Elevation: 5059 FT
Twenty miles northeast of Bozeman, is the quaint and quiet town of Wilsall, set in the Shields Valley of the Bridger Mountain Range on land traditionally occupied by the Crow People. The Shields River is one of Montana’s prime trout streams and the Crazy Mountains offer up a hardy helping of outdoor rec. Plus, Bridger Bowl Ski Resort—where the legends of freestyle made their mark—is just 30 minutes down the road.
Wilsall’s a year-round destination for its outdoor recreation alone. In addition to legendary downhill skiing winter warriors come for the Nordic skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling. In the warmer months, hop on the trails for mountain biking, horseback riding and guided backpacking trips. Fishing, golfing and hunting? You’ll find those here, too.
Every June, Wilsall saddles up for annual Wilsall Rodeo, a two-day, small-town rodeo that draws thousands for Northern Rodeo Association sanctioned events and family fun, like a Fireman’s Breakfast and a parade. In August, cowboys and cowgirls from ranches the region over come to compete in the Wilsall Ranch Rodeo, and it’s wildly fun to watch.
Because every good small town has a general store, Wilsall’s does too. Set in the old mercantile building, the Wilsall General Store’s where you can go for local banter (they all know each other here), good food, Montana specialties and Western accessories. You’ll find plenty of Made in Montana items here, as local is Montana’s small-town vibe.
“Wilsall” is a mashup of the names William and Sally, the son and daughter in law of prominent citizen and land owner Walter B. Jordan, who platted the town.
About a mile from Wilsall is the oldest archeological dig in North America—the Anzick Site. Back in the early 1960s, a guy named Bill Roy Bray was out hunting marmots and discovered the bones of a human infant covered in red ocher. Later that same decade a couple of Wilsall locals found more human remains as well as over 100 ocher-covered stones, bones and antler artifacts of the ancient Clovis people. A genome analysis of the human bones supports the theory that American Indians are descendant of humans who migrated from Asia through Siberia, and thrived across North America 13,000 years ago.
Don’t start your adventure without a cup of coffee from Crazy Mountain Momma’s espresso bar and gift shop, and make it a point to grab a sandwich at Val’s Deli. For an unforgettable overnight, stay in a teepee, complete with a fire ring, at Fort Wilsall—a campground located within the Fort’s 15-foot-high barricade walls.
Live Like a Local
Grab a bite to eat at the local bank. That’s right…what was historically the local bank of Wilsall is now the Bank Bar and Vault Restaurant, and you’ll find 1/3-pound burgers made with 100% locally sourced beef from Muddy Creek Ranch, which is literally only 2 miles down the road. (Now that’s fresh.) If you’re a fan of jalapeños, opt for the Wilsall Zinger or the Thunder Jack, and side your burger with a local beer. Take it from Howard R. of Redondo Beach California who said on Yelp “…you need to go to the Bank Bar. Stop reading this. Go to Google maps. Get in your car and drive to Wilsall, Montana. It's simply the best most friendly and awesome bar anywhere.” Howard’s not wrong.