History Rock Trail: Gallatin Range
History Rock Trail is one of the few places where someone leaving a trace behind is acceptable. Settlers, old timers, and even a scout for George Custer all left their marks on this large outcropping, and it stands as a historical “guest book” of sorts, storing the names and dates of those who have passed along this trail. Located in Bozeman’s busy Hyalite Canyon, History Rock is a short 2.5-mile hike that is a perfect way to stretch your legs. Make sure to bring a camera along this hike– not only is the scenery beautiful, but the soft sandstone on History Rock won’t be along forever. This last reason alone should tell you that you should stop and hike along the quick trail to History Rock.
The History Rock trailhead is well signed on Hyalite Canyon Road, just before the Blackmore Trailhead. Looking at the spacious trailhead parking lot, it’s safe to say that you may pass at least a few hikers along this short section of History Rock Trail. Starting down the well defined and grassy trail, you turn upwards into the forest. The trail stays mostly inside of the forest, and after a short 1.25 miles, your destination abruptly appears, leaving more oblivious hikers to hike further down the trail. Here lies History Rock– the sandstone outcrop that has attracted hundreds of hikers for years.
If you’re planning this hike on a time budget, allow two hours for the hike itself, and at least another half hour to read all of the inscriptions. Ranging back at least from the 1870s, these chiseled inscriptions leave a trace of history behind each inscription. For a fun game, try to find the oldest inscription on the rock. I was able to trace back to the 1930s with just a few minutes of searching. Take plenty of pictures here- this rock erodes quickly over the years, the large grains in the sandstone are easily stripped off by snow, rain, and even harsh wind.
On the topic of erasing the past, Custer National Forest has asked that visitors to History Rock be respectful, and to quote Wendi Urie from the Bozeman Ranger District, “We have not to date made efforts to stop people from adding to it, but we do consider it an archaeological resource and we hope the public respects that and won’t deface it.”. This brings the moral question of whether or not you should leave an inscription once you meet History Rock. Personally, I wouldn’t carve anything onto this record of time, but I’ll also not fault someone for wanting to add their name to a record of the past.
Once you’ve taken dozens of pictures of History Rock, feel free to turn around and hike back the way that you came. Alternatively, you can continue down the trail to meet South Cottonwood Creek. This would make the hike an 11-mile hike but add in the scenery of South Cottonwood Creek Canyon. Regardless of which path you choose back to your vehicle, be reminded of the travelers that used this trail before you, and remember to keep the trail as pristine as it was hundreds of years ago.
Directions to the Trailhead
From Bozeman, drive on S 19th Ave for approximately 6.5 miles. Turn left onto Hyalite Canyon Road, and follow this road to the trailhead, located on the right approximately 8.8 miles down Hyalite Canyon Road.