Bozeman Real Estate Blog

Best Hikes to Lakes Near Bozeman, Montana

Best Hikes to Lakes Near Bozeman, Montana


There's something about a cold mountain lake at the end of a hike.  Whether you jump in to cool off, throw in a pole to fish or it's a spot to end your hike and have some lunch.  Here are the best hikes to lakes in the Bozeman area.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is a favorite in Hyalite Canyon.  It's a 5-mile trail that is fairly moderate that can be done by beginners as long as they have patience.  It starts with a meandering through a beautiful forested area along the path of the east fork of Hyalite Creek.  After that, it's a slow climb until you eventually reach the top of the basin and Emerald Lake.  This time of year, the trail is full of wildflowers and because it's Hyalite, probably a few other people enjoying the lake.  

Getting there:  South 19th to Hyalite Canyon, past the reservoir and left when you the see the sign for Palisade Falls.  Continue past the turnoff for Palisade around 3 miles to the end of the road and you'll reach the trailhead.  

Hyalite Lake

One of our favorite hikes in Hyalite is to the lake (and Hyalite Peak if you're looking for more of a challenge!)  The hike to the lake is around 11 miles out and back and there are several waterfalls along the way.  That's what makes this such a beautiful hike.  The lake is a popular backpacking destination and with the craggy peaks surrounding the lake, it's easy to see why.  If you're feeling ambitious, stop at the lake briefly and then continue the 2 miles to the peak.  It's a tough hike, but so worth it!  

Getting there:  South 19th to Hyalite Canyon, past the reservoir, at the fork continue right to the end of the road and the trailhead for both Grotto Falls and Hyalite Lake.  Once on the trail, follow the well-marked signs to bypass Grotto.  

Crescent Lake

This is a nice mild hike, making it a perfect family option.  It's a 2.5 mile loop with little elevation gain ending at a nice crescent shaped (hence the name!) lake tucked into the forest.  Once you get to the lake you can return the same way you came, or complete the loop which follows the western shoreline of Hyalite Reservoir.  

Getting there:  South 19th to Hyalite Canyon.  Park at the reservoir, the trailhead is near the pavillion.  

Blackmore Lake

This hike is a great, moderate trail that's just over 3 miles round trip.  Early in the season, the lake is full, towards the end of summer some seasons it can be more of a swamp.  Whenever you go, it's always beautiful with Blackmore Peak in the background.  If you want to continue to the peak it ends up being a 10-mile round trip hike.  

Getting there:  South 19th to Hyalite Canyon, the trailhead is on the right, just before you get to the reservoir.

Lava Lake

This is one of the most popular lake hikes in the Gallatin Canyon.  The trailhead is easy to get to, right off of the highway and the lake is beautiful each season.  It's 3-miles to the lake with around 1,600 feet of elevation gain on a trail that is rocky in spots but fairly moderate for the most part.  You follow Cascade Creek for most of the hike and go in and out of forested areas until you arrive at the lake.  If it's a hot summer day you might feel the need to jump in...it will definitely cool you off!

Getting there:  From Bozeman, take Hwy 191 towards Big Sky, the turnoff is just north of the Gallatin River bridge.

Rat Lake

This is another great option for a hike with little ones.  The hike itself is just a short 1.5-miles round trip with just over 150 feet of elevation gain.  The lake is tucked into a forested area and you'll often find people picnicking or fishing.  If you are looking for something harder, the trail continues to the Garnet Mountain Lookout Tower. 

Getting there:  From Bozeman take Hwy 191 towards Big Sky and take a left on Storm Castle Road, cross the bridge and stay right.  Continue just under 7 miles to the trailhead parking area, staying right at both the forks.    

Hidden Lakes

There are 8 mountain lakes that make up the Hidden Lakes in the Gallatin Canyon.  The hike is 6-miles round trip and starts fairly high at 8,000 feet.  The trail gains 1,000 feet bringing the lakes to 9,000 feet.  The upper lake is the largest and arguably the most picturesque with mountains towering around it.  One thing to note is the road to get to this trail is notoriously bad so a high clearance vehicle is recommended.  

Getting there:  From Bozeman take Hwy 191 towards Big Sky, take a left on Portal Creek Road and continue just under 4 miles to the Y-fork.  Head right and continue 2 miles on the bumpy road to the trailhead. 

Golden Trout Lakes

These are more high mountain lakes in the Gallatin Canyon.  Similar to Hidden Lakes, the trail gains 1,000 feet of elevation and is slightly shorter at 5-miles round trip.  There are campsites around these lakes, making them popular with backpackers.  The trail is a mix of meadows and forested areas.  

Getting there:  Getting there:  From Bozeman take Hwy 191 towards Big Sky, take a left on Portal Creek Road and continue just under 4 miles to the Y-fork.  Head left and continue 3 miles on the bumpy road to the trailhead. 

Frazier Lake

This is a good early season hike because later in the summer it can dry up.  Although, you do have to wait until they open the gates to get access to the trailheads in this area, usually around the middle of June.  There's not a real distinct trail to Frazier Lake, but it's easy to find.  Most start at the Shafthouse Trail which is around 1/2 mile before the Fairy Lake Campground.  At around mile 1 you reach the summit of a ridge and from there you head down to Frazier Lake.  

Getting there:  Take Bridger Canyon Road (Hwy 86) north for around 26-miles.  Take a left on the Fairy Lake Road and continue around 10 miles.  Just a FYI, this road can be rough!

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