Hiking around Bozeman is always a beautiful experience, but ending at a waterfall adds a little something extra. It gives you a goal as you are putting miles on the trail and if you are hiking with kids it is excellent motivation to get them to the end. We are lucky to have many wonderful waterfall hikes so close to Bozeman. Here are some of our favorites.
1) Palisade Falls
We know. This is the most obvious choice and on any given day can be as busy as Target, but it is still worth being on the list! Really...how lucky are we to have this beautiful waterfall basically in our backyard? The trail is only 1 mile and is paved making it an ideal hike for strollers and little kids. And tourists, Palisade is busy all summer long with out of towners enjoying this lovely trail.. As long as they are friendly and treat our trails with respect, we welcome them! The waterfall itself is more than 80 feet tall making it a pretty spectacular sight.
To get there take Hyalite Canyon past Hyalite Reservoir and take a left past the campgrounds down the road to the parking lot. To avoid the crowds try going during the week or first thing in the morning. Weekends can get crazy up there!
2) Grotto Falls and Hyalite Creek Trail
Another very popular waterfall hike in Bozeman, but one of the best to see multiple waterfalls in a day. The trail to Grotto is great for a quick hike to a nice waterfall. Only 2.4 miles roundtrip and the trail is also stroller/wheelchair friendly. Grotto Falls is a picturesque waterfall with lush greenery on one side and easy to get down to the bottom so you can feel the spray from the water. The other trail from this trailhead is Hyalite Creek Trail and it is a must do for any waterfall lover. It's just over five miles to Hyalite Lake and in those miles you will see eleven waterfalls (some run dry towards the end of summer!) Notable ones to keep an eye out for are Arch and Champagne Falls, so breathtaking. Once you are at the lake, take in the views and if you are feeling extra ambitious go the last two miles to the peak. From here you'll find some of the best views in the valley.
To get to the trailhead, take Hyalite Canyon past the reservoir and campgrounds until you hit the trailhead.
3) Pine Creek Falls
We'll head to the amazing Paradise Valley for the next couple of hikes. The drive from Bozeman over is a quick one and you can enjoy mountain views the whole way. Pine Creek Falls is an easy one mile hike on a well maintained trail. You'll go through forested area, passing over streams and then a short steep climb to the falls. Early in the season this waterfall is pretty spectacular crashing down and throwing off cool mist. As we get further into the dry part of summer the amount of water coming down starts to decline. This is another hike where you can end at the waterfall or continue on to Pine Creek Lake. Just make sure you are prepared for a tough climb. It's only four more miles more to the lake, but those miles climb 3,000 feet with lots of switch backs and can be tough for those not prepared for it. As always, the views from the lake and throughout the hike make up for it!
To get there take Hwy 89 south to the turnoff for the Pine Creek Campground. The trailhead is just past the campground.
4) Passage Falls
This is an easy hike at slightly over 4 miles out and back with little elevation gain during the hike. The size of this waterfall is what makes it quite a sight, especially in the spring time when the water is really flowing. The trail crosses over Passage Creek a couple of times and meanders through forested areas as well as a bit of private land before coming to the waterfall. Because it is an easy hike, don't expect to be there alone especially on a weekend in the summer!
To get there take Hwy 89 south from Livingston to Mill Creek Rd. Continue on this road as it turns to gravel until you reach the Snowbank Campground. Continue on a few more miles until you reach the Passage Creek Falls trailhead, which is the same as the Wallace Creek Trailhead.
5) Ousel Falls
The canyon and Big Sky are other great hiking spots, especially for waterfalls. Ousel is a very popular one, it's basically the Palisade Falls of the Big Sky area. Very easy to get to and a moderate hike with a fantastic waterfall at the end. It is lush and surrounded by cliff walls making the waterfall quite dramatic, especially in the spring during run-off. We've heard rumors that occasionally a kayak will come over the falls during this time. How crazy would that be to see?! The hike itself slowly climbs in and out of forest so there is plenty of shade and you cross the water a few times so there are places to cool off. It's around a mile making this good for kids and to take your out of town visitors to. They are sure to be impressed.
To get there take Hwy 191 south from Bozeman to Big Sky and turn to go towards Big Sky. Take a left on Ousel Falls Rd and follow to the trailhead.
6) Pioneer Falls
The Spanish Peaks Trail is on Ted Turner's property in the Gallatin Canyon and is the starting point for a few different trails, one being to Pioneer Falls. The drive to the trailhead is pretty awesome in itself and there's a very likely chance you will see buffalo and maybe even a moose! The hike to the falls is around 4 miles, but there is not a big elevation gain so is doable for all levels. The trail takes you through meadows, past streams and gives some of the best mountain views as a backdrop. Around the 3 mile mark you reach a fork, take a right and head a little over a mile more to the falls. There are a few different places you can access the falls and depending on the time of year you can get down to the base of it to cool off in the nice mist.
To get there take Hwy 191 towards Big Sky and right after you enter the canyon take a right onto Spanish Creek Road. Enjoy the beautiful drive until you reach the Spanish Creek Campground. The trailhead begins at the campground across the creek.
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