Hyalite sees increase in winter visitor use, tips for recreationists
From Custer Gallatin National Forest
Visitation to Hyalite Canyon increased dramatically this last year, and the trend continues into the winter. Located just south of Bozeman, Hyalite Canyon is one of the most popular recreation destinations in Montana. Beautiful scenery, easy driving access and a multitude of year-round recreational opportunities draw crowds during all seasons. With increased growth in Gallatin Valley and the heightened interest in recreation during COVID-19, visitation numbers have skyrocketed in Hyalite Canyon.
The Bozeman Ranger District has tracked visitation in the canyon for a number of years through partnership with Friends of Hyalite, a local non-profit dedicated to stewardship and access to year-round recreation in Hyalite. Friends of Hyalite manages a traffic counter which provides data for understanding use patterns in the drainage. This last year, those counts showed overall summer monthly visitation increasing by up to 20% with an average of 29,500 vehicles traveling into Hyalite each month. The winter statistics to date are even more impressive. In December 2020, the number of vehicles traveling into Hyalite increased by 32% from the previous December. In January 2021, vehicle traffic jumped 67% from January 2020, with a count of 17,297 vehicles traveling into the canyon.
With such a surge in winter visitation, it is extremely important to keep a few things in mind when enjoying a trip to Hyalite Canyon. Through a partnership with the Bozeman Ranger District, Friends of Hyalite and Gallatin County, the Hyalite Road is intermittently plowed and visitors should always expect and be prepared for challenging winter driving conditions. Trailheads and parking pull-outs are often full beyond capacity; visitors are asked to remember that parking in the roadway creates unsafe conditions for everyone. Additionally, camping overnight at trailheads or pullouts in Hyalite is prohibited year-round for resource protections; in the winter this also aids snowplows in maintaining open parking while protecting you and your vehicle. Finally, it is important to remember to take care of our backyard treasure and watershed. Please pack out all trash, pick up after dogs and have campfires in designated firepits only. Do not burn pallets, as the nails are extremely difficult to remove and they often damage tires.
Much of this information applies not only to Hyalite, but across the Custer Gallatin. Throughout winter, public access points and parking areas are limited. Competition for available parking can lead to overflow situations with vehicles parked in roadways and in the way of traffic and working snowplows. If parking areas are full and no options for safe parking exist, visitors should move to another location. If you are crossing private property through a public easement, please respect the private landowners. Keep dogs on leashes, pick up garbage and don’t block driveways.