We flew from Seattle to Bozeman, mainly because it’s where we start our next adventure but this town turned out to be a little gem. The state website says that Bozeman is called “the most livable place” for good reason. We could enjoy world-renowned fly fishing, dramatic mountains for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, hunting, and backcountry exploring and as the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, we could also find impressive wildlife. In addition to all of this nature, if you prefer a more city experience, we could dive into Bozeman’s thriving arts and culture scene, with street festivals, farmers markets, cultural centres, museums, symphonies, theatres, and art galleries. With so much to see and do we started to wish we had more than just one day to see it all!
We’d read a leaflet in our hotel about the Bozeman Grizzly Bear Encounter and it had good reviews. The Montana Grizzly Encounter proclaims itself as a Grizzly Bear Rescue & Education Sanctuary founded in 2004. It says it provides a spacious and natural home for rescued grizzlies and offers the public a place to come and learn about grizzly bears in a beautiful mountain setting. They promised us a bear with our name on it but sadly there were no bears called Gerald and we ended up regretting our choice. We had expected a vast rescue centre where the bears could roam partly free, but instead we only saw a tiny enclosure, surrounded by concrete walls and a very sad looking bear.
Maybe we went on a bad day? Maybe we never saw everything at the centre? But, this was not our kind of place and whilst we did get to see a grizzly I think we both felt that this wasn’t the kind of sanctuary that we’d been expecting.
Moving onwards, whatever the Grizzly Encounter lacked the landscape and mountains around Bozeman more than compensated. Miles and miles of open farm land with cattle grazing, surrounded by mountains and distant hills and big big skies. We passed farms with names like Rolling Thunder Ranch and if there was ever a place that a couple of old Europeans recognised as America… well this place would be high on the list. As we drove I found Home on the Range on Spotify “oh give me a home… where the buffalo roam “ we both sang along and both giggled like school children. I later learned that the song was never about Bozeman but it could have been!
Our first stop was Livingston. Livingston is the county seat of Park County and sits beside the Yellowstone River. The town owes it’s history to the Northern Pacific Railway and in the late 1880’s, it became a central point in the Rocky Mountains and a stopping point for shopping and servicing of steam trains before ascending the Bozeman Pass. Later, Livingston also became the gateway to Yellowstone, America’s first national park. The town is surrounded by four beautiful mountain ranges, offering an abundance of outdoor activities. We didn’t have time to visit the mountains but we did walk around the town and it’s packed full of glorious little gift shops, museums, art galleries and restaurants. Indeed you’ll be spoilt for choice here in this beautiful little town.
We wandered up and down the main streets, stopping off to meander through the art galleries and little boutique shops. We stopped for coffee at Pinky’s, just one of the many coffee shops in town. This would be a great place to base yourself for a holiday and we could see why it’s such a popular destination.
We returned to Bozeman for lunch and wandered through downtown before choosing a lunch spot. We stopped at JAM but honestly you’re spoilt for choice here; the food options and choices for a non-dairy, gluten free like me were fabulous!
After lunch we decided to drive north to Bridger Canyon, in the heart of the Bridger Mountains. We’d read there was a good hiking trail here and we were keen to get out and stretch our legs.
However, the weather was against us and for most of the afternoon the wind howled and the rain came down in rods; it was not a day for hiking! But the dark clouds made for some impressive photos and our spirits weren’t dampened. Montana is a beautiful place, the little of what we saw has given us an appetite to return one day and explore some more.