By Ersin Ozer
The covered front deck on the Trail Creek Cabin is the best spot I’ve played cards all year.
Friends and I backpacked the two miles into the Forest Service cabin last weekend, which sits in the northern Gallatin Range, southeast of Bozeman. As we relaxed on the deck on Saturday evening, taking in the views of the surrounding Gallatin and Absaroka mountain ranges, elk and deer traversed the large meadow below us.
The cabin sits where the Bozeman Ranger District built its first ranger station in 1906. The current building replaced that structure in 1924, and originally acted as a guard station to house forest service rangers and crews traveling the mining route between Bear Canyon and Paradise Valley.
Set at 6,223 feet, the one-room cabin is used today as a four-season base camp for hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, skiers and fishermen. It has four beds, a wood-burning stove, an outdoor fire pit, a livestock corral, propane lanterns, splitting mauls, shovels and plenty of firewood.
Take the Trail Creek exit off of I-90, east of Bozeman. Drive eight miles south on Trail Creek Road, turn onto Newman Road, and drive one mile to the trailhead. The two-mile hike is mellow, but you can also access the cabin with an ATV or with snowmobiles in the winter.
We booked the Trail Creek Cabin through recreation.gov for $35 a night. That site has more information on Trail Creek and other forest service cabins, including availability, locations and access.