South Cottonwood Trail

facebook twitter email Print This

South Cottonwood Trail


Length: 5 to 21 miles (round-trip)

Duration: 1.5 hours to all day

Difficulty: Easy to difficult

Elevation Gain: 500 feet (to the most popular turnaround)

Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, trail running, backpacking

Crowds: Heavy traffic

Located southwest of Bozeman, this trail follows South Cottonwood Creek through a dense old-growth forest with lush riparian areas and meadows, criss-crossing the creek along the way. This well-maintained path is great for hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners. You gain fewer than 500 feet in elevation from the trailhead to the most popular turnaround point at the third bridge. The path continues across two more bridges, eventually connecting to Hyalite Canyon via the History Rock trail at 6 miles and the Mount Blackmore trail at 8 miles, offering short, full-day, or overnight adventures. Carry bear spray. 

Seasonal Conditions
South Cottonwood is a great trail on a hot day, as the frigid creek provides ongoing replenishment for hot humans and dogs alike. It's especially ideal for kids and dogs, thanks to dense forest. Colorful wildflowers light up South Cottonwood during spring and summer. In the winter, the trail can get wet; make sure you've got waterproof boots after a snowy tempest.

More Fun
Choose an out-and-back at whatever distance, or drop a vehicle at Hyalite — after ascending 1,000 feet via an expedition from Mount Blackmore trail for 6 miles, or History Rock trail for 10 miles — for a point-to-point hike or ride. Or, make an overnight trip of it and drop your vehicle at the cushy Hood Creek Campground near Hyalite.

Directions & Map
Head south on S. 19th toward Hyalite to the intersection with Cottonwood Rd. Turn left and wind through a big S turn before taking another left on Cottonwood Canyon Rd. From there, it's approximately 2 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.

Robert Stone's South Cottonwood Map

Map courtesy of Robert Stone's Day Hikes Around Bozeman, Montana.

© 2000-2017 Outside Media Group, LLC
Powered by BitForge