Montana State University

‘M’ icon on Mount Baldy turns 100, will receive facelift

September 8, 2015 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

The iconic “M” landmark that marks a popular hiking trail on Mount Baldy in the Bridger Mountains will soon be receiving a facelift in honor of its 100th anniversary. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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The iconic “M” landmark that marks a popular hiking trail on Mount Baldy in the Bridger Mountains will soon be receiving a facelift in honor of its 100th anniversary.

As part of the project, four tons of new rocks will be placed in the “M,” and the existing and new rocks will be painted white.

The work will be performed by Montana State University students and staff members in partnership with Central Copters, Inc., the U.S. Forest Service, Gallatin Valley Land Trust and Bozeman Brick, Block and Tile.

“When our new students start their journey through college, it’s important for them to see MSU and the City of Bozeman as their home,” said MSU Dean of Students Matt Caires. “Having our students become part of the long-standing tradition of maintaining the “M” is just one of the ways we further their affinity of Bozeman as their home.” 

“We are very excited about this project,” added E.J. Hook, environmental services manager at MSU. “I am sure the Class of 1918 would be proud of the continuing maintenance of their efforts.”

To facilitate the work, the “M” trail and parking lot will be closed Friday, Sept. 18, from 6-10 a.m. While the trail is closed, a helicopter will transport approximately four tons of new rock to the “M.” MSU staff will then move the rock from its staging area to the empty areas in the middle of the “M” where bare ground currently exists. 

On Saturday, Sept. 19, 100 MSU students have signed up to paint the “M” as part of the university’s annual “Rock’n the M” event.  The project will be coordinated by the MSU Office of Activities and Engagement.

Hook said the “M” originated with Montana State students 100 years ago.

The idea for the "M" emerged in the fall of 1915 when members of the Montana State class of 1918, who were then sophomores, decided they wanted to create a monument to the school, Hook said. About 60 students made the trip to Mount Baldy to complete the work, according to the university’s 1918 yearbook. The class used rocks to fill in the "M" that day and returned on another day to whitewash the new letter, finishing it in the spring of 1916.

The “M” sits on national forest land and is permitted through a special use permit with the Custer Gallatin National Forest. 

“The Bozeman Ranger District appreciates the enthusiasm and sense of pride students have for the ‘M,’” said Lisa Stoeffler, Bozeman District ranger.  “The improvements to the monument, along with other recent trail work, will give the area a fresh look for fall.”

“The ‘M’ Trail is an iconic piece of the Main Street to Mountains trail system for visitors and locals alike,” said Penelope Pierce, Gallatin Valley Land Trust executive director. “We’re grateful to the MSU students who volunteer to keep the legacy of the ‘M’ alive for our entire community to enjoy.”

This year’s restoration effort is the beginning of a week-long celebration that culminates in the Homecoming parade and football game on Saturday, Sept. 26. The theme for Homecoming this year is “100 Years of the College ‘M.’”

For more information about the restoration work, trail closure and history of the “M,” contact Hook at Edward.hook1@montana.edu or (406) 994-7840.

For more information on Homecoming events, call (406) 994-2933.

Contact: E.J. Hook, MSU environmental services manager, (406) 994-7840 or edward.hook1@montana.edu