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1. Bozeman

Gallatin Canyon Rock Climbing
Trad routes are common on the Gallatin Gneiss, but Sport routes can be found just around the corner. Photo courtesy of Akio Joy

The first time I read up on climbing in the Bozeman area I was in my hometown of Berlin. The info I found made it sound like some not-very-good rock climbing—definitely not worth a visit, anyway.

After trying the rock myself, I absolutely disagree. Maybe it takes being a local to appreciate the area, but I’ve found so many different crags and styles that it could easily host a climbing festival. In fact, it does: Bozeman is home to a well-known Ice Climbing Festival that has been running for the last 20 years!

Bozeman is a growing town with ample amenities—not so easy to find in a rural state like Montana. Nestled in the large valley between the Bridger Mountains, Gallatin Range, and Madison Range, this quaint college town is shaped not only by students, but also by many up-and-coming businesses in the service and tech industries.

If you’re looking to try out many different types of climbs, including gneiss trad, limestone sport, and multi-pitch, you’ve got it all here in an hour’s radius from town.

A mountain athlete’s training ground

It comes as no surprise that so many professional climbers, guides, and all-around mountain athletes choose Bozeman as their hometown. Years ago, the town was flying under the radar, and living costs were phenomenally affordable here. After having discovered the amazing close-to-town recreation opportunities, athletes from all over the country, but especially Minnesota and California, have come to settle here over the years.

Compared to Boulder, CO, Bozeman had less of a profile for professional athletes and didn’t provide outdoor industry networking, which deterred working professionals and athletes. This is changing, however, and Bozeman is becoming a more desired place to live in among mountain recreationists.

Besides the ample rock climbing options, the playgrounds around town provide phenomenal skiing and ice climbing. Bozeman has approximately 400 sport and 200 trad routes, which might be an underestimation due to imperfect route recording.

The climbing has seen many developments over the last 30 years, with a growing number of new crags. This has led to many different types of climbs, and I’ll outline what to look for before heading out.

All the different climbing options

When deliberating on what crag to spend the day on, you first need to decide whether you want to climb sport or trad, gneiss or limestone. Whichever you choose, many of the areas offer a wide spectrum of grades, starting as low as 5.6 and up to 5.13c.

The limestone climbing can be crimpy, vertical, and overhanging, with routes that usually go up to 80 ft. Areas like Bear Canyon, Red Cliff, and Neat Canyon offer many options in the lower grades, while Bozeman Pass, the Bridger Mountains, and Madison Limestone are more suited for climbers starting at 5.10.

Gallatin Canyon, Hyalite Canyon, and Revenue Flats feature trad and sport on gneiss and other magmatic rock. Amazing multi-pitch trad routes like Spear Rib (5.8) or Sky Line (5.6) can be found in Gallatin Canyon, where you’ll also find phenomenal sport climbing in the 5.11 – 5.13 range. Crimping on steep gneiss faces is a highly unique experience, often requiring creative movement solutions.

Multi-pitch climbs, whether sport or trad, alpine or not, can be found in the Bridger Range, Beehive Basin, Gallatin Canyon, and Frog Rock.

About the author
Mountain Guide and Co-Owner of Beartooth Mountain Guides and 57hours Guide Education Fund Recipient

Anju is an AMGA Assistant Rock Guide and Apprentice Alpine Guide. She runs with her partner Beartooth Mountain Guides located in Southern Montana. She is passionate about making the outdoors accessible for underrepresented groups in a supportive and empowering way. Originally from Germany, she has lived in Turkey, Chile, and the US and loves to connect her climbing pursuits with traveling.

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