Hiking With Kids
As winter turns to spring, we all start itching to get outside as much as possible. Even if you love winter, it’s nice to find a kid friendly, and snow free spot to enjoy some time outdoors. This is especially important living in Montana since the spring and summer seasons are so short. Hiking with your kids is a great way to take advantage of this time of the year.
Best Trails Requiring a Short Drive
Going for a hike is a great way to escape and relieve some stress. It gives you time to breathe fresh air, and enjoy nature, even if you can only make it a short distance. One of the best things about living in the Gallatin Valley is how many fun and kid friendly trails there are nearby to enjoy.
Missouri Headwaters State Park
If you haven’t been to Missouri Headwaters State Park yet, you need to add it to your list of places to visit. This is one of my favorite areas. The park is located near Three Forks, Montana. It’s really easy to get to by car from Bozeman and Belgrade.
One of my favorite things about this park is, it’s never crowded. You can find trails on both sides of the road. There are several parking areas, depending on where you want to start your adventure. The park has 5 miles of trails (spanning across over 500 acres). You can enjoy a short walk, or a longer hike depending on how you feel. This park also has a great picnic area and the cleanest pit toilets around!
Park entry is free for Montana residents. If you are not a Montana resident, the fee is $8 if you are driving a car or $4 if you are walking in or biking.
Hyalite Canyon Recreation Area
If you are from the Gallatin Valley, you’re probably familiar with Hyalite Canyon Recreation Area. Hyalite contains numerous trails to explore. There is also a reservoir which is great for paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing, or just splashing around near the shore. This place isn’t a secret though, and it’s well loved, so if you are visiting on a weekend be prepared for crowds.
The two most kid friendly trails in Hyalite are probably Grotto Falls and Palisade Falls. Both are well marked out and back trails. Palisade Falls is 1.1 miles total and has an elevation gain of 239 feet. Grotto Falls is slightly longer at 2.4 miles total and has an elevation gain of 278 feet. Both trails finish at pretty waterfalls. You’ll likely find children and dogs splashing around in the water at the base of the falls when you reach your destination.
Best Trails in Town (Bozeman)
If you are looking for a quick and easy trail to go hiking with your kids after school or work, Bozeman has lots of parks and a great trail system. Several trails are easily accessible from neighborhoods around town and don’t even require driving. The most popular trails around town still have parking areas though, if you aren’t close enough to walk.
Bozeman (Sourdough) Creek Trail is an easy trail for a leisurely walk. You should be able to push a stroller along it without difficulty. The trail is flat and approximately 2 miles in length (out and back), and it follows alongside Bozeman Creek.
The Gallagator Trail is another in-town favorite of mine. This is a short and flat trail great for kids and families pushing strollers. It’s approximately 1.5 miles out and back, but if you want to go for a longer walk, it connects to other trails. Langhor Park is located along this trail. It has beautiful community garden plots, a butterfly garden, and a fun boulder for climbing.
Essentials for Hiking with Kids
If you are planning on getting out and exploring some of the great trails in the area with your kids make sure you are prepared. Most trails are busy enough or in areas where you shouldn’t need bear spray, but I take it whenever I go into Hyalite Canyon just to be safe. You will also want to make sure you have good walking shoes, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses on hand. The sun can be brutal, even on short hikes. Lastly, make sure you have some water to drink and plenty of snacks! Most of these trails have picnic areas or picnic tables if you want to spend more time and have lunch while you’re out.
I love exploring new trails whenever I get a chance. One of the most helpful websites/apps I have found is AllTrails. If you download the app or got to the website, you can put in your city, or the name of a trail or park you are interested in, and it provides you with maps, trail length, elevation, and a wealth of other information. The Gallatin Valley Land Trust also has a lot of helpful information about nearby trails. They even host guided walks during the months of May and June.
So, get out there, unplug, and enjoy the warmer weather that’s headed our way! You can also check out our Summer Scavenger Hunts article if you are looking for something fun to do while you are out on the trail hiking with your kids.