BOZEMAN, Mont. – A relaxing drive through one of the most popular recreational National Forest corridors in Montana can take a quick turn for the worse when you venture past Hyalite Reservoir’s dam. Upper Hyalite Canyon Road in Bozeman is notorious for its countless, cavernous potholes, but that’s about to change.
The Forest Service announced last month that a large portion of Upper Hyalite Canyon Road would be paved.
Some say now is the best time of the year to drive on Upper Hyalite. Because while you still have to watch the curves and keep an eye out for wildlife, you don’t have to worry quite as much about the deep potholes, as the snow partially fills them in.
“Sometimes I even feel like when there’s a little bit of snow,” says Bozeman resident AJ Kutches, “it fills the potholes up so you can just drive over it as long as you go slow.”
Even in the coldest months of the year, around 20,000 people take the 14 mile trek up to Hyalite every month, according to the nonprofit Friends of Hyalite. In the summer, that number more than doubles to 50,000 people a month.
With Hyalite a prime destination year-round - catering to paddle-boarders, ice climbers, hunters, and everything in-between - its roads get their fair share of use.
"This is where a lot of the community in Bozeman goes to in the summer, and in the winter, too,” says Bozeman resident Arman Hoberecht, who used Hyalite’s slopes to ski on Wednesday afternoon.
While it may be a hit for Bozeman, a drive up the winding road can feel more like a trip on a rollercoaster if you have a low-riding car.
"The undercarriage of my car is actually probably kind of jacked from coming up here so much,” says Kutches, who often brings his dog up to Hyalite for hikes.
A little bit of cement might go a long way in making this road accessible to everyone.
"Having, like, smooth roads would make it so much easier,” says Kutches. “And I think people would be more inclined to come."
"I do believe that the roads should be paved up here,” says Hoberecht, adding, “I think it would make it more accessible."
The pavement will benefit Bozemanites from the inside-out. With the vast majority of Bozeman’s drinking water coming from Hyalite Reservoir, pavement will decrease runoff and sediment going directly into the water source. It will also cut down on long-term maintenance.
Work started at the end of October and will continue through summer 2020.
The following comes from a Forest Service press release about the project:
Those heading up to Hyalite this fall on weekdays should expect delays of up to 30 minutes associated with tree cutting along the road right-of-way and in a short section close to the Chisolm day use area. Ultimately the road will be rerouted near Chisolm day use area, which will help address safety and resource concerns with the current road being in close proximity to the reservoir. This will also enhance the existing day use area providing a great place for walkers, strollers, bikes and more to enjoy. Road work will not be taking place on weekends or holidays. The majority of work will occur next spring and summer of 2020, and project updates will continue. Due to the project, the main Hyalite road above the dam will have an additional two-week closure, which will include all of May 2020, (coinciding with the annual closure April 1 – May 15). The road above the dam will reopen June 2020, and users can expect detours and delays, throughout the summer until the project is completed in the Fall of 2020. Additional details and project specifics for spring 2020 will be identified closer to the dates. Recreation sites on www.recreation.gov already reflect these noted closures. For additional information please contact the Bozeman Ranger District at 406-522-2520.