Situated at the mouth of Bridger Canyon, the M trail has been a local favorite since 1915.
The letter “M” was originally placed on the Bridger’s by Montana State University back in 1915, and has become an iconic, must-do for new Bozeman residents, MSU students, and visitors.
As one of the heavier trafficked trails in town, the M is located just 10 minutes from downtown Bozeman, and its easy access is great for joggers, hikers, and people looking to enjoy a great sunset. For your safety and that of others, I don’t recommend biking this trail. (BUT there is a paved trail that runs from Story Mill Community Park to the M trailhead that is great for biking.)
Once you get to the trailhead, there are two routes to the M, and it can be completed as a full-loop depending on your overall desired hiking experience. It’s about a mile and a half total, and the duration can vary from 30 minutes to a 1.5 hour. (Unless you bring lunch for a picnic at the top!)
Since the trail receives direct sun from the west, it typically stays drier in early spring and late fall/winter than other local trails. It’s almost an all-year trail.
As someone who loves hikes, but also enjoys stopping for the view on the way up (also called a “breather”), I take the longer, but less steep trail up and back down. There is a sign at the trailhead that makes which direction is steep or less steep.
As you climb, you’ll see your view improve until you get a full breath-taking view of the entire Gallatin Valley. Also, if you get to the M and decide you’re up for more hiking, it’s a part of a larger trail system. For example, you can continue on past the M on the Bridger Ridge Trail which will first take you to Baldy Mountain which is 4 miles up, or continue on to the far end of the Bridger’s to Hardscrabble Peak and Fairy Lake for a total of 18 miles.
I recommend checking out the All Trails app for a full description of the trails that connect to the College M route, or grab Day Hikes Around Bozeman by Robert Stone. (The book can be found online or in our local bookstores.)