Gallatin River Canyon in Montana

Gallatin Canyon


The Gallatin River, in beautiful southwestern Montana, is an outdoor recreation oasis and renowned world-class trout stream, flowing for more than 100 miles from Yellowstone Park to the Missouri River.

  • Anglers catch world-class rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout with dry fly, terrestrials, small wets and nymphs in the Gallatin River.
  • Accessed off the Lava Lake Trailhead, popular Gallatin Riverside Trail is a fairly moderate path that hugs the eastern side of the Gallatin for about 5 and a half miles.

Overview

Gallatin River Canyon is one reason Montana is known for being “the last best place” and for those who can’t enjoy it in person, the Academy-Award winning feature film “A River Runs Through It,” shows the Gallatin River and Canyon in all its mesmerizing, natural glory. Fly fishers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts come here frequently from Bozeman and surrounding areas to enjoy all the Gallatin has to offer.

Location

From Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, the Gallatin River flows into Gallatin National Forest to merge with the Jefferson and Madison Rivers about 30 miles northwest of Bozeman, Montana, and continues through cropland before it finally joins the Missouri River.

Activities

Fly Fishing
Anglers catch world-class rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout with dry fly, terrestrials, small wets and nymphs in the Gallatin River. Be advised float fishing is only allowed from East Gallatin River down to Logan Bridge or near the Missouri Headwaters.

Rafting and Kayaking
Concerning the best sections to float, the Gallatin River varies as it flows, becoming quite rocky as it nears Big Sky. The 13-mile section between Greek Creek and Spanish Creek along the Gallatin are Class 2 to 4 rapids. Wetsuits are recommended in the spring due to high water and hypothermic temperatures. The water level drops in the summer as the temperature rises.

Wildlife Viewing
Watch for bighorn sheep, black bears, elk, mule deer, moose, and eagles.

Photography
Stunning scenery is everywhere in Gallatin River Canyon. Capture shots of lush meadows near the Gallatin’s upper section, or the richly forested canyon along the middle, followed by the lower portion running through a broad valley.

Camping
Campers in Gallatin River Canyon can sleep under stars and access pit toilets (handicapped accessible), large picnic tables, fire rings with firewood (for purchase), garbage service and drinking water from hand pumps or pressurized systems at the following campgrounds: Greek Creek, Swan Creek, Moose Flat and Red Cliff. No electric hookups are available.

Hiking and Mountain Biking
It doesn’t get much better for hikers and bikers than spending time in Gallatin River Canyon. Several paths are available throughout the Canyon including:

  • Gallatin Riverside Trail
    Accessed off the Lava Lake Trailhead, this popular trail is a fairly moderate path that hugs the eastern side of the Gallatin for about 5 and a half miles.
  • Big Horn Pass Trail
    Follows the Upper Gallatin River through a meadow for approximately 12 moderately strenuous miles.

Shopping
Businesses off US HWY 1-91 provide a range of dining options, white water rafting, mountain bike rentals and guides, horseback rides and cookouts, and Montana-made gifts and basic necessities.

More Information

For more information contact the Bozeman Ranger District at (406) 522-2520.


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Other Resources
  • Canyon Village
    Visit Canyon Village, on the rim of Yellowstone's colorful canyon area.
  • Gallatin Forest
    Montana's Gallatin National Forest offers some the state's finest recreational opportunities.
  • The Montana Watercourse
    The Montana Watercourse is an educational program that encourages responsible decision making and stewardship while dealing with water rights and conservation.