Get lost in Bozeman’s hay maze

With a thermos full of warm drink, I approached the entrance of the hay maze. I handed a wad of dollar bills to the hostesses of the maze, in trade for a small card depicting four unfilled circles and the instructions to find the different colored crayons with which to fill them in.

With that encouragement, I tromped forward into the unknown, already collecting loose hay straws on my sweater as I formulated my strategy. My plan was the same as most children that visit the maze: find all of the colors so I can get my free piece of candy, and hope they have chocolate.

I was confident, since even I at 5 feet 2 inches was taller than the maze. Height seemed to be an obvious advantage. I was soon proven wrong, as I wandered in circles searching for the yellow crayon (which was harder to find than the exit), running into countless visitors with the same height advantage struggling to locate the green crayon, the blue crayon, the exit, etc. After just over an hour, I emerged from the hay labyrinth with a proudly colored-in sheet in exchange for my free candy reward.

The Bozeman Hay Maze has been an established tradition since its first year in 1998. The very first maze was pumpkin-shaped, built from 60 round bales and 500 square bales. This year’s main maze, built 15 years later, is a stagecoach. Two smaller puzzle mazes were also built for visitors to enjoy. One of these was comprised of metal rods, painted red, white or blue with instructions urging guests to find their way by stepping over the rods in order of red then white and then blue and back to red. The other puzzle maze is made of hay, though only one bale tall and much smaller than the main attraction. The goal is to find your way through using only right turns — a much harder task than one would think.

The hay maze costs $7 per person, which includes the main attraction, the smaller puzzle mazes and a corn sandbox for children. Refreshments such as drinks, corn dogs and popcorn can be purchased at the maze exit, as well as an exciting tumble on a bungee-jump trampoline. Hay rides and a small train tour are other features available to visitors. To the excitement of many, it is not “cash only.” Credit and debit card readers allow visitors to skip the trip to the ATM, and go straight to enjoying themselves. Pumpkins can also be purchased for those who want the experience of selecting the perfect gourd from the field.

Costumes are encouraged and lots of fun (although only if they are warm). I would also suggest bringing your own hot beverage of choice as there are no bans on such. The maze is a great activity with children, a group of friends or a date. And, to avoid worry, there is an employee on a tower to assist if you become hopelessly lost, or if you lose a comrade.

In short, it is definitely worth the trip. More details about hours and past mazes can be found at bozemanmaze.com. And there is not a minotaur in the center to scare anyone.