Despite what some of the locals say, Bozeman has weathered the recent flood of urban rusticators remarkably well. The modest settlement etched into a broad valley beneath the Gallatin Mountains, one hour north of Yellowstone National Park, has ballooned 27 percent since 2000—without sacrificing its self-sufficient, small-town past (or resorting to gunslinger reenactments). That’s why Jay Allen, 42, left his job as a financial analyst in Chicago and moved here a few years ago. He wanted a safe place where his kids could still be exposed to some culture, and he and his wife to a good meal. It didn’t hurt that the cost of living is about 5 percent cheaper than in Chicago.
In Bozeman, the culture comes courtesy of Montana State University, and the public school system is one of the best in the state. As for the outdoor amenities: “We’ve got so many things here that we didn’t have in Chicago,” Allen says. “If I wanted some decent mountain biking, it was an hour and 15 minutes away in Wisconsin.” Now if Allen walks out of the Northern Lights Trading Company, an outdoors store he purchased in 2008, he’ll step on a bike path. From there he can ride a short way to the 1.8-million-acre Gallatin National Forest, where 2,200 miles of biking and hiking paths connect the Gallatin, Beartooth, Bridger, and Madison ranges. (Make friends at Bangtail Bikes for intel on the best singletrack; bangtailbikes.com.) The Big Sky Ski Resort is 40 miles south; the less expensive Bridger Bowl Ski Area, just 15 miles north. And while much has changed in the Gallatin Valley, at least one tradition remains: family camping trips to Yellowstone on warm-weather weekends.
$400,000 buys: A four-bedroom log cabin on 20 acres.
Job market: Bozeman’s new arrivals have brought along a handful of environmental nonprofits and other white-collar companies.
The local lifestyle: Take your kids to see the world’s biggest T. rex skull at the Museum of the Rockies, on MSU’s downtown campus.
BY THE NUMBERS:
8: The city’s public school rating (out of ten)—one of the state’s highest
1: Score on the violent crime index (the lowest possible)
8: Art and science museums within city limits
1.8: Acres of surrounding National parkland (in millions)
Exceptionally low crime rate? Check. World-class university? Check. Hiking, biking,skiing, paddling, fishing, kiteboarding, rock climbing, and even Nordic skating all nearby? Bonus. Burlington sits beneath the Green Mountains and across Lake Champlain from the Adirondacks, only two hours from the museums, theaters, and French restaurants of Montreal and three hours from Boston. And this being Vermont, public school lunches consist mostly of produce grown on 11 local farms.
Subtract the microbrew-swilling Colorado State rowdies and you’ve got The Truman Show set come to life. There are the tidy streets lined by shops and gingerbread Victorian homes in Old Town (priced at $251,000 on average), the 44 manicured city parks, the 1.5 million acres of nearby national forest, and whitewater on the Cache la Poudre River. Not to mention the lack of violent crime. No wonder so many corporations have set up shop here at 4,984 feet.