What you need to know about the COLLEGE M TRAIL.
HIKE THE COLLEGE M TRAIL NEAR DOWNTOWN BOZEMAN
One of my favorite trails of all time is the M Trail just north of Bozeman. It’s a convenient trail with plenty of nature. Even when it’s busy, I feel solitude. It has several routes, each of which can be used for different types of exercise, from a pleasant hike to a strenuous steep trail run. I often hike this trail in the evening to bring positive closure to the end of the day. It’s a great hike for feeling good.
Hike DISTANCE: 1.5 MILES
Stay in downtown Bozeman, close to hiking.
I stayed at the Element Hotel in Bozeman. It’s convenient because it’s located downtown, close to the Bozeman CO-OP for food, Nova Cafe for breakfast, and Blackbird for dinner. It’s a green hotel, with many environmentally-friendly designs in its architecture. You can stay in rooms that look south over Bozeman’s main street toward Hyalite or you can look north toward the Bridger Mountains. We were staying in a northern room on the fifth floor. I saw the on the southern face of the last mountain and I decided to figure out what it was. It’s the M Trail and I thought it would be a good idea to check it out on a free day in town.
STAYING ACTIVE IN TOWN
Saturday was a cheat day, but I wanted to stay active and enjoy my day. I chose to walk just a few hundred feet out the front door of the hotel to the Ridge Downtown, an awesome gym for locals or travelers. It’s low-key and awesome. They have a group exercise room for cycling and other classes. They have weights, spinning bikes, treadmills, and any other machines you need. They also had a stretching room and sauna, both of which I used for about 30 minutes before my hike. On the way back I noticed a Pure Barre shop located in a brand new building across the street from the hotel. There were lots of people headed in for an early morning class.
Pure Barre Bozeman
Ridge athletic gym
Artisan bread and bakery close to the trail.
The Element Hotel has an awesome breakfast but I asked for recommendations for a bakery. Richard at the front desk suggested Wild Crumb, a bakery northeast of the hotel, which is over toward M Trail in a neighborhood of recent remodeling. It’s being remade from industrial area into a haven for arts and restaurants. Wild Crumb was awesome. The line was out the door.
When I got to the glass display case I knew why there were so many people. They were waiting for artisan bread of all kinds and many kinds of pastries, including cream cheese danish, pan au chocolate, croissants, cookies, cinnamon buns. They also served organic coffee and several different sandwiches on baguettes. I had a sandwich with turkey, havarti, pickled onions, sprouts, and dill aoli.
Get some coffee for energy.
I wanted to research the M Trail for a few minutes so I went next door to Treeline Roasters, a great coffee shop where the owner was roasting coffee inside while I drank water and had another espresso. Treeline has a big northern window that looks toward the Bridger Mountains, and the view got me motivated for the hike. I wondered about the history of the M Trail so I used my laptop to research a few items.
History of the M Trail.
Turns out the M was created by students from Montana State University in 1915. It’s a bunch of rocks painted white. It has a couple of routes up the mountain. You can go to the right up the ridge on a steep trail that is less than a mile or you can travel to the left on a more gradual path that lasts 1.5 miles. In recent years, crews have added a few shortcuts through the timber. It’s only about ten minutes from Treeline and Wild Crumb to the parking lot at the base of the M Trail.
Directions to M Trail.
You take North Rouse Avenue north to Bridger Canyon Road. The M Trail is located above Bridger Canyon, where Bridger Creek runs through the Bozeman Fish Technology Center. The road continues northeast up to the Bridger Ski Resort. There is a parking lot on the north side of the road. From the parking lot, the trail looks steep. When you start hiking, you can see south out to the Story Hills and the trailhead for Drinking Horse, another popular day hiking trail.
View of the entire Gallatin Valley.
I took the trail to the left, the easy route. Like I said, today was a cheat day, so I just wanted to get out to see Bozeman. I wanted a quick hike with big benefits. The path is a gradual climb, nothing too strenuous. There were a few people trail running. On another day, I will try it for a quick uphill run.
The trail wanders through some switchbacks through some trees, then opens up with big views of Gallatin Valley. On a ridge, trail crews built a bench with a great panoramic view of Gallatin Mountains, the Madison Range, the Spanish Peaks, and the Tobacco Root Mountains. In the future, I’d like to come out for a sunset view.
Hike because it feels good.
The M Trail is a perfect trail. I can see myself making this hike on a regular basis. It’s the perfect trail for a daily evening hike. I can set a routine for this trail because it has a great view, doesn’t take too much time to drive to, and feels good. The real reason I like to hike is because it helps me think while I exercise. It gets all my thoughts out my mind so I can think clearly about things I want to think about. All the stress goes away. It’s also a good trail to climb after a workout because it’s cardio that doesn’t feel like cardio. After lifting weights or working through a barre session or taking a spinning class, I often want a trail that cools me down gradually. This is it.
Dinner in downtown Bozeman at Blackbird Kitchen.
After the hike I spent the day in town with a new perspective. I was back on a disciplined regimen after a cheat day that was honestly an active, fun day. It was like hitting the reset button, which we all need. For dinner, I went to Blackbird Kitchen because I wanted a good healthy meal to start my workout week correctly. I had roasted chicken, kale salad, and roasted asparagus. I chose iced tea over wine to keep the sulfites out of my diet. Today’s hike was too perfect and I didn’t want to ruin my momentum.
Here are some final thoughts.
While I was waiting for dinner, I wrote some workout goals for the week. I like to plan out each workout session because I find that I will follow a schedule of goals. If I don’t write them down, I won’t finish my goals. Goals help me to have a strong, positive outlook for the week. At the top of my list is to make it back to the M Trail on Tuesday and Thursday for an evening hike. Then, on Saturday, I’m planning for a morning run up to the M. I’ll let you know how it goes because it’s going to be great.
frequently asked questions about the college M trail.
Check out more hikes:
Best hike close to Seattle. An epic hike full of switch backs ascending a beautiful mountain 45 mins outside of Seattle. Around 100000 people hike the trail each year. I've...
Bozeman is an epic place. Just 10 mins outside the city are one of the best hikes, its the College M Trail. You can go to the right up the...
Hike one of the most uber popular hikes on the west coast. Just mins outside from downtown Los Angeles and close to West Hollywood is the 2.7 mile loop. Pro...
Exploring the Best hikes in the USA