Tag Archives: Easy Day Hikes

Grotto Falls- Gallatin Range

Grotto Falls- Gallatin Range

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls, located in Bozeman’s scenic Hyalite Canyon, is a beautiful waterfall that can be reached within a half hour. Although the waterfall isn’t particularly tall, Grotto Falls makes up for that by its sheer volume. Hyalite Creek gushes over the falls into the pools below, creating perfect swimming holes to relax in after a hot day. Access to the falls is excellent, with the trail well groomed, and highly trafficked. Simply put, Grotto Falls should be on your must-see list if you are hiking towards Hyalite Lake, or even just in Hyalite Canyon for a day.

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02 Jul 2017

Rat Lake- Gallatin Range

Rat Lake- Gallatin Range

Rat Lake

Rat Lake, located just outside of Bozeman, MT, is a day hike that attracts many hikers, anglers, and tourists. The quick hike, combined with the close proximity to Yellowstone, Bozeman, and Big Sky, draw in many locals and tourists each year. The high traffic on this hike shouldn’t discourage you, though. Anglers will appreciate the trout fishing, hikers will be encouraged to hike further down the trail, and tourists will love the quick chance to stretch their legs. This trail even offers a chance to stay overnight in a US Forest cabin- Rat Lake Trail #416 offers everyone a quick trip into the Gallatin Range.

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12 Jun 2017

Tepee Pass- Yellowstone National Park

Tepee Pass- Yellowstone National Park

Tepee Pass

Tepee Pass is a scenic day hike that is located just barely outside of Yellowstone National Park, and although the trail isn’t technically in the park, you can still see vistas of the park and the surrounding mountain ranges. Tepee Pass provides one of those rare moments when you can see two mountain ranges in all of their glory- the Gallatin Range to your left and right, and the Madison Range in front of you. While you’re on this hike, you also have the opportunity to see some of Yellowstone’s famous wildlife- bears, moose, and deer. If you’re not afraid of hiking up a large hill, the hike up to Tepee Pass is worth your time.

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29 Nov 2016

Pioneer Falls- Madison Range

Pioneer Falls

Pioneer Falls

Tumbling 40 feet into a narrow gorge, Falls Creek creates the dramatic display that is known as Pioneer Falls. Pioneer Falls is mesmerizing to watch, as gallon upon gallon of pristine water tumbles its way towards the southern fork of Spanish Creek. Standing here, you have to appreciate the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, and the need for wilderness areas in this country. To be humbled by nature’s creation, you only have to hike a few miles from civilization. Many trail guides list this hike as a 7.5 mile hike, but that is not correct- the hike to the falls is only 3 miles, making the total trip length 6 miles.

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07 Nov 2016

Becker Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Becker Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Becker Lake

For a quick hike to a beautiful mountain lake that’s near Cooke City, there’s no better place than Becker Lake. The trail to Becker Lake is a bit lengthy at 9 miles, but the flat trail and numerous nearby lakes will work hard to help you overlook the distance. These 9 miles are also the flattest in the Beartooth Mountains, making the hike to Becker Lake a perfect hike for kids, and older adults. As such, you can expect to see other hikers on this trail. Thankfully, a few extra hikers won’t detract from the alpine beauty of this hike.

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27 Aug 2016

Margaret Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Margaret Lake

Margaret Lake

If you’re seeking a lake less than 3 miles from a popular trailhead, while at the same time looking for isolation from others, look no further than Margaret Lake. Although the trail isn’t as easy to follow as others (the last quarter mile is hard to follow at times), the fishing and solitude more than make up for the quarter mile of stumbling though brush. Located just a few minutes from Cooke City, you’ll pass many hikers on the way into Margaret Lake, but you’ll be almost guaranteed solitude once you arrive at the lake. This trail does lead through an area that is notorious for its bear population, so be sure that you know how to safely hike in bear country, before you leave the trailhead. This hike starts from the busy Clarks Fork Trailhead, easily accessible from Highway 212.

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19 Jul 2016

Vernon Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Vernon Lake

Vernon Lake

Located just 2 ½ miles from the Clarks Fork trailhead, Vernon Lake is a perfect day hike for travelers on their way to Cooke City, or Yellowstone National Park. The trail gains very little elevation, and offers the opportunity to see wildlife such as deer, moose, and yes- bears. Finding the trailhead is incredibly easy, since it is both well signed, and next to Highway 212. Although you’ll pass many hikers on the first mile of this hike, once you turn onto the Vernon Lake trail, the traffic diminishes greatly. Another feature of this trail is a side trip to the Flume Trail at the beginning of the hike, which offers an educational opportunity about the now-defunct hydroelectric dam that was built in 1916. This “trail” is wheelchair accessible, while of course the hike to Vernon Lake is not.

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11 Jul 2016

Meyers Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Meyers Creek Trail

Meyers Creek Trail

Meyers Creek Trail #27 offers a chance to enjoy the outdoors on a well established trail, without the crowds. This trail is great for any hiker’s skill level, or physical condition. Rockhounds will be satisfied with the fossils and metamorphic rocks that are easily found on the trail, and hunters will find no shortage of wild game. For some, the trailhead is scenic enough, but to fully appreciate the trail, you’ll want to stretch your legs.

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01 Jun 2016

East Fork Boulder River- Absaroka Range

East Fork Boulder River- Absaroka Range

East Fork Boulder River

South of McLeod, MT, lies the East Fork Boulder River, a popular trail that leads to less than popular destinations. The trail runs 3.5 miles to the bridge over the East Fork Boulder River, where many hikers choose to fish, camp, or hike onward to the Lake Plateau. The camping at the East Fork Boulder River is excellent, with both firewood and trout in large supply. For a novice backpacker, the low elevation gained on this hike make it a good choice. In fact, the hardest part of this hike might be driving to the trailhead itself.

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08 May 2016

Ouzel Falls- Madison Range

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls, located in Big Sky, Montana, offers the opportunity for a quick hike to a scenic waterfall. The South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River (which is a mouthful, to say the least) plunges over the falls, on its way to the Gallatin River. Ouzel Falls is located just .75 miles from the trailhead, making it a short hike after a long day of skiing, or an attractive detour on the way to Yellowstone. The low grade of the trail is easy for most hikers, although there are many side trips along the way if you want to stretch your calves. In winter, the trail to the falls, and the falls themselves, are the most scenic.

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01 May 2016

Cottonwood Road BLM- Pryor Mountains

Cottonwood Road BLM

Cottonwood Road BLM

Most people think of a beautiful lake or a scenic alpine view, when they think of hiking. They imagine a beautiful drive to the trailhead, where they might see a cascade of water rushing down the valley, or evergreen forests that surround the road. Most people overlook the Cottonwood Road area, which is equally beautiful in its own right. Covered only with sagebrush and a few juniper trees, Cottonwood Road’s beauty is something you have to hike away from the road to appreciate.

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01 Apr 2016

Pine Creek Falls- Absaroka Range

Pine Creek Falls- Absaroka Range

Pine Creek Falls

Seventeen miles south of Livingston, MT lies the scenic and popular Pine Creek trail, leading to Pine Creek Falls. Pine Creek Falls itself is an easy hike, with no large hills or obstacles. This makes the hike a popular hike, so expect company along on the trail. Regardless of how many people you pass along this trail, this hike is beautiful any time of the year.

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23 Mar 2016

Weatherman Draw- Pryor Mountains

Weatherman Draw/Valley of the Chiefs

Weatherman Draw

Eighteen miles south of Bridger, MT lies an unusual hiking destination, called Weatherman Draw. At first, Weatherman Draw (also referred to as Valley of the Chiefs by many Native American tribes) seems lifeless and barren. Here there isn’t any flowing water, and only the occasional juniper tree provides shade. What does make Weatherman Draw an amazing hike has to do with the history of the Valley of the Chiefs, and the geological wonders of the area.

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18 Mar 2016

Slough Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Slough Lake

Slough Lake

Underneath Froze to Death Plateau, Phantom Creek slows to a standstill, creating a scenic marsh. Inside that marsh lies Slough Lake, a shallow 6 foot deep lake filled with brook trout, and an excellent destination for a day hike. Located just 2.5 miles from the trailhead, it’s a short hike to Slough Lake, albeit mostly uphill.

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23 Dec 2015

Beauty Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Beauty Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Beauty Lake, WY

Located in Wyoming, Beauty Lake is a popular summer day hike, for many good reasons. Beauty Lake is well named, the gorgeous scenery from the surrounding hills is reflected on its surface; leaving you to wonder if you are looking at a lake, or a mirror. The lake is below timberline, but only just barely- leaving you with shade in the afternoon, while offering alpine vistas as well. Nearby Crane Lake offers similar views, with perhaps less visitor traffic. Both lakes are easily accessible from the Beartooth Lake Trailhead, with the total elevation gain little more than 500 feet in the short 2.4 miles to Beauty Lake.

You’ll want to have your camera handy along this trail, given the many scenic opportunities that lie along it. Immediately starting from the trail you’ll pass Beartooth Butte, an outcrop that rises more than 1,500 feet above Beartooth Lake. Further down the trail, you’ll pass Crane Lake, a beautiful lake in itself. Finally, you will arrive at Beauty Lake.  You’ll appreciate the appropriate name of the lake, as you hike along its shore. 

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18 Sep 2015

Timberline Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Timberline Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Timberline Lake

Timberline Lake is an alpine lake nestled beneath the Silver Run Plateau, located within minutes of Red Lodge. Scenic vistas surround the lake, leading you to wonder which is more beautiful- the surrounding rock and snow, or the lake itself. The lake has a beautiful turquoise hue, resulting from glacial melt above Timberline Lake. Snowfields, the remains of these glaciers, feed the lake today via Timberline Creek.

Timberline Creek is crossed a couple of times on this hike, although the first two miles of the trail are dry. The trail to Timberline Lake climbs about 2,000 feet in 4.5 miles, making it a relatively steep trail. Thankfully, the grade is only noticeably steep for the first couple miles.

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23 Aug 2015

Quinnebaugh Meadows- Beartooth Mountains

Quinnebaugh Meadows- Beartooth Mountains

Quinnebaugh Meadows

Quinnebaugh Meadows is a gorgeous mountain meadow that is surrounded by spectacular views of the Silver Run Plateau, and nearby Whitetail Peak. Wildflowers blanket the meadows, and line the trail all the way to Quinnebaugh Meadows. Nearby Rock Creek thunders down two waterfalls along the trail, with side trails leading to both falls. Once you reach the meadows, the number of people that you passed on the trail all seem to disappear- the meadows are so expansive that they easily swallow large and small parties alike.

Hiking to the meadows is rather straightforward, as the trail gains only 1,000 feet in 5 miles. The trail itself is well built, well maintained, and well traveled. You can expect to see company on this trail, but that won’t bother you much once you reach Quinnebaugh Meadows. There are also no turns on this trail, other than a left turn at the trailhead.

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04 Aug 2015

Lava Lake- Spanish Peaks

Lava Lake

Lava Lake, located in the Spanish Peaks section of the Madison Range

It’s hard to find a good mountain lake that is close to a city, but yet is still surrounded by untouched wilderness. Lava Lake is located just minutes from Bozeman, but is still a scenic destination in the wilderness. Although the traffic on the trail is heavy (expect plenty of company on the trail), the condition of the trail has been kept clean by the forest service- and it shows. On a typical summer day, 30+ parties are not uncommon. The large nearby parking lot ensures that unless you hike this trail in February, you can expect to bump into quite a few people on this trail. However, the fishing and beautiful scenery more than make up for the busy trail. The trail is rather straightforward as well, although it is uphill all the way.

The trail to Lava Lake gains 1600 feet in 3 miles, making it a short but strenuous hike. I’ve rated it as easy, but the trail is really somewhere between easy and moderate, given the steep grade. That being said, the trail does have a few straight runs, and offers plenty of scenic spots to take a break at. The biggest challenge of this hike isn’t the trail, but instead finding somewhere to park.

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31 Jul 2015

Basin Creek Lakes- Beartooth Mountains

Basin Creek Lakes- Beartooth Mountains

Upper Basin Creek Lake

Upper Basin Creek Lake

Nestled under the scenic Silver Run Plateau lies one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Beartooths- Upper Basin Creek Lake. Although the trail gains more than 2,000 feet in the short 4 miles to Upper Basin Creek Lake, that doesn’t stop hundreds of hikers from enjoying this trail. In fact, this trail’s popularity led the forest service to designate it a National Recreational Trail. The traffic won’t keep you from enjoying the two lakes on this trail however, as this trail does an impressive job of splitting the traffic between Upper and Lower Basin Lakes.

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14 Jul 2015

Calamity and Sentinel Falls- Beartooth Mountains

Calamity and Sentinel Falls- Beartooth Mountains

Calamity Falls

If you’re looking for a short day hike that allows you to see two spectacular waterfalls, look no further than Calamity Falls and Sentinel Falls. These two waterfalls are located a short distance from Red Lodge, making them a perfect short day hike. This hike is only 3.6 miles long, and gains only 511 feet, making it a good first wilderness hike for young hikers. The trail begins on the north side of the trailhead parking lot, which is clearly marked.

This is a well maintained trail, which you will notice immediately as you head down the trail. This trail is very popular in the Red Lodge area, and many boots have worn a nice trail. Try and do a good deed here, and pick up any trash that you might see on the trail. Although this trail is well groomed, it’s heavy use makes cleanup harder for the forest service. It only takes a little garbage to ruin the pristine appearance of the wilderness, which is reached after the first quarter mile of the trail.

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01 Jul 2015