Travel & Destinations

Take a Hike: The Perks of Bozeman Parks, Montana

Walking Adventures by Nick Thomas

As a longtime community volunteer and twice elected to a City Commission seat, Mary Vant Hull (1926-2017) would be thrilled to know that her adopted hometown of Bozeman, Montana, still highly values the city parks and trails she helped develop and improve after moving there in the early 1960s.

With more than 50 miles of trails spread throughout some 40 public parks today, seniors visiting the seat of Gallatin County will find plenty of opportunity to stretch their legs along the meandering pathways throughout the park system. While many are flat and paved, attempting some slightly more ambitious trails, such as Peets Hill, is worth a try.

Located in Burke Park, the walk to Peets Hill is more challenging due to the slight elevation. However, the gravelly pathways are worth tackling since they offer a dazzling panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges for which Bozeman is famous. I observed many older couples and singles trekking the paths without difficulty.

For an easy initial walk, begin at Lindley Park, located behind the city library on East Main Street. Established in the 1920s, it’s one of the city’s oldest parks. In addition to walkers of all ages, expect to share the paths with joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, and off-leash dogs (permitted in some areas). During my visit, all mingled without issues while enjoying the fresh Bozeman spring air.

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“Cartoon,” sculpture in the Bozeman Sculpture Park.

Also behind the library is the Bozeman Sculpture Park, featuring dozens of contemporary outdoor artistic works to admire – or bewilder you! – as you stroll by. While some are permanent park fixtures, others are for sale, such as Steve Connell’s massive bright yellow steel structure, “Cartoon,” which has a modest price of $28,000.

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Vessel in Red sculpture sits atop Peets Hill, framing the distant mountains. | Photo by Nick Thomas

If your pockets are deeper, Jessica Bodner’s stunning “Vessel in Red” is perched atop Peets Hill and available for $47,000. Comprising a mass of curved red geometric metal filaments, a generous donor may purchase the work and let it remain in its current location, perfectly framing the distant mountain range from the right viewing angle.

Between Lindley and Burke Parks is the 73-acre Sunset Hills Cemetery. The city calls this a “virtual arboretum of stately pine, fir, spruce, ash, maple, cedar, and various ornamental trees” worth a respectful stroll. It’s the resting home to over 16,000 souls, including American television newscaster “Chet” Huntley, whom many will remember as a former NBC evening news co-anchor. John Bozeman, a pioneer of the American West and the city’s namesake, is also buried there.

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Sit a spell at one of the benches along the hillier paths. | Photo by Nick Thomas

After tackling the hillier paths, welcoming wooden benches thoughtfully placed along the way provide a perfect spot to relax, enjoy the view, and, if needed, catch your breath. Riveted into one bench is a small, unobtrusive metal plaque inscribed, “Happiness comes to those who love parks,” a quote attributed to Mary Vant Hull.

This modest acknowledgment to the former advocate for the Bozeman parks system is beautifully appropriate for someone who championed the recreational and social benefits of these essential public spaces that foster peace of mind, good health, and a connection with nature for all who briefly walk their paths.


Nick Thomas

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, and has written features, columns, and interviews for numerous newspapers and magazines. See

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