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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