Although the Summer solstice won't take place for a couple of more weeks, the Summer tourist season in southwest Montana has begun.
The past weeks, I have been out and about, hiking and fly fishing within a couple of hours drive of Bozeman, my home base. I have met quite a few tourists who have got an early jump on their vacations by fishing and hiking in southwest Montana...and, why not?...Montana is a great place to start the Summer...even if it is still, technically, Spring.
If your in the area (in or around Bozeman) during the early part of June, I can suggest a few day trips that will keep the entire family entertained.
First, for the fisherman in the group, I would definitely suggest taking the family into Yellowstone National Park. The park's fishing season began on Memorial Day weekend...perfect timing to avoid the snow melt occurring on most of the major rivers in the area. The Gallatin River may be 'blown out'; but, you can be assured that the fishing in The Park will be great!
Within The Park, the Madison, the Gibbon, and the Firehole rivers will be in perfect shape. Personally, I prefer the Firehole, at this time of year; and, it's only a stones throw from the Old Faithful complex, where other family members, who do not want to fish, can explore the geyser basins. Use the Montana Treasures’ Yellowstone National Park Explore page to get a handle on what to do and see in the area.
Old Faithful Inn
Another day trip (within a couple of hours drive from Bozeman) is Dillon, Montana. In this area, plan on fishing the Beaverhead River, which will be clear this time of year…
and, make some time for additional tourist fun in one of the nearby ghost towns, such as Bannack, just a half hour drive from Dillon.
Bannack is filled with historic buildings from an old gold mining town established in 1862. Discover how settlers, miners, and outlaws lived over 150 years ago.
Bannack State Park
Bannack has a very nice campground; so, it is conceivable that you would want to stay the night. You could then make your way back to Bozeman on some very interesting backroads…including stops in two more historic Montana ghost towns.
Nevada City and Virginia City are just a short drive east from Dillon, Montana. I highly suggest that you make stops in both places to take in the ambiance of these authentic western ghost towns.
Nevada City and Virginia City
Just over the hill from Virginia City is Ennis, Montana; and, any good fisherman knows that Ennis is the center of the fly fishing universe. So, reserve some time to fish the Madison, as well.
From Ennis, there are several viable options to pursue in the quest to fish the Madison River in Montana.
The Valley Garden fishing access site is only minutes away from Ennis. The main river main be high due to snow melt; but, Valley Gardens has several ‘back channels’ or ‘braids’ that still can be fished with waders on, at this time of year.
If you don’t mind driving back to Bozeman on a somewhat longer route (back through Gallatin Canyon), then try fishing the upper reaches of the Madison River above the ‘West Fork.’ The river in this area will be free of snow melt and easier to navigate with waders. Ghost Village and Raynolds Bridge are two popular spots.
The quicker route back to Bozeman from Ennis will be through Norris, Montana, following the ‘Lower’ Madison back up through its canyon. The lower Madison will more than likely be in good fishing shape; but, you will probably run into the 'bikini hatch.’…a local expression meaning that you will be sharing the river with many inner tube flotillas.
Of course, all of the Madison River destinations described here can be researched on the Montana Treasures’ Madison River Explore page.
It's clear that despite reports that all southwest Montana rivers are blown out with snow melt in late Spring, there are still plenty of hidden fishing, hiking, and tourist gems to find. Where there is a will, there is a way. Enjoy your Summer, everyone!
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