by Emily Coombs
on Sunday, November 21st, 2021 at 1:28pm.
For the past several years, Bozeman, Montana, was named the country’s fastest-growing micropolitan area. The 2020 Census officially pushed the population into a metropolitan, with 53,293 residents. Thirty years ago, that number was around 23,000. Today, what was once a small, agricultural college town is now one of the most sought-after cities in the nation.
It’s easy to understand why. Surrounded by four mountain ranges and just 90 minutes from Yellowstone National Park, the outdoor recreation is mind-boggling. Bridger Bowl Ski Area and Crosscut Mountain Sports Centers are less than a half-hour drive up the beautiful Bridger Canyon. Big Sky Resort is an hour’s drive through Gallatin Canyon, where A River Runs Through It was filmed. The Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers are all within an hour’s drive, and Hyalite Recreation Area is a short 16 miles from downtown.
Montana State University reached its second-highest enrollment this year with 16,841 students. They offer Baccalaureate degrees in sixty fields, graduate degrees in twelve areas, master’s in sixty-eight fields, and thirty-five Doctoral degrees. In addition, Gallatin College, a subsidiary, offers 16 associate and certification programs, plus several online degrees and certifications.
A growing number of tech companies are relocating to Bozeman, and with the quality of air service, this trend is expected to continue. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport now has 32 non-stop flights to major cities across the United States.
The dining in Bozeman is not what you might expect from what was once an agricultural hub. You can still get a great steak, and most likely, it will have been raised locally, but the options run the gamut for international fare. Chefs from around the world have made Bozeman their home, and the dining options reflect it. Coffee lovers will find thirteen different shops on and around Main Street, and the number of breweries, distilleries, and specialty drinks like cider and meade continues to grow.
The school system, both public and private, continues to grow with the population. There are two high schools, Bozeman, and Gallatin High, plus Bridger Charter Academy. Eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and eighteen private schools.
The number of dogs in Bozeman is notable. (At times, you may find more canines than people at local social outings.) The Main Street to the Mountains Trail System is a vast network of trails both in and outside of town that are great places to explore with your furry friends. Keep in mind that Bozeman has substantial leash laws meant to protect both your pet and other people. However, there are several off-leash parks; you can find a list of them here.
The list of Bozeman’s desirable attributes is lengthy, but there are specific challenges that come along with the growth we’re experiencing. Wages are lower, and housing costs are higher than the national average. The median home price is going up, and inventory is down, leading to bidding wars. The Gallatin Association of Realtors reported in September 2021, the median price of single-family homes increased by 24.4% to $690,000 and averaged less than three weeks on the market. Townhouse and condominium listings jumped by 50% from last September, and the median sales price rose 42.9% to $466,000. This means you need to know what you are looking for and be ready to act when you find it. If you don’t mind a short commute, it’s worth considering outlying areas such as Belgrade, Livingston, and Three Forks.
Another critical thing to consider if you are thinking of moving to Bozeman is the weather. Often, people visit during the summer months or for a short winter vacation and fall in love. (It’s easy to do!) The reality is winter can come as early as October and stay as late as May. It’s a long winter, and even though it is generally sunny, it’s cold. Be prepared for plenty of layers and lots of snow and ice removal.