- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - When people ask why I love living in Bozeman, the first thing that comes to mind is the community. A close second is access to the outdoors. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

The ability to reach a river or a mountain peak a short distance from town is priceless. There are a lot of talented, special people in this town that could make a go of it just about anywhere. They’re living here because they want to.

When I tell visitors you can reach an alpine trailhead 10 minutes from downtown Bozeman, I’m occasionally met with skepticism. In the case of the Chestnut Mountain Trail, it’s a literal truth.

Located 10 miles east of Bozeman at the Trail Creek exit off Interstate 90, the Chestnut Mountain Trail rises 2,200 feet to the Chestnut Mountain ridge. The trail offers views of Frog Rock and the Bridger Mountains, as well as sweeping vistas of the Gallatin Valley and eastern expanse.

Leonard and Rosie Schuff, of Billings, were at the Chestnut Mountain trailhead when I arrived on a Tuesday morning. The two met at Montana State University where Leonard studied architecture. The couple moved to Billings for work but visit Bozeman frequently.

“We like to head out to Big Sky to mountain bike and we stop here on the way home,” Leonard said. “The scenery is amazing. The first time I rode (Chestnut Mountain), I went up from Sheep Creek to the top. This time, I’ll ride it in reverse. It’s a steep climb in the beginning.”

The Chestnut Mountain trail leads 4.6 miles from the trailhead to the top of Chestnut Mountain. The trail passes through public and private lands. Leonard, 62, said the trail is excellent for mountain biking, but the ridgeline is a bit rocky and technical in spots.

The Chestnut Mountain Trail opened to the public in 2010. The trail permanently conserves 2,055 acres of Schmidt family property in Bozeman Pass. The Schmidt family worked with Gallatin Valley Land Trust, Trust for Public Land and Gallatin National Forest on the project.

A conservation easement protects 1,240 acres of the Schmidt property north of I-90. The remaining 815 acres of property are now public lands. These lands provide access to the Chestnut Mountain Trail, as well as the limestone crags north of I-90 popular with rock climbers.

Rising above the Trail Creek pullout, the Chestnut Mountain Trail gains elevation quickly. A series of switchbacks leads through open conifer forest. Here, the single track is lined with wildflowers.

At 0.8 miles, the trail joins an old logging road and cuts west. By the time the first breathtaking views of Frog Rock appear, the sound of the interstate is a distant memory. To the north, the ridgeline of the Bridger Range rises to the sky.

At 1.2 miles, a spur trail constructed by the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition and Gallatin National Forest provides access to Frog Rock. The limestone bluffs offer numerous rock climbing routes.

At the end of the logging road, the trail switchbacks through forest to the Chestnut Mountain ridgeline.

Derek Ivester hiked to the top of the ridge with his wife and daughter on Tuesday. The ridge allows a grand view of Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley.

“This is our second time up,” Ivester said. “We live on Trail Creek, so this is pretty much our backyard. We hiked up to see what our house looked like from above.”

Ivester, 40, owns and operates Food Affairs, specializing in Italian ice. He’s a regular at local festivals and farmers markets around southwest Montana.

After reaching the ridge, Ivester decided to run back down the Chestnut Mountain Trail.

“This place,” Ivester said, “it just continues to amaze me.”

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The original story can be found on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s website: https://bit.ly/1kLN9Ju

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Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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