Cat-tracks, a western exposure, and a little pluck make both hikes available almost year-round, but the time to consider passing on these trailheads is in high summer, when the parked vehicles spill onto Highway 86. Partly owing to their proximity and high visibility—it’s just a few minutes by car from downtown—these are Bozeman’s two most frequented trailheads. Their popularity, however, is deserved because they’re fairly short, the network offers varying inclines and distances, and the slope is speckled with limestone fins and outcroppings, as well as offering plenty of outstanding viewpoints.
The newer of the two, Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, tends to be less trafficked, has an architectural footbridge over Bridger Creek and from the top overlooks both the Gallatin Valley and the lower Bridger Canyon (fantastic in the morning!).
About 850 feet above the parking lot and created by students from the local university in 1915, the M’s variety and views of the mountain ranges that surround the Gallatin Valley are well worth the sweat.
If you’re looking to... really crank the motor, the M Trail links into the multi-day Bridger Mountains National Recreation Trail or it can be stretched to 5 miles, one-way, via a vigorous route that hopscotches along the ridge to the top of Mount Baldy (8,914 feet).
Distance: 1.6 mile loop (M Trail), 1.3 mile loop (Drinking Horse Mountain)
Elevation gain: 850 feet (M Trail), 750 (Drinking Horse Mountain)
Seasons: Usually dry March through November, but sure-footed hikers visit year-round
Trail(s) used: #534, #512, #513
Map of trailhead:
View M Trail and Drinking Horse Mountain trailheads in a larger map
Date: 01-Jun-2013 Time: 0:00
I don't know if this is hike or bike, but it's probably not "mountain bike." I know this is good exercise... I ride from home on the north side of Bozeman to the Drinking Horse TH, then I hike up the steep side, and jog at an easy pace down the long way back, trying to motor up the short uphill before the parking lot. Ride home. Takes me about 1 1/2 hours. All thumbs up, except for the road climb to the Fish Tech/ Drinking Horse trailhead—MDOT has built a death trap with the rail on the east side of the road. Should not be attempted by children, pregnant women, or people with heart conditions.
Date: 26-May-2013 Time: 14:00
The wildflowers are out in full force on Drinking Horse! The Arrow Leaf Balsam Root are especially magnificent. Good excuse for a nice walk.
Date: 04-Oct-2012 Time: 8:00
It's too early in the season for this!!