Trail Review: Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT


Looking out over the land below Drinking Horse Mountain outside of Bozeman, MT.

A few days after I climbed Sacagawea Peak, and one week after I raced the Bangtail Divide 38K, I hiked up Drinking Horse Mountain.  My middle daughter having seen her two older brothers hike up Sacagawea earlier in the week wanted to test her mettle on a mountain while we were still in Bozeman.  So, I did some research and narrowed the hikes down to the Montana State University "M" which is across from Drinking Horse Mountain but has less shade, is shorter, and steeper, and Drinking Horse Mountain itself.  According to one website, the trails on Drinking Horse Mountain were developed as an alternative to hiking the "M," because that trail can tend to get overcrowded at times.  Many people now use the Drinking Horse Mountain trail as a great lunchtime hike/trailrun as it is just around 2-2.4 miles long for the loop including the piece that one takes to get to the trail through the Bozeman Fish Technology Center from the trailhead parking lot.


Looking down on the trail we have already come up so far as we ascend Drinking Horse Mountain.

The view to the North East as we get closer to the top of Drinking Horse Mountain.




Towards the top, across from the stone wall in the previous picture are some small stick shelters someone has made.

The trails does gain close to 700 feet or so of elevation in just over a mile.  We stopped a few times, and once a couple of the kids sat on a bench situated along the path with a great view of the surrounding area.  

Towards the top as you can see in the picture above, someone has made some stick shelters.  Just past these and at what appeared to be the very top, is a picnic table.  This section of the trail is a little spur off of the main loop.  

This picnic table seems to mark the high point or peak of Drinking Horse Mountain.

At the beginning, when we came to the bottom of the loop to start climbing after going through the fish hatchery trail, we went right as supposedly this path is a little less steep than the trail to the left. However, that did mean we took that steeper trail down, and it did include one fall for the youngest of the kids I had with me.  But he recovered, and we continued!


Heading back down and taking pictures!

The trail down was a bit steeper, rockier, and had several switchbacks.

Just after the "official" Drinking Horse Mountain trail ends, there is a pretty neat bridge at the fish center to cross as you head back to the parking lot.

A gentle stream flows through the fish hatchery that you take to get to and from the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail.

A view of the MSU "M" from across the road at Drinking Horse Mountain.

Another view of the "M."  The "M" trail also marks the end of the famous Bridger Ridge Run race through the Bridger Mountains which starts just below Sacagawea Peak.

The map and guide we have which included the trail for Drinking Horse Mountain said it was 2 miles out and back, with an elevation gain of 680ft and should take about 60-90 minutes.  My GPS watch ended up with 2.32

miles and with 3 younger kids, we finished in just over an hour.  (This included walking through the fish center trail to access the Drinking Horse Mountain Trail.  I don't remember the total elevation gain, but I'd guess it was right around 700ft +/-.)

This was a great, short hike/run and though I had to push the kids at times, they did well overall.  If you go, just make sure to take a water bottle along to keep hydrated.