Garnet Mountain lies within Gallatin National Forest and is located in Gallatin County. In 1930 a fire lookout tower was built on the summit of Garnet Mountain. The tower was rebuilt in 1960. Although I was not able to access the tower, you have excellent views of the surrounding mountains and valleys for miles. The summit can be reached from several directions (trails), therefore the degree of difficulty of reaching the summit is varied, although none are difficult (technically).
From Bozeman, Montana, take highway 191 south for approximately (17) miles. You will pass landmarks such as Spanish Creek (this is where Ted Turner's ranch - Flying D Ranch - incredible place - is located), Sheep Rock (real nice formation), & Squaw Creek Ranger Station. Make a left hand turn at the Ranger Station (difficult to see), Route 132, cross over Squaw Creek bridge, and then make a right hand turn. You should then parallel Squaw Creek for several miles, which is continung on Route 132 (a gravel road). After passing the Castle Rock Baptist Bible Camp on the right, look for a small, gravel parking area on the left. You will notice a trailhead marker there for Castle Rock which is to the north. If you walk across Route 132, you will see the trailhead marker for Garnet Mountain National Recreation center Trail.
Follow the trail in a southerly direction, passing some just incredibly beautiful rock formations and steep drop-offs. At approximately the (3) mile point, you intersect with trail #79. This trail appears to be a four wheel drive, ATV, or snowmobile trail. Anyhow make a left hand turn and follow it up a steep, open trail which takes you to the summit.
There are no fees for accessing the trail to Garnet Mountain nor are there any parking fees.
When To Climb
I would think that the mountain could be climbed year round with certain precautions and depending on snow conditions. You could call the Bozeman Ranger Station for weather / trail conditions at 406-522-2520.
The fire tower is available for camping as it is part of the Montana Recreation rental program. The tower sleeps (4) people and is the most popular rental cabin. The fee is $ 30.00 per night. Contact information below:
Bozeman Ranger Station
3710 Fallan Street Suite C
Bozeman, Montana 59718
In addition, Spire Rock Campground is located several miles further east along Route 132. It is a first come, first serve site offering bathrooms and fairly private sites along Squaw Creek. The fee was either $6 or $8 per night (memory lapse).
There are also numerous backcountry sites along the road, and if you return to Route 191, there are plenty of other campgrounds, either north or south on the highway.
Need Gear ?
There are (2) climbing shops located in downtown Bozeman. Either have excellent selections of climbing gear. Try either Barrel Mountainering or Northern Lights Trading Company. They are both excellent sources for local climbing information.
I have posted links to both of the shops in the links section.
I climbed Garnet mountain on a beautiful summer day with perfect conditions. No precautions were taken except for plenty of water and my can of bear spray. This mountain is close to Gallatin Peak, the area that has an extremely high concentration of Grizzlies. I met several locals while on this climb that said that bears were prevalent in this area and they were all packing pistols and bear spray. I did see several signs of bear activity.
I would imagine that hiking on Garnet Mountain in the winter would be somewhat dangerous and normal precautions should be taken.
I found that the Backcountry Topo Map of the Spanish Peaks was a reliable source for trail finding and would recommend purchasing it prior to the climb. It can be purchased in Bozeman at the local mountaineering shops (Barrel Mountaineering or Northern Lights).