The Perks of Bozeman Parks

By Nick Thomas | June 5th, 2024

‘Take a Hike! goes to Montana

Bozeman parks sculpture nicely frames distant mountains - Photo Nick Thomas

Writer Nick Thomas takes on a new series of articles specifically for the seasoned Boomer. Called “Take a Hike!” Thomas’s column will explore a specific short hike (or long walk!) he has taken. Traveling Boomers can learn beautiful new venues for enjoying the outdoors.

As a longtime community volunteer and twice elected to a City Commission seat, Mary Vant Hull (1926-2017) would be thrilled to know that her adopted hometown of Bozeman, Montana, still highly values the city parks and trails she helped develop and improve after moving there in the early 1960s.

With more than 50 miles of trails spread throughout some 40 public parks today, seniors visiting the seat of Gallatin County will find plenty of opportunity to stretch their legs along the meandering pathways throughout the park system. While many are flat and paved, it’s worth attempting some of the slightly more ambitious trails, such as Peets Hill.

Located in Burke Park, the walk to Peets Hill is more challenging due to the slight elevation but worth tackling the gravelly pathways since it offers a dazzling panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges for which Bozeman is famous. I observed many seniors (couples and singles) trekking the paths with no difficulty.

Some seniors walk the trails in Bozeman parks - Photo Nick Thomas
Some seniors walk the trails in Bozeman parks – Photo Nick Thomas

But for an easy initial walk, begin at Lindley Park, located behind the city library on East Main Street. Established in the 1920s, it’s one of the city’s oldest parks. In addition to walkers of all ages, expect to share the paths with joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, and off-leash dogs (permitted in some areas). During my visit, all mingled without any issues while enjoying the fresh Bozeman spring air.

Also behind the library is the Bozeman Sculpture Park featuring dozens of contemporary outdoor artistic works to admire – or bewilder you! – as you stroll by. While some are permanent park fixtures, others are for sale, such as Steve Connell’s massive bright yellow steel structure entitled “Cartoon,” listed for $28,000.

And if your pockets are deeper, Jessica Bodner’s stunning “Vessel in Red” is perched atop Peets Hill and available for $47,000. Comprising a mass of curved red geometric metal filaments, perhaps a generous donor will purchase the work and let it remain in its current location where, from the right viewing angle, it’s perfectly poised to frame the distant mountain range.

Between Lindley and Burke Parks is the 73-acre Sunset Hills Cemetery, which the city calls a “virtual arboretum of stately pine, fir, spruce, ash, maple, cedar, and various ornamental trees” and worth a respectful stroll through. It’s the resting home to over 16,000 souls, including American television newscaster “Chet” Huntley, whom many seniors will remember as a former NBC evening news co-anchor. John Bozeman, a pioneer of the American West and for whom the city is named, is also buried there.

After tackling the hillier paths, welcoming wooden benches thoughtfully placed along the way provide a perfect spot to relax, enjoy the view and, if needed, catch your breath. Riveted into one is a small unobtrusive metal plaque inscribed, “Happiness comes to those who love parks,” a quote attributed to Mary Vant Hull. This modest acknowledgment to the former advocate for the Bozeman parks system is beautifully appropriate for someone who championed the recreational and social benefits of these essential public spaces that foster peace of mind, good health, and a connection with nature for all who briefly walk their paths.

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama and has written features, columns, and interviews for many newspapers and magazines. His “Take a Hike!” column describes short trails, hikes, and walks from around the country that seniors might enjoy while traveling. His website is

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