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Gallatin River Canyon: Top Things To Do In Montana

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Gallatin River Canyon, Montana
Gallatin River Canyon, Montana





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Gallatin River Canyon

"A River Runs Through It"

The Gallatin River Canyon is world renowned for its blue ribbon trout waters for fishermen, incredible white water for rafters and kayakers alike, amazing scenery, camping, hiking and hunting.   Many famous river scenes in the Robert Redford movie "A River Runs Through It" was filmed in Gallatin Canyon, which further elevated its fame.  The Gallatin Canyon is also where visitors access the legendary Big Sky Ski Area, where some of the best skiing in the world awaits skiers at Big Sky Resort.  There are also several wonderful campgrounds located throughout the Gallatin River Canyon Area.

Gallatin River Canyon Montana
Many of the river scenes in the movie "A River Runs Through It" was filmed in the Gallatin Canyon.

The Gallatin River originates in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park, and runs northward through the Gallatin Canyon on its 120 mile long journey to the headwaters of the Missouri River near
Gallatin River Canyon MontanaThree Forks Montana.  Here, about 30 miles northwest of Bozeman, the Gallatin River joins up with the Jefferson River and Madison River to form the mighty Missouri River.  


Gateway to Yellowstone
National Park

The Gallatin River Canyon, also known as "Gallatin Canyon", and known by locals as simply "The Canyon", is an extremely scenic stretch of river where U.S. Highway 191 runs from Bozeman, Montana south to where the highway then follows the Gallatin River through this spectacular canyon, and eventually takes its travelers past Big Sky Montana to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park at West Yellowstone, Montana.

Gallatin River Canyon Montana
Highway 191 closely follows the Gallatin River all the way through the scenic Gallatin Canyon.

World Famous White Water
White water kayaker in the Gallatin River Canyon MontanaBecause the Gallatin River Canyon is so narrow, and because of the significant numbers of huge boulders found in certain sections of the Gallatin River, this results in some of the best white water in the Rockies.  

In June, as the snow melts off the high peaks of the Gallatin and Madison Mountain Ranges, the Gallatin River swells and turns into a raging torrent.  

Known as
"The Mad Mile", there is an infamous stretch of river in the Gallatin River Canyon that presents a continuous stretch of Class IV white water that never fails to thrill its challengers.  In addition to rafting, this stretch of the Gallatin River is also perfect for kayakers. There are many other sections of incredible whitewater throughout the Gallatin Canyon that are thoroughly enjoyed by white water enthusiasts.

Kayaker in the Gallatin River Canyon Montana
The Gallatin River Canyon is a dream come true for kayakers.

Gallatin River Canyon white water rafting
If you like white water, you'll love the Gallatin River Canyon.

White water rafting in the Gallatin River Canyon Montana
The Gallatin River Canyon offers some of the best white water in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Gallatin River Canyon Montana
Rafters enjoying a slower stretch of the Gallatin River after enduring "The Mad Mile".

Legendary Fly Fishing
Fy fisherman on the Gallatin River MontanaThe Gallatin River is a world-class blue ribbon trout stream and its waters are legendary in the fly fishing world.

As this gorgeous river winds through the Gallatin Canyon, you will see fly fishermen and women trying their luck.  

And if this was ever a very well kept secret, after the
Robert Redford movie "A River Runs Through It" came out in 1992, the secret was out for the world to discover.  

Many of the famous fly fishing scenes in this popular movie was filmed in the Gallatin River Canyon.  So if you are a fly fishing enthusiast, you really need to experience the Gallatin River Canyon, as it provides exceptional fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout.

Fly fisherman on the Gallatin River Montana
The Gallatin River in Montana is a legendary blue ribbon trout stream.

Fly fishing on the Gallatin River Montana
Fly fisherman enjoying the blue ribbon waters of the Gallatin River Canyon.


Big Sky, Montana
Big Sky MontanaLocated midway down the Gallatin Canyon is Big Sky Montana, where one of the premier ski resorts in the country is located.  

Big Sky Resort boasts the "Biggest Skiing In the United States" as it is 5,800 acres in size and has a vertical drop of 4,350 feet!  

Located midway down the Gallatin Canyon, this amazing ski and summer resort is nestled around the towering Lone Mountain in the Madison Mountain Range, and is very much worth exploring.  

Click Here for more information on Big Sky Montana.


Big Sky Resort, Montana
Big Sky Resort boasts "The Biggest Skiing in the United States" with 5,800 acres of downhill skiing and over a 4,350  foot vertical drop!


Bighorn Sheep Winter Range
Bighorn Sheep along the Gallatin River Bighorn Sheep crossing sign in the Gallatin Canyon
Bighorn Sheep Ram along the Gallatin River.

Near Big Sky Montana, a large number of bighorn sheep migrate out of the surrounding high country of the Madison Mountain Range and Gallatin Mountain Range and winter in the Gallatin Canyon.  During the winter months, bighorn sheep are often seen just off the highway, which travelers must drive slowly and carefully as to not hit one of these amazing animals.


Countless Trailheads
Gallatin Canyon Day HikersThe Gallatin River runs between the Gallatin Mountain Range to its east and the Madison Mountain Range to its west, creating an incredibly scenic, winding and narrow canyon.  

U.S. Highway 191 follows the river as it winds through this narrow canyon, and with this scenic drive comes countless trailheads that take hikers into both the Madison Mountain Range to the west and the Gallatin Mountain Range to the east.

These trailheads are clearly marked, and are convenient entrance points to some absolutely amazing back country experiences.  In fact, some of these trails take you into extremely remote wilderness areas that are seldom seen by humans...

Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area
Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area
Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area as seen from Bozeman, Montana. This amazing area is located just west of the Gallatin River Canyon.

Gallatin Canyon MontanaOne of the most popular back country destinations beyond the Gallatin River Canyon is the Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area.  This magnificent area is a sub-section of the massive three million acre Lee Metcalf Wilderness Complex that is located throughout the Madison Mountain Range.

Located along the northern-most section of the Gallatin Canyon, this incredibly rugged and scenic landscape has a wonderful trail system, and is definitely something to pursue if you're looking for some outstanding overnight backpacking opportunities as well as amazing day hikes.

This 23 mile long trail system takes you through breathtaking scenery that never fails to impress its visitors.  The Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area is nationally famous and well worth your time exploring.


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Location: 

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Montana Highway Map
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Brief History of Gallatin River Canyon
Gallatin River Canyon Montana
Gallatin River Canyon, Montana.

The Gallatin River was named by Meriwether Lewis in July of 1805 during the historic Lewis & Clark Expedition at the headwaters of the Missouri River.  The river was named after Albert Gallatin, who was
Gallatin River Canyon Montanathe U.S. Treasury Secretary at that time.  

The additional two rivers that join with the Gallatin River to form the Missouri are the Jefferson River and Madison River, which were named after President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison during that period.


The Gallatin Canyon was first explored by Native American hunters thousands of years ago, and the first European-Americans to entered this canyon were fur-trappers and gold prospectors in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  

In 1898, a gentleman by the name of Pete Karst homesteaded in the Gallatin Canyon, where his new ranch included an inn for wearing travelers, where he would serve these guests homemade liquor that he proudly made during the prohibition years.  In 1924, he began running a very successful bus route between Gallatin Gateway (a small town just north of Gallatin Canyon),  south to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park at West Yellowstone Montana.  His homestead became known as "Karst Camp", where  he developed the very first tow rope ski hill in the state of Montana.


Drive Slowly and Carefully
Gallatin River Canyon Montana
The Gallatin River Canyon is a gorgeous drive and a gateway to many outdoor adventures... just make sure you drive carefully and slowly along this narrow and winding road.

You may notice all the white crosses along the highway through the Gallatin Canyon.  These white crosses represent where travelers lost their lives during car accidents.  Sadly there are a lot of crosses because this stretch of the road is extremely narrow and has many sharp turns and bends as it follows the river.
Adding to the situation is the heavy amount of snow this canyon receives during the winter.  So the bottom line is this: Take your time, don't rush, and please drive the speed limit.

Gallatin River Canyon Montana
The Gallatin River Canyon offers outstanding outdoor activity opportunities.

Top Things To Do In Montana:  Gallatin River Canyon

Map of Montana, Top Things To Do In Montana




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