what to see in bozeman

A two-for-one hiking adventure leads first to the base of Pine Creek Falls and then on to the glistening waters of Pine Creek Lake. (Photo: Getty Images)

Insta-Inspired Travel

How to Capture the Epic Scenery and Downtown Charms of Bozeman, Montana

From the raging Gallatin River to towering Baldy Mountain, Bozeman, Montana’s spectacular outdoor scenery makes it a mecca for adventurers looking to explore outside. And with Yellowstone National Park just 90 minutes away, Bozeman’s the perfect basecamp for an adventure — and offers so much more than expected.

While you’ll easily get caught up in natural grandeur that consistently goes beyond expectations, don’t miss the many charms of Bozeman, like wild huckleberries growing on the trail, wildflowers in bloom and distant animals ambling amid the wild.

Beyond its scenery, Bozeman is a destination on the rise — constantly exceeding the expected for travelers. Known for its vibrant economy and well-educated people, it’s a small town that’s fast growing into a tech-savvy city.

Influencer and photographer Justin Kauffman, who hails from Whitefish, Montana, visited SpringHill Suites Bozeman and spent time capturing what makes Bozeman paradise for outdoor lovers.

Downtown Bozeman

Called “the best downtown in the Northwest,” Bozeman’s retail core is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, breweries, art galleries and shops that mix Western charm and contemporary cool. Come for Music on Main or the farmers market in summer months and explore this bustling city center on foot.

Vibrant restaurants and bars rival big cities but with a laid-back vibe that makes everyone feel welcome to hang their hats and stay awhile.

Instagram tip: Capture turn-of-the-century buildings in the Main Street Historic District that harken back to Bozeman’s Wild West roots. The Hotel Baxter building, a landmark beauty built in 1929, features art deco design and an Instagram-ready lit sign atop it.

Head across the street and snap pictures of this seven-story stunner for an “only in Bozeman” backdrop.

Drinking Horse Mountain

Find 360-degree views of Bozeman, the Bridger mountain range, and Gallatin Valley on a quick, one-hour hike to the top of Drinking Horse Mountain. Located in Bridger Canyon, just beyond downtown Bozeman, the 2.4-mile trail follows a creek and leads to a trail entrance archway before ascending through wildflowers and balsamroot.

Choose from a steeper, shaded path or a quicker, sun-exposed one that all end atop the mountain. Chill at the summit and look out on rolling farmlands, ranch homes and far-off mountain views.

Instagram tip: The best time to hike Drinking Horse is at sunrise or sunset, when you can capture the image naturally and use #nofilter so people know it’s the real deal. But don’t cheat! “I make sure not to use a filter on these images so people believe me and know I’m not lying,” says Justin.

To give your peak pics extra oomph, he recommends Instagram’s clarity or sharpening sliders to enhance the detail and focus. Especially when you’re so high up that little details like ranch homes and animals below can get lost!

Palisade Falls

what to see in bozeman
Capture the great outdoors. (Photo: Getty Images)

Columnar basalt astride this 80-foot waterfall makes it one of Bozeman’s best quick hikes. At just 1.2 miles round trip, the trail is mostly paved, so anyone can reach the rushing waters. Walk through spruce and red fir forest on the slightly uphill trail to see the falls and hexagonal columns, a product of ancient flowing lava.

Instagram tip: At the waterfall, “use the warmth slider to create a warmer or cooler image depending on what the scene looks like,” says Justin. This technique can dramatically change the feel of an image and make it look more cohesive in your feed.

Horsetail Falls

Don’t mind straying from the path? The Horsetail Falls hike is for you. This timbered trail is far less busy than Palisade Falls but requires extra effort (and some off-trail scrambling) to reach the cascades.

Instagram tip: Draw attention to the waterfall by adding a small vignette around the photo in Instagram. Don’t overdo it, but use the feature to highlight this element and draw focus to it. And if the scene gets a little overexposed, Justin recommends tapping the hot spots to lower the exposure and improve the image.

Lava Lake

what to see in bozeman
Lava Lake is a must see. (Photo: Getty Images)

Follow Cascade Creek through the forest on a rugged, rocky hike past cascading falls to this lake surrounded by evergreen forest, bald mountains and towering rock cliff walls.

It requires about three miles of hiking and 1,600 feet of elevation gain to reach this stunner, so if you’re doin’ it for the ‘gram, be ready to put in some hiking effort. The lake is bear-y beautiful — meaning you’ll want to bring bear spray along in case you encounter any four-legged friends.

Instagram tip: Use the Color element of Instagram to develop a signature style to your account. “If you frequently add certain colors to the highlights or shadows of an image, it will help make your style and aesthetic more iconic,” says Justin.

Try this technique with your Lava Lake images to make them stand out from others of the same location.

Pine Creek Lake

This two-for-one hiking adventure leads first to the base of Pine Creek Falls and then on to the glistening waters of Pine Creek Lake. The trail twists through the forest before reaching the falls (about a mile in) then gets more strenuous as it steepens.

You’ll pass other waterfalls and bitty lakes before reaching the granddaddy: Pine Creek Lake. Set in a glacial cirque below Black Mountain, the hike is worthwhile if you don’t mind the 3,000-foot climb and 10-mile round-trip trek.

Instagram tip: Give the lake’s brilliant blue water extra pop with Instagram’s built-in filters. Justin recommends the Juno or Clarendon options for a quick hue boost.

Want to showcase the long hike to Pine Creek Lake in a hurry? Justin uses Instagram’s Hyperlapse to compress time and share a long journey faster. Add Boomerangs, photos and other video clips to your story to engage viewers and take them along for the ride.