Drinking Horse Mountain Trail In Montana

Here is everything you need to know about the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Montana
  • Length: 2.2 miles.
  • Type: Hiking.
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Managed By: Gallatin Valley Land Trust
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/montana/drinking-horse-mountain-trail

The Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, located near Bozeman, Montana, holds a significant historical background. The trail derives its name from a Native American legend that dates back centuries. According to the legend, a Native American chief and his tribe were traveling through the area when they stumbled upon a thirsty horse. The horse, exhausted from its journey, discovered a natural spring on the mountain, providing it with much-needed water. The chief and his tribe were grateful for this discovery and named the mountain “Drinking Horse” in honor of the horse’s life-saving find.

In the late 1800s, the area surrounding Drinking Horse Mountain became a popular destination for settlers and explorers. The mountain’s strategic location, offering panoramic views of the Gallatin Valley and the Bridger Mountain Range, attracted many visitors. It served as a lookout point for early settlers, providing them with a vantage point to spot potential threats or game. The mountain’s accessibility and natural beauty made it a favored spot for picnics and recreational activities.

Over time, the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail evolved from a simple footpath to a well-established hiking trail. In the early 2000s, local volunteers and organizations collaborated to improve the trail’s infrastructure, making it more accessible and safer for hikers. Today, the trail is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a moderate hike through diverse landscapes, including forests, meadows, and rocky outcrops. The historical significance of the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, combined with its natural beauty, continues to attract visitors who seek to connect with the area’s rich past while enjoying the serenity of the present.

While On The Trail

Access Points

The major access points or trailheads along the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail are:

1. Drinking Horse Trailhead: This is the main trailhead for the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, located off Bridger Drive in Bozeman, Montana. It has a parking area and restroom facilities.

2. East Gallatin Recreation Area: This access point is located at the eastern end of the trail, near the East Gallatin Recreation Area. It can be accessed from the East Gallatin Road and offers parking facilities.

3. Bridger Creek Golf Course: Another access point is located near the Bridger Creek Golf Course. It can be accessed from Bridger Creek Road and provides parking options.

4. Bridger Creek Trailhead: This access point is located at the western end of the trail, near the Bridger Creek Trailhead. It can be accessed from Bridger Canyon Road and offers parking facilities.

These are the major access points along the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, providing different starting points for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Transportation Available

1. Bozeman Taxi – Local taxi service providing transportation in and around Bozeman.
2. Uber – On-demand ridesharing service available in the area.
3. Lyft – Another popular ridesharing service operating in the vicinity.
4. Green Taxi – Environmentally friendly taxi service serving the Bozeman area.
5. Karst Stage – Regional bus service offering transportation to various destinations in Montana.
6. Big Sky Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation to and from Bozeman and Big Sky.
7. Montana Adventure Shuttle – Shuttle service specializing in outdoor adventure transportation.
8. Bozeman Airport Shuttle – Shuttle service offering rides to and from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.
9. Bridger Bowl Shuttle – Shuttle service catering to skiers and snowboarders heading to Bridger Bowl Ski Area.
10. Bozeman Bike Kitchen – Community bike shop providing bike rentals and repairs for exploring the area on two wheels.


The amenities available at the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at the trailhead.

2. Parking: There is a parking lot available at the trailhead for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping sites: While camping is not allowed directly on the trail, there are nearby campgrounds and camping areas where visitors can stay overnight.

4. Picnic areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack.

5. Trailhead facilities: The trailhead area may have additional amenities such as information boards, maps, and benches.

6. Dog-friendly: The trail is dog-friendly, allowing visitors to bring their furry friends along for the hike.

7. Scenic viewpoints: The trail offers several scenic viewpoints where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

8. Interpretive signs: There may be interpretive signs along the trail providing information about the local flora, fauna, and history.

Please note that amenities may vary, and it is always a good idea to check with local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Element Bozeman – Modern hotel offering comfortable accommodations near Drinking Horse Mountain Trail.
2. Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman – Convenient hotel with amenities such as a restaurant and fitness center, located close to the trail.
3. Comfort Suites Bozeman – Affordable hotel option with spacious rooms and complimentary breakfast, situated near the trailhead.
4. Holiday Inn Bozeman – Full-service hotel featuring a restaurant, indoor pool, and easy access to Drinking Horse Mountain Trail.
5. Best Western Plus GranTree Inn – Well-appointed hotel offering a restaurant, lounge, and comfortable rooms, just a short drive from the trail.
6. The Club Tavern & Grill – Casual eatery serving American fare, including burgers and sandwiches, located near the trail.
7. Montana Ale Works – Popular restaurant and bar offering a diverse menu of American cuisine, conveniently situated close to the trail.
8. Roost Fried Chicken – Cozy restaurant specializing in delicious fried chicken and comfort food, located near the trailhead.
9. Bozeman Health Urgent Care – Nearby urgent care facility providing medical services for any emergencies that may arise during your visit to Drinking Horse Mountain Trail.
10. Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital – Full-service hospital equipped to handle any major medical emergencies, located within a short distance of the trail.

Drinking Horse Mountain Trail Difficulty Notes

The Drinking Horse Mountain Trail offers a moderate difficulty level for hikers. The trail is approximately 2.4 miles long and features a gradual incline, making it accessible for hikers of various fitness levels. While there are some steeper sections, they are manageable with proper footwear and caution. The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, allowing hikers to navigate easily. The reward at the top is a stunning panoramic view of Bozeman and the surrounding mountains, making the moderate effort well worth it.

Features And Attractions

The Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, located near Bozeman, Montana, offers several scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks. Here are some notable attractions along the trail:

1. Drinking Horse Mountain: The trail itself leads to the summit of Drinking Horse Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the Gallatin Valley, Bridger Mountains, and the city of Bozeman.

2. Bridger Creek: The trail follows the Bridger Creek for a portion, providing a peaceful and scenic backdrop as you hike.

3. Native American Petroglyphs: Along the trail, you may come across ancient Native American petroglyphs etched into the rocks. These historical markings offer a glimpse into the region’s indigenous history.

4. Wildflowers: During the spring and summer months, the trail is adorned with vibrant wildflowers, including lupines, Indian paintbrush, and arrowleaf balsamroot, creating a picturesque landscape.

5. Wildlife: The area surrounding the trail is home to various wildlife species, including deer, elk, moose, and a variety of bird species. Keep an eye out for these animals as you hike.

6. Forested Areas: The trail passes through dense forests of Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and aspen trees, providing shade and a serene atmosphere.

7. Rocky Outcrops: As you ascend the trail, you’ll encounter rocky outcrops and cliffs, offering unique vantage points and photo opportunities.

8. Bridger Mountains: The trail provides stunning views of the Bridger Mountains, a subrange of the Rocky Mountains, which stretch across the horizon.

9. Bozeman Views: From various points along the trail, you can enjoy scenic views of the city of Bozeman, nestled in the valley below.

10. Sunset/Sunrise: The summit of Drinking Horse Mountain is an excellent spot to witness breathtaking sunsets or sunrises, casting a golden glow over the surrounding landscape.

Remember to check local regulations and trail conditions before embarking on your hike, and always practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the natural beauty of the area.

Usage Guidelines

– Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Clean up after your pets and dispose of waste properly.
– No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
– Bicycles are allowed but must yield to pedestrians.
– Stay on designated trails and do not create new paths.
– No camping or overnight stays are permitted on the trail.
– Fires and smoking are strictly prohibited.
– Respect wildlife and do not feed or disturb them.
– Pack out all trash and leave no trace.
– Be aware of seasonal restrictions such as closures during hunting seasons.
– Follow any additional rules or guidelines posted at the trailhead.

Seasonal Information

The Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, located near Bozeman, Montana, offers breathtaking views and a rewarding hiking experience. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and lush greenery, creating a picturesque landscape. The temperatures are mild, ranging from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities. Summer brings warmer temperatures, ranging from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing hikers to enjoy the trail under clear blue skies. Fall is equally stunning, with the changing colors of the leaves providing a stunning backdrop for hikers.

It is important to note that the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Due to heavy snowfall and potentially hazardous conditions, the trail is closed from November to April. During this time, the trail is not accessible to hikers, and it is recommended to respect these closures for safety reasons. However, the closure period does provide an opportunity for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing enthusiasts to explore the area in a different way.

Overall, the best times to visit the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail are during the spring, summer, and fall seasons when the weather is pleasant and the trail is open. It is essential to check for any updates or closures before planning your visit to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Whether you choose to hike among blooming wildflowers, bask in the summer sun, or witness the stunning fall foliage, the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail promises a memorable adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.


1. Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces are available near the trailhead for individuals with disabilities.
2. Accessible Trailhead: The trailhead is equipped with accessible ramps and pathways for wheelchair users.
3. Paved Pathways: The initial section of the trail is paved, providing a smooth surface for wheelchair users.
4. Restroom Facilities: Accessible restrooms are available near the trailhead area.
5. Benches and Rest Areas: Several benches and rest areas along the trail provide opportunities for individuals to take breaks if needed.
6. Wide Trails: The trail is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and allows for easy passing of other hikers.
7. Gradual Slopes: The trail features gradual slopes, making it easier for individuals using wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
8. Clear Signage: The trail is well-marked with clear signage, ensuring individuals can easily navigate the path.
9. Assistance Animals: Service animals are permitted on the trail to assist individuals with disabilities.
10. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas near the trailhead are designed to be accessible for individuals with disabilities.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: Moderate – The trail is moderately challenging, with some steep sections and uneven terrain.
2. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction to navigate the rocky and sometimes slippery trail.
3. Weather Awareness: Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes in temperature, wind, or precipitation.
4. Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
5. Hydration: Carry an adequate amount of water to stay hydrated throughout the hike, especially during hot weather.
6. Snacks and Food: Pack energy-rich snacks or a light meal to keep your energy levels up during the hike.
7. Wildlife Encounter: Be aware of the potential for wildlife encounters and maintain a safe distance if you come across any animals.
8. Trail Etiquette: Respect other hikers by yielding to uphill traffic, keeping noise levels down, and leaving no trace of your visit.
9. Trail Markers: Pay attention to trail markers and signs to avoid getting lost or straying off the designated path.
10. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a basic first aid kit, a whistle, and a fully charged cell phone in case of emergencies.
11. Hiking Buddy: Consider hiking with a partner or in a group for added safety and enjoyment.
12. Time Management: Start your hike early enough to allow sufficient time to complete the trail before darkness falls.
13. Fitness Level: Assess your fitness level and choose a trail that matches your abilities to avoid overexertion or injury.
14. Trail Conditions: Check for recent trail updates or closures before your hike to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
15. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, staying on the trail, and respecting the natural environment.

Conservation Notes

The Drinking Horse Mountain Trail, located near Bozeman, Montana, is considered to have a stable conservation status. The trail is managed by the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving open spaces and maintaining recreational trails in the area. The conservation efforts for this trail focus on protecting the natural habitat, promoting sustainable use, and ensuring the long-term viability of the ecosystem.

The Drinking Horse Mountain Trail is situated within the Bridger Mountain Range, which is known for its diverse wildlife and pristine landscapes. The GVLT actively works to minimize the impact of human activities on the trail and its surroundings. This includes implementing measures to prevent erosion, maintaining proper waste management systems, and educating visitors about responsible outdoor practices.

To further protect the conservation status of the trail, the GVLT collaborates with local authorities and community members to enforce regulations and guidelines. These measures aim to preserve the delicate balance of the ecosystem, safeguarding the native flora and fauna. The trail’s conservation status is regularly monitored and assessed to ensure that any potential threats or issues are promptly addressed, allowing visitors to continue enjoying the natural beauty of the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail for years to come.

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