After my stay in Billings, I made my way two hours westbound on Interstate 90 to my next stop in Bozeman. Unfortunately, it was raining during the evening I arrived and snowing on the day after, but I managed to squeeze in a hike at Drinking Horse Mountain next to the Bozeman Fish Technology Center and Montana Outdoor Science School.
I parked over by Bridger Canyon Drive and started my hike on Nature Trail, later connecting onto Drinking Horse Hill Trail.
One of the things that I enjoy about Montana is the presence of no-leash hiking trails.
I’ve mentioned this before, but the culture of the places out here where it’s less populated is much more pleasant than it is in big cities, and I’ve noticed that the people here are far more kind, integrous, and respectful towards each other. Considering my past experiences living in cities, I feel like a no-leash concept absolutely would not work in or near a major city, not only because inconsiderate people would release their untrained dogs to wreak havoc, but also because there are a lot more sensitive people who would feel violated by the presence of loose dogs.
In Montana, all the dogs I ran into were extremely well-behaved, even including hunting dogs that their owners had proactively leashed anyway due to the fact that they may have underlying aggressive instincts. There are few things more joyful than seeing random dogs happily roaming round, and as you approach, they skip and bound up to your side and wait for you to pet them. This seems like a fairly small thing, but with my love of animals, this made my hiking experience much better.
The path up to the summit was clear and easy to hike. It ended up being a mixture of light forest and open trail with some great views in all directions as you got higher.
I used to only include photos of flowers and other close-ups of vegetation in the “continue reading” section below-the-fold of my blog posts, but I got some feedback that including photos like this adds to visual diversity, so I decided to include a few above-the-fold this time (or rather, there is no below-the-fold this time, as this ended up being a fairly straightforward hike and I don’t have an excess of photographs).
Long story short, I think Montana is one of the most underrated states in America. With multiple layers of mountains, tons of trees, and some of the freshest air I’ve ever breathed, making it to the summit and just sitting down and looking around was one of the most calming, soothing feelings.
Prior to doing this hike, I thought I was hiking up to the College M, before realizing that I was on the opposite side of the road. For some reason, the College M hike wasn’t on All Trails when I had checked, and I didn’t want to take a risk and do an impromptu second hike after Drinking Horse Mountain in case the elevation gain was unmanageably high and the distance was too long—I hadn’t eaten yet that day, and I had to make it back to my hotel with only an hour or so to spare to attend a conference call.
The Drinking Horse Mountain hike ended up being a little bit over 2 miles, with a total elevation gain of about 650 feet. I’ve done hikes a lot higher than that, but not at an elevation comparable to Montana’s, so the hike definitely got me breathing hard.