Beginner's Guide to Hiking
Hiking is a great activity that is suited to any skill level, and a fantastic way to see more of the Bozeman area from a new perspective. If you’re looking to log a few hikes on your visit to Bozeman here are some tips to get you ready to hit the trails safely and responsibly!
Know Before You Go
Before you hit the trails, be sure to check trail and weather conditions so that you are appropriately prepared. AllTrails is a great resource for finding local trails and checking trail conditions – they even have an app that allows you to download trail maps in case you won’t have service on your hike. The community at AllTrails frequently posts updates regarding trail conditions so you can usually find recent information. They also have a section for weather conditions for 5 days which can come in handy when trails are further out from town.
What to Bring
The American Hiking Society has a list of 10 essential items to bring on every hike with you and make sure you a prepared for any situation. At Visit Bozeman our recommended essentials are:
- Appropriate footwear - hiking boots are preferred, but tennis shoes will also work.
- Map and compass/GPS - This can be on your phone, as long as it’s fully charged and you have a battery back up.
- Water - Make sure you have enough for every member of your party, dogs included!
- Bear Spray - Bear sightings are rare, but it’s best to be prepared.
- Food - No hike is complete without at least some snacks for the trail! Trail mix is a classic option and is sold at most grocery stores.
- Sun protection - Sunscreen is essential, but also a hat and sunglasses are good for additional protection.
- Rain gear - Montana weather can change on a dime, so it’s good to be prepared for sudden storms.
- Safety items - A basic first aid kit and flashlight are crucial, but a safety whistle is also not a bad idea to have in case you get stuck off the trail.
- Knife or multitool - You never know when you might need to repair some gear or use it for first aid purposes.
- Backpack - This is a lot to carry, so a backpack can help lighten the burden by putting everything in one place on your back. We love a backpack with room for a hydration pouch too to make sure you have plenty of water that is easily accessible.
Leave No Trace
The basics of Leave No Trace principles are to take only photos and leave only footprints. This means if you eat snacks on the trail, you carry the trash with you. If you have a dog with you, pick up after them and carry that poop bag out. Don’t leave it along the trail where you could forget it on the way back, bring it with you. When practicing Leave No Trace, be sure to stay on the trails provided unless you are moving aside for another hiker. For more on Leave No Trace, visit the 7 principles page.
While some trail etiquette is comprised of common sense, like how solo hikers should move aside for bigger groups, there are some less common-knowledge pieces as well. If you’re on a shared trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders, the bikers should yield to both the hikers and the horses, but this is not always an option for bikers so be cautious. If you encounter a horseback rider while hiking, you should yield to them as horses have the right of way. If you’re planning on bringing your pup, be sure you are on a dog-friendly trail and follow any posted leash rules. If your dog is off-leash, make sure they can be kept under your control at all times and within your sight. If another hiker approaches with or without a dog, step to the side and allow them to pass easily. For more in-depth trail etiquette, check out this guide from Bearfoot Theory.
Be Good to Bozeman
While you’re here we would like to encourage you to explore the right way and help us preserve Bozeman for generations to come. We have developed a sustainable tourism program called Be Good to Bozeman, in collaboration with local nonprofits and the Bozeman Convention and Visitors Bureau. Focused on visitors and locals, Be Good to Bozeman encourages us all to enjoy the beauty of Bozeman and give back to positively impact the community.
The most important thing to remember during your hike is to enjoy yourself! Hiking is a great way to get some exercise at any fitness level and bask in the beauty of Bozeman and the surrounding areas. Have a great time on the trails!