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Hikes in Scenic Gallatin Canyon


Gallatin Canyon between Bozeman and West Yellowstone is a sight to behold in a car, but it’s even more breathtaking to those who take the time to explore the mountains, lakes, and forests tucked away from highway view. The following is just a sample of the many fine trails that Gallatin Canyon affords summer outdoor enthusiasts.

Golden Trout Lakes Trail 83
This is an easy to moderate 2.5 mile trail with a little climbing. The hike takes you to three picturesque alpine lakes. The first is the only one with fish. Take Hwy. 191 south into the Gallatin Canyon. Portal Creek Road is about 3 miles south of Moose Flats Campground. Turn left on Portal Creek Road and drive about 6 miles to the parking area and trailhead.

South Fork of Spanish Creek Trail
To find this trail take Hwy. 191 into the Gallatin Canyon just south of Gallatin Gateway. Immediately after you enter the Canyon, watch for Spanish Creek Road veering off to the right of the paved road. As soon as you pass through the gate just a few yards ahead, you are on media mogul Ted Turner’s property. There’s a good chance you will see anywhere from a few to possibly thousands of bison roaming the area. If any are nearby stay in your car. You are trespassing if you leave the road. The trailhead starts at the end of this road. This is a very popular hike and you will more than likely pass others along the way. The full loop of this trail goes 26 miles. That is too long for a family hike, but hard core hikers may want to give it a go. The trail travels through sections of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area and provides some awesome scenery.

Swan Creek Trail 186
This is an easy 2-mile hike along the creek bottom. It’s a good area to see wild roses, and at the right time of the year wild berries. The trail ultimately ends at Hyalite Peak. Take Hwy. 191 south of Bozeman into the Gallatin Canyon about 32 miles to the very visible Swan Creek Campground sign. Turn left (east) and go 1 mile to the campground road. Follow this to the end of the road.

Beehive Basin Trail 40
This hike takes you into the beautiful Beehive Basin where you can explore little Beehive Lake and an alpine meadow. You may very well spot moose or bighorn sheep up here on a good day. This hike is 8 miles round trip, but seems to be a family favorite. Take Hwy. 191 south of Bozeman into the Gallatin Canyon. When you come to the entrance to Big Sky, turn right (west) and drive up the mountain to the Mountain Village area. Instead of turning into the resort at the sign, continue straight on the road for 2.7 miles to the second trailhead parking lot. If you want a longer hike, start at the parking lot a mile back. The trailhead leaves from the left side of the road.

Porcupine Creek Trail 34
This is an easy 4.5 mile trail through a creek bottom and along low ridges. If you look closely, you may find some petrified wood in the creek and along the banks of Porcupine Creek. Take Hwy. 191 south of Bozeman into the Gallatin Canyon. Drive just past the entrance to Big Sky Resort and look for the Ophir school building on the right. Turn left just past this and cross the Gallatin River. The trailhead is a quarter mile past the river. This trail can be confusing because of the excessive horse usage and the numerous horse trails leading off the main path. Stay on the main trail.

Lava Lake
This 3-1/2 mile hike takes you to a beautiful mountain lake in the Spanish Peaks area of the Madison Range. The trail follows Cascade Creek through thick woods past a waterfall or two. You emerge from the woods at a small lake. This hike is best taken from mid to late summer. The lake can be covered in ice until at least mid-summer. To get there go south on Hwy. 191 from Bozeman into the Gallatin Canyon and watch for the Lava Lake parking area to your right.

Partially reprinted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia”


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