, rivers, waterfalls, the reservoir, and rock climbing opportunities, Hyalite Canyon is the outdoor enthusiasts dream. And it’s just 20 minutes outside of Bozeman if you follow South 19th! Located twenty minutes past the start of Hyalite Canyon is a trail that’s been beloved by locals for the last century. History Rock trail is named after the large boulder where people have carved their names and other messages into the stone, some say John Bozeman’s own children carved their names there!

    Many different flowers call History Rock home, from the damp bog at the beginning to the shady pine forest and mountain meadows farther up the trail. Few-flowered shooting stars and elephantheads can be found blooming along the creek the borders the trail for the first few hundred feet. White bog-orchids, tall bluebells, and white geranium can be found near the elephantheads, but you’ll have to wait until late spring to see these guys. Once you cross the meadow and begin the steady climb into the pine forest you can begin looking for sticky geraniums and prairie coneflowers in the patches of sun. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for blue clematis growing on bushes as well as three different species of coralroot!

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Sypes Canyon

Best Hikes to Spot Spring Wildflowers in Bozeman, Montana

Photo courtesy of Rue Marrow of Alltrails

    Instead of turning South, head North down 7th to Springhill road to find the next trail perfect for spring flowers. Sypes Canyon is a short twenty-minute drive from Bozeman and the trail head is located in a residential area. After parking in one of the two designated lots and a short walk through a fenced area you come to the 4-mile round trip hike. Sypes Canyon Trail follows the Sypes Creek on the southwest side of Mt. Baldy. The trail crosses several seasonal creeks and ends with a beautiful view of the Gallatin Valley, the city of Bozeman, as well as the Madison, Tobacco Root, and Gallatin mountain ranges.

    As soon as the snow begins to melt you will be able to find Glacier lilies and shooting stars. If you miss the common harebells and asters this spring, don’t worry they’ll be there until late September. Berry bushes will start to pop up as the weather only gets better and you can find Canada violets blooming in their shade. While wandering the trail don’t forget to look out for the rare fairy slippers and calypso orchids. More wildflowers can be seen along the ascent during late spring, so keep an eye out for the many-flowered stickseed, heartleaf  arnica, field chickweed, prairiesmoke, and Oregon  grapes!

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The M Trail

Best Hikes to Spot Spring Wildflowers in Bozeman, Montana

Photo courtesy of Justin P of Alltrails

    The most popular trail in Bozeman and visible from most of the city, the M Trail is another great place to find some Montana wildflowers! The M Trail is easily identified by the 250 ft whitewashed rock “M” that was built in 1915 by a group of men who hauled the stones up the mountain. The M Trail has two different paths that lead to the “M”, a short but steep path or the long gently sloping path. The gentle path is also the start of the Bridger Mountains National Recreation Trail #534, which leads from the Bozeman all the way to beautiful Fairy Lake.

    As soon as the snow melts you can begin to see yellow bells, Wyoming  kittentails, bluebells, larkspur, Western  springbeauties, prairesmoke, and shooting stars. Starting in May you can begin to look for arrowleaf balsamroot covering the hillsides, Oregon  grape, Rocky Mountain iris, field pussytoes, field chickweed, sticky geranium, lupine, and many more! Flowers can be seen all along the M Trail through spring and well into summer, but the best time to see them is May.

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South Cottonwood

Best Hikes to Spot Spring Wildflowers in Bozeman, Montana

Photo courtesy of Marc Elpel of Alltrails

    Heading back towards the Hyalite and Sourdough Canyons, you can find the beautiful South Cottonwood Trail! South Cottonwood follows South Cottonwood Creek as it slopes along the northeastern side of Wheeler Mountain. The trail takes you through dense old-growth forest, broken up by beautiful mountain meadows. And if you’re feeling ambitious this trail connects to several other trails in Hyalite Canyon, including the History Rock trail. But be careful! People have been known to spot bears on this trail.

    During the first zigzags in the trail, keep an eye out for the shade-loving wildflowers. Columbines, western meadow rue, violets and white geraniums love the cover provided by the pine trees along this part of the trail. Lupine, arrowleaf balsamroot, sticky geraniums, and blanket flowers can be seen in the mountain meadows scattered along the path. And in April and early May you can expect to see glacier lilies and Western springbeauties. Starting in mid-May you can find white Canada violets, yellow Nuttall’s violets, yellow stream violets, prairiesmoke, marsh marigolds, blue rock clematis, and many more as the season continues!

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    Southwestern Montana is a beautiful and vibrant place, especially during the spring! If you happen to be in the area during this wonderful season, check out one or more of these hikes. But don’t forget to mind the signs, bring bear spray, and let someone know where you will be. Let’s keep our trails beautiful and safe for everyone!

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By: Issa Rabideaux

Cover Photo Courtesy of: Rachel Smith of Alltrails

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