Day Hikes around Bozeman, Montana
by Robert Stone (Day Hike Books)
© Robert Stone/Day Hike Books. All Rights Reserved.
The trail climbs steadily from the parking area the average grade is around 10%. At mile 0.5, you enter the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. There is a perennial creek crossing at about mile 1.0. At mile 2.0, there is a foot bridge crossing Cascade Creek. For the last mile, there are a lot of switchbacks as you climb up to the lake.
Really great hike! Definitely a workout if you keep up the pace, and the trail was very easy to follow. We went at the very end of May, which meant half the hike was in snow (very deep snow at parts), but Lava Lake was pretty much frozen over and was just gorgeous! We will definitely do this hike again near the middle to end of summer sometime too, as I can imagine it's a great place to spend some time if it's a little warmer. We went on a Tuesday and saw 1 family and 2 other couples in passing, but was a very solitary hike otherwise. I can imagine this gets busy on the weekend though. (Oh, and trailhead had a restroom, which was a nice surprise.) Took us about 2 hours to get up and about 1 down.
This is a nice trail just outside of Bozeman on the way to Big Sky. At times it can be a moderate climb but never really gets to a strenuous level but like others have said if you keep a nice pace up it is certainly a workout. Late summer offers huckleberries all along the trail which provide a nice fresh treat. The creek is a wonderful flowing companion that keeps you on the right path and provides a steady rhythm. The forest keeps a nice shaded canopy over you most of the time and then opens up at the lake. Here you can continue the trail a little bit around the north side and set down for a nice picnic or cat nap. Plus, since the trail is a popular one, you get away from the crowds that tend to congregate at the first part of the lake when you reach it. Not too much wildlife on the trail but you never know in the mtns. We did see a bald eagle diving for lunch at the lake and catch 2 trout in 2 dives...that was pretty cool! The hike is a good one for your dog as well as it isn't too long or rough on the pads. Our 10 year old lab mix did great and loved the lake shore!
Wonderful hike. As a previous visitor stated, "a great workout if you push it." My friends and I enjoy it as a nice detox after a night at the bars in Bozeman, or as a good warm up if we're planning a long hike for the following day.
This is a great hike up the aptly named Cascade Creek. If the water is just out of sight at times, the sound is never far away. At .4 mi. the trail crosses into Lee Metcalf Wilderness area and remains there for the rest of the hike. It is gradually but steadily uphill. The trail is very rocky, and there is lots of evidence of horses underfoot, so try to keep your eyes off of the gorgeous stream for at least part of the time. Shortly before the 2-mile mark, the trail levels, and even goes downhill a very short distance as a lovely field opens up to the left. You've gone 2 miles when you reach the rough bridge going over Cascade Creek. From here the trail switchbacks up another mile to Lava Lake, the only lake in the wilderness area that wasn't glacially carved (it was formed by a landslide). The trail here never seems to be any steeper than parts of the trail alongside the creek, but the land surrounding you certainly gets more dramatic. At the lake, Table Mountain and Jumbo Mountain rise up majestically behind this rather large body of water. You can add about 1.25 miles by circling the lake. There is no camping (and no horses) allowed within 1/4 mile of the lake, but there are lots of nice sites available nearby. If you were to continue up the trail from the lake you would eventually reach Table Mtn, but for this trail, the lake is the turnaround spot. The way back is a nice cool-down for the hike, but remember that most injuries occur going downhill and try to curb your speed a little.
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