From just about any location in Bozeman & Belgrade you can spot the giant, white, collegiate-style “M” posted on the South side of Baldy Mountain in the Bridger range. The “M”, constructed entirely of limestone rocks and boulders, stands for Montana State University. The trail that leads you to the “M” is hands down the most popular hike in Bozeman.
At the trailhead you will see signs for several trail options ranging from medium to hard. The western trail is the easier option and will provide you with some beautiful views of the Gallatin Valley. If you want to take a more direct route the eastern trail is a straight shot up to the “M”.
Take Rouse Avenue north which will eventually turn into Bridger Canyon Road. Once you cross under the freeway, drive for three miles then turn left into the signed trailhead parking lot on the left.
This is a short hike, but it’s steep from start to finish.
3 total miles—it will take about 45 minutes to reach the “M” if you take the easy/long route. There are only two small benches at the top, so there is not a lot of space to relax and take in the views—you will probably only spend 10-15 minutes there.
This route starts at 4910 feet above sea level and ends at 5715 feet.
Stunning views of the valley, but you will be sharing this extremely popular trail with everybody and their dog. The top of the hike can feel cramped and even hectic at times.
This hike can be hot and dry, so everyone should have at least one bottle of water per person.
This is a short hike and food is not necessary.
The trail is well groomed, mostly dirt with small rocks. Unfortunately, there can be dog poo on the trail, so watch your step.
There is little to no shade and only one tiny spring-fed watering hole for your furry friend to grab a drink on this hike. But, if your dog is in good health and enjoys the company of other people and lots of other dogs, he/she will enjoy this short trail.
Well maintained paved road leading all the way to the trailhead parking lot.
Beartooth Publishing's Bozeman Area Map includes this trail in its entirety.
There is a large parking lot at the trailhead, but unless you are there very early or very late in the day, you will probably end up parking on the side of the road or even across the street in the parking lot used for the Drinking Horse Trail.
There is a heavily used vault toilet on the east side of the parking lot.
This trail is not only heavily used by tourists, but it's the locals' unofficial open air gym. Expect a steady flow of traffic on your way up and down.
Because the hike is pretty short and there is only a moderate elevation gain, you don't need to be prepared for changing conditions at the top. You will see lots of jeans and tennis shoes worn on the trail. Don’t forget a cap or sunglasses to protect your eyes.
Tennis Shoes are OK for this one.
In the warmer months you may encounter some flies and a very small amount of mosquitoes later in the evening.
There is very little tree cover on this hike. You're exposed to the sun and wind, plan accordingly.
AT&T and Verizon networks should get reception on this hike.
Lack of trees, water and a constant foot traffic make this a less than desireable camping spot.
The Ridge Trail
The "M" is often what is considered the end of the 22 mile ridge hike. Continue on from the benches at The "M" up to Baldy and all the way to Fairy Lake To Sacagawea Peak.
Continue on another 4 miles and nearly 4,000 feet of elevation and you'll reach the summit of Mt. Baldy.
Bridger Foothills Trail
If you start on the easier path to The "M", about a half mile in you'll have an opportunity to take a left onto the Bridger Foothills Trail. It will intersect most of the drainages on the western slope of the Bridgers, giving you multiple hike configurations.