A quick two-mile round-trip hike in Custer State Park takes you to Cathedral Spires, a group of granite towers that were formed two-billion years ago. These towers were later covered by soft limestone, and then even later on eroded down to the tall granite spires that we see today. These towers stretch hundreds of feet above the ground and are often passed by as thousands of tourists race by on Highway 87. The short trail starts at the busy Cathedral Spires Trailhead and leads upwards between the shoulder of two craggy granite walls. Leaving the trailhead, the trail heads uphill briefly.
The most spectacular waterfall in Spearfish Canyon isn’t one that you can see from Highway 14. Bridal Veil Falls may be a fascinating stop along the busy Highway 14, but Roughlock Falls is easier to see year-round and far more impressive. If you’re in Spearfish Canyon and you’re looking for a quick excuse to stretch your legs and see an amazing waterfall, Roughlock Falls is where you should go. Although you could technically drive to a parking lot which is only 100 yards from the falls, the scenery is the best if you start this short 2-mile round-trip hike at the spacious Roughlock Falls Trailhead.
The Sierra Estrella lies southwest of Phoenix, AZ, and the Estrella Mountain Regional Park is the most popular way to access this mountain. Starting at the northern edge of the Sierra Estrella, the Estrella Mountain Regional Park has several trails that lead alongside the popular mountain. One of these trails is Butterfield Trail, which can be combined with Gadsden Trail to form a nice 7.5-mile loop. The trail starts at the Rainbow Valley trailhead and is very easy to follow.
Butterfield to Dysart Trail, an option that makes the loop less than three miles.
Leaving the Rainbow Valley trailhead, the first turn onto Butterfield appears on the left. Once you’re on the well-signed Butterfield Trail, keep hiking through the Coldwater junction and head south on Butterfield for a mile. At this point, the Gadsden Trail appears on the left heading east. You can pass Gadsden at this junction and hike on Butterfield another 1 1/2 miles to the end of Butterfield, or you can start the loop at the first Gadsden trail junction. I prefer to hike Butterfield down to the end of the trail first, as Gadsden Trail tends to be a little windier on hot days than Butterfield Trail.
Up and Down Coulees on Gadsden Trail
Moving past this first intersection and continuing along Butterfield Trail, the trail leads up and down small hills as you meander towards the Sierra Estrella. After a total of 2 1/2 miles, Butterfield Trail ends at the second junction with Gadsden Trail. Turn left (east) as Gadsden Trail leads up and down small canyons and coulees, circling counter-clockwise towards the first intersection with Butterfield Trail. This trail brings you the best chances of catching a cool breeze and offers views of nearby Phoenix, AZ. Continuing along Gadsden Trail, the Butterfield Trail junction appears straight ahead.
Rare Spot of Shade on Gadsden Trail
Turn left (north) at the intersection for Butterfield Trail, and follow Butterfield Trail the rest of the way until it ends at Toothaker Trail. Turn right here, and follow this short trail to the Rainbow Valley trailhead. Alternatively, you can also turn left when Butterfield Trail meets Coldwater Trail, and follow Coldwater Trail to the Coldwater trailhead. The Coldwater Trail option is a little bit shorter than continuing to the Rainbow Valley trailhead, but if you start and stop this trail at the Coldwater trailhead the difference adds up to saving a quarter mile of hiking.
Directions to the Coldwater/Rainbow Valley Trailhead
Enter Estrella Mountain Regional Park (14805 W Vineyard Ave, Goodyear, AZ 85338), continuing down the paved road until you see a gravel road turnout with a horse arena. Park at either the Coldwater trailhead or the Rainbow Valley trailhead on the other side of the horse arena.
The trail through Waterfall Canyon in White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a short yet interesting hike. I felt that I needed a little more exercise for this hike, so I added the Black Rock Loop onto this hike. Feel free to keep the hike at the original 2 miles if you wish, but you will miss some awesome scenery and wildlife. The terrain for both trails is flat and easy to hike along. Starting at the trailhead for the Waterfall Canyon hike, head east along the well-paved trail.
Petroglyphs along Waterfall Trail
This section almost turned me completely away from this hike, and I’m glad that I didn’t turn around and hike another trail in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. The first half mile is paved, which is a big turn-off, but at least there are petroglyphs along the northern side of the trail. Passing by the turn for Black Rock Loop (we’ll get to that later), continue hiking along until the pavement ends at half a mile before the waterfall.
Stairs Leading to Waterfall in White Tank Mountain Regional Park
This section of trail is fun, with lots of bends in the trail and wildlife all around you. My favorite critters are the ornate tree lizards, which scamper across the trail when you approach them. Waterfall Trail is the most popular trail in the park, so there may be a line of people waiting to see the waterfall. Patiently wait your time out and then scamper along a couple of boulders to the waterfall.
Pool Beneath Waterfall
First of all, I’m going to crush your expectations of a cascading waterfall. You are hiking in the desert after all, and frankly, I was surprised to see the waterfall at all once I saw the dry creek bed below. Although rain rarely occurs in the Phoenix area, when it does, it carves these interesting coulees throughout the desert due to flash flooding. This waterfall is one of those features that is formed by flash flooding, although the water does slightly trickle down when there hasn’t been heavy rain. Once you have taken in the beautiful view of the waterfall, turn around and retrace your steps toward the Black Rock Loop.
Black Rock Loop
After ½ mile, you have a choice: do you continue to the trailhead, or do you take the Black Rock Loop? The “long” Black Rock Loop only adds 1 ½ mile to your hike, making this extra side trip an obvious one. With that extra 1 ½ mile, you can view far more wildlife than just hiking to the waterfall. Turn right at the well-signed Black Rock Trail sign and then bear right at the intersection of the Black Rock Loop in a couple of hundred yards. Note that this short loop is a one-way trail, please hike in the indicated direction to avoid annoying your fellow hikers.
Petroglyph Along Black Rock Loop
Continue along this route until you reach the Black Rock trailhead, and then keep following the loop to bring you back to the junction to the Waterfall Canyon trail. Keep your eyes peeled for critters along the way; most people walk right past them without noticing them. Regardless of whether or not you are looking for wildlife, take your time and see what most people don’t as they quickly walk these short trails. You may discover more along these few miles than some hikers discover all day, as they briskly hike through the many trails that make up White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
Directions to the Waterfall Trailhead
Enter White Tank Mountain Regional Park (located at 20304 W White Tank Mountain Rd, Waddell, AZ 85355), pay your $6 entrance fee, and bear to the right to arrive at the well-signed trailhead to the waterfall.
The San Tan Mountain Regional Park is located an hour from downtown Phoenix, AZ and offers a good calf-stretching trail that is stunning. On this trail, it seems as if you are walking on diamonds as tiny glimmers from mica and Pyrite glisten in the sun. You can hike this loop in reverse to save yourself some exercise, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s better to hike up the 500 ft tall hill in the beginning so that you can appreciate the scenery heading downhill. For either option, start at the Goldmine Trailhead located just outside of San Tan Mountain Regional Park.
Graves on Goldmine Trail
Leaving the trailhead, you immediately have the choice to hike this loop counter-clockwise or clockwise. Clockwise is probably the easiest, but if you hike this trail counter-clockwise, you have only one big hill to hike up in the beginning. This makes the trail more interesting. As you take the counter-clockwise option, you will soon see the spur path to the graves of Marion E. Kennedy and Mansel L. Carter. These two men started in the Arizona desert in search of gold, finding a deep connection with the local flora and fauna. They are buried here in this quaint cemetery, to remind us to tread lightly and respect the unique animals and plants along the trail.
View From the Top of Goldmine Trail
Leaving this spur trail, you will re-connect to the main trail, which dips down into a coulee before starting the climb to the east shoulder of Goldmine Mountain. The trail climbs swiftly here, but I am still categorizing this hike as an easy hike. Yes, the next mile gains a little over 500 feet and is quite steep. However, I saw two small children and several older men and women hike this portion of the trail, so the trail can’t be that difficult. Take your time on this one big hill, and the rest of the trail is more or less downhill. Reaching the top of the hill, the view is fantastic. If you look to the north (behind you), you can see Phoenix and the Superstition Mountains. Looking south (forward), a scenic spread of hills and valleys await.
San Tan to Dynamite Trail
Once you’ve carefully descended into the valley below (this portion of the trail is marked as difficult, but it honestly is an easy section of the trail), you reach the valley floor. The next 2.8 miles are a walk in the park so to speak. The trail leads mostly downhill to the San Tan junction on your left, and following this junction quickly reaches the Dynamite Trail, where you will bear right. This portion is the easiest but the longest section of the loop. 2 ½ miles lie between you and the trailhead, but it honestly doesn’t seem that far.
As you slowly glide up and down ravines, the time passes by quickly. Take your time and look down at the trail. You will see beautiful reflections from Pyrite and mica specks that reflect the ever-present sunlight. These specks will decorate the trail for the rest of the hike. As you wind your way towards the trailhead, one last hill appears.
Horned Lizard on San Tan Trail
This hill is so much easier than the first, and if you hike this in the late morning, you will be thankful for the nice breeze at the top. After a couple of switchbacks, the trail leads downhill slowly towards the trailhead. Look out for all of the lizards darting back and forth on this section of the trail. Remembering Kennedy and Carter’s lifestyle, take the time to appreciate this unique habitat and the creatures that make this desert their home. After 2.4 miles from the San Tan junction, you will arrive back at the trailhead. Hopefully, you will have gained an appreciation for the land and animals that Kennedy and Carter fell in love with decades ago.
Directions to the Goldmine Trailhead
Take exit 167 off of I-10 to East Riggs Road. Follow East Riggs Road for 11.7 miles, turning right onto S Higley Road. Continue onto Hunt Hwy, turning right onto North Wagon Wheel Road. Follow this road as it turns into West Skyline Trail. The Goldmine Trailhead is at the end of West Skyline Trail. Pay your $8 park fee at the trailhead box.
During my visit to Phoenix, AZ, I was impressed by the Maricopa County trail system. One of my favorite parks was Cave Creek Regional Park. Here, there are eight named trails that link together, allowing you to pick and choose where in the park you would like to visit. Bikes and dogs are more than welcome in this park. The park’s located in the Sonoran Desert, a beautiful region dominated by various cacti species. However, like anywhere else in the desert, you must watch for rattlesnakes along the trail. Give them plenty of room, and they’ll leave you alone. Speaking of room, the Cave Creek Regional Park offers over 2,900 acres to recreate in; here is a list of my favorite routes in this park:
This trail runs approximately 2.5 miles, offering a great view of the park and the hills and cacti surrounding the park. This is the most relaxed hike in Cave Creek Regional Park. As a bonus, there is an abandoned mine at the end of this trail. Keep outside the gate and respect the cacti along the trail, the infamous “Teddy Bear” cactus is plentiful in the Cave Creek Regional Park. One encounter with this cacti will leave lasting memories of removing the horrible pods covered in needles that attach themselves to you as you hike down the trail. My dog Kairos accidentally brushed up against one of these cacti, and it took a great deal of effort to remove the spiny pod from his foot, as well as the dozens of needles on his tongue, face, and feet.
The Go John Trail was one of my favorite trails in the Cave Creek Recreational Park because the wildlife seemed more abundant on this trail. This is the only trail in the park that allowed me to see deer and a rattlesnake, so hike this 6-mile loop if you want to see more of the fauna associated with the Sonoran Desert. The trail does have a few small hills, but it’s still an easy day hike.
If you only have a couple of hours and want to see the diversity that Cave Creek Regional Park offers, hike this trail. It’s only 4 miles long, leading you through some of the more remote trails in the park. There are fossils to be seen in the slate outcroppings, beautiful quartz crystals shining in the mid-day sun, and an interesting guide to the flora of the Sonoran Desert. Among those is the most infamous– the teddy bear cholla.
Cave Creek Regional Park has plenty of trails that can combine into a myriad of options. One popular loop that isn’t as long as the nearby Go John Trail is the Slate Trail to Go John Trail Loop. This hike is only 3.8 miles long and offers beautiful views of northern Phoenix as well as the Superstition Mountains. A side benefit to hiking this trail is that if you’re not from Arizona and don’t have all of the cactus names memorized (other than the famous saguaro, of course) this trail has informative plaques near the major types of cacti in the park. Leaving the parking lot via the west trail marked Slate Trail, this quick loop begins.
Slate on Slate Trail
This trail has a few hills, but nothing more than a couple of hundred feet of elevation. You can easily see why this is named Slate Trail– large pieces of jagged slate stick out of the ground at random spots on the trail. Other than the geology, you’ll feel the difference hiking up closer to the top of the hills where you can feel the cool wind, and then roasting in the valleys below. The first turn on this loop is Quartz Trail, at .8 miles. Turn left (north) at the well-signed intersection.
Slate Trail to Go John Trail Intersection
Quartz Trail brings more hills to this hike. Slate Trail is pretty flat, but Quartz Trail makes the hike interesting. Look at the sides of the trail as you walk by to see fossils preserved in slate, shiny quartz, and the occasional piece of petrified wood. Don’t disturb these specimens, though; it is specifically forbidden to remove any rocks, plants, or historical artifacts from the park. Hiking up to the highest point on the Quartz Trail, you will see an intersection onto Go John Trail. Turn left (east) at this junction.
Saguaro Cacti are Tall!
Taking Go John Trail down this last leg will go by quicker than you’d think. Although the section is nearly a mile long, the downhill course of the trail speeds up your pace. Take the time to stop and enjoy the view at least a couple more times along this trail. After .9 miles from Quartz Trail, Jasper Trail appears on the left. Turn left (south) at this well-signed intersection.
The Dreaded Teddy Bear Cholla
Jasper Trail is the shortest trail in the park at a quarter-mile. I can’t help but wonder why this trail even has a name. In any event, Jasper Trail runs back to the Slate Trail, where you will turn right (west). After another short quarter of a mile, you will see the parking lot where you started. This is the second shortest hike that I’ve traveled on in the Cave Creek Regional Park, but it’s still neat. The scenery is amazing, and this section of the park isn’t nearly as busy as the Clay Mine or Go John trails.
Directions to the Slate Trail Trailhead
Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee, and drive past the horse stables to the well-signed Slate Trail Trailhead.
The Go John Trail was my favorite trail in Cave Creek Regional Park. This trail is 6 miles long, giving you a decent bit of exercise (unlike the flatter Clay Mine and Slate/Quartz trails). My favorite part about this trail is the wildlife, though. This trail receives less traffic than the others in the park, so you’re more likely to see a rattlesnake or two. During my quick hike through Go John Trail, I was able to see deer as well, having otherwise eluded me over the previous three days. This hike starts at the north trailhead because the grade is easier; if you’re looking for a more strenuous workout, try hiking this trail in reverse.
One of the Many Saguaro Cacti Along Go John Trail
Once you leave the north trailhead at the parking lot, it’s easy to stay on the Go John Trail. Starting up the trail, bear right to follow the inside curve of the trail. It’s practically impossible to get lost since every intersection is well marked. Loop hikes tend to give me a little bit of anxiety since you can add 10+ miles to your hike if you miss a turn. This happened to me on The Beartooth Recreational Trail ended up being an extra ten miles when I missed a turn south of Sawtooth Lake. Thankfully, Go John Trail won’t get you lost. You should still hike this trail at a slower pace than normal. Not only is the scenery worth slowing down to appreciate, the wildlife isn’t as shy when you slow down.
Rattlesnake on Go John Trail
Keeping conversations and trail noise to a minimum will pay off on this trail. I hiked this trail solo after noisier groups, and the wildlife noticeably hides at the warning of these hikers. Frankly, I think that everyone should hike a trail in this manner, but to each their own. The profile of this trail is straightforward if hiked clockwise– there is a small hill in the beginning and middle, with a larger hill at the end. Many guides have categorized this trail as a “moderate” trail, but I cannot agree with them. Although one hill turns into a set of stairs, all of the hills on this trail are less than 300 feet high. Compared to the other hikes I have written, Go John is definitely an easy trail and changes less elevation than most. Bring plenty of water on this hike (I hiked this in February and ran through a liter of water), and take your time. The best part of this trail is the chance to see wildlife. Speak softly, step lightly, and maybe you’ll see a critter or two.
Deer on Go John Trail
Directions to the Go John Trailhead
Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee and drive to the end of a loop. You can’t miss the Go John Trailhead.
The Clay Mine Trail is a short and easy hike that is part of the larger Cave Creek Regional Park. It is the easiest hike in the park, but you shouldn’t pass up the trail because of this. At the end of the trail lies the Clay Mine, an interesting way to end the hike, and an opportunity to catch a much needed cool breeze from the cave. Leaving the nature center parking lot, head north following the sign for Overton Trail.
Clay Mine Trail Intersection with Overton Trail
Approximately 100 feet down the trail, another turn appears. Turn left (east) here, following the Overton Trail until it meets the Go John Trailhead. You could have just started at the Go John Trailhead, but most hikers start this quick trail from the nature center. Keep walking east, and you will see the sign for the Go John Trail. The trail leads uphill at this point, but it’s an easy grade. Follow this trail for a short quarter of a mile where you will see another intersection, Cave Creek Trail.
Follow this trail the short 1 ½ miles through one more intersection. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the trail is an interesting abandoned mine. This mine was owned and operated by Leila Irish, and whereas the mine contained no gold, it did contain something else– clay. Seeing a business opportunity, Irish bottled and sold the clay as a “cure-all”. Although the clay was useless for most ailments, it did supposedly work well for dysentery. If only this elixir were available on The Oregon Trail game, less of my characters would have died from dysentery.
Cacti on Clay Mine Trail
Once you’ve reached the end of the trail and have exited to the campground, you can turn back around and retrace your steps or just walk down to the main road and walk to the nature center. You can’t park anywhere at the campground, and a shuttle for a trip this short would be weird, so take your time and walk back to your vehicle. If you have just a short couple of hours to spend in the Cave Creek Regional Park, this is an excellent and easy hike that anyone can hike on. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and if you have some extra time in your day, check out some of the other trails in this park. Otherwise, spending $7 to access the park is too expensive for such a quick hike.
Directions to the Overton Trailhead
Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee and drive past the horse stables to the well-signed Overton Trailhead. Alternatively, you can also begin this hike at the next trailhead down, Go John Trailhead.
Fat Man’s Pass is one of the most popular hikes near Phoenix, AZ. Two large boulders force you to squeeze through them to the other side of the trail; a fat man cannot squeeze through this gap (to be honest, it’s a tight squeeze), but I would argue that a fat man can’t get to the pass to begin with. This is one of those trails that leads uphill from the start, and while I’ve listed this trail as an easy trail, it was with much deliberation. From the parking lot at the Mormon Trailhead, the trail immediately leads uphill. You will begin to appreciate why some hikers consider this a moderate or difficult trail.
Mormon Trail Intersection
This is one of those hikes you want to do in the early morning. Moving your way to the top of the first hill only rewards you with another couple of hills to hike up. These “false summits” are a little annoying. That being said, this is a trail that most people can hike on without too much difficulty. Take your time, take a few breaks, and you’ll be fine. After 1 ½ mile, the trail slows its steady incline as you reach the first intersection.
This hike, as described, is a straight shot to Fat Man’s Pass, and a straight shot back. You can alternatively make this a loop as a part of the Mormon Trail Loop, or you can add a loop at the Hidden Valley trail, following Fat Man’s Pass through and continuing on the trail to add another half mile to the trail. My dog was tired (and overheated in early March), so pace yourself on this trail. The trail is hot and miserable even when the temperature is only seventy degrees.
Turn Left Here
The directions for this hike are simple: stay on the main Mormon Trail (which later turns into the Hidden Valley Trail) until a half mile past the first intersection at the top of the hill. Stay on the main trail, and you will eventually (2 ¼ miles from the trailhead) reach the turn for Fat Man’s Pass. Turn left and head a hundred yards downhill to compare your gut against the two boulders. Remember to take short breaths, to drop your pack or hold it over your head, and to take your time squeezing through the two boulders. It would be embarrassing to call for help because you were stuck at Fat Man’s Pass.
Squeezing Through Fat Mans Pass
Once you’ve made it through Fat Man’s pass (hopefully with pictures as proof), you can turn around and trace your steps back to the trailhead. If you’re willing to hike another half-mile, you can see the natural tunnel on Hidden Valley Trail. These are busy trails on weekdays and insanely busy trails on the weekends, be sure not to leave any litter behind, and to stay on the designated path. There are a few signs of overuse and even graffiti along this trail, try to set an example to others by reversing some of that damage.
Directions to the Mormon Trailhead
Located south of Phoenix, AZ in a well-signed neighborhood, drive to 8610 S 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85042. Any GPS, map, or phone app will be able to get you to the right place. Phoenix is so big it’s hard to give general directions that are accurate. This is a busy trailhead, and all the locals know where it is. Stopping at a gas station if you lose your way will allow you to get better directions.
At the northern end of the Langohr Campground lies one of the easiest trails in Hyalite Canyon. If you thought that Palisade Falls was a quick stroll into the forest, the .3 miles of Langohr Creekside Trail offer just enough trail to settle your stomach after a campfire meal and is also a good choice for the elderly or toddlers. Most of the people that hike this trail are campers at Langohr Campground, giving you a unique opportunity to greet some of your neighbors, and exchange pleasantries. For a leisurely walk next to Hyalite Creek, pull into the spacious parking area and head down the trail.
South Cottonwood Creek Trail runs through the heart of a network of trails just outside of Bozeman. Although there are numerous side trips and options that you have on South Cottonwood Creek Trail, the most popular option is a quick and scenic day hike through the forest, crossing over three bridges that lead over South Cottonwood Creek. This quick hike is popular, while being relatively short– it is only 2 ½ miles to the third bridge. That being said, most day hikers prefer to spend less time on this trail and only hike along it for one or two miles. Regardless of which option you choose, the trail begins at the end of Cottonwood Creek Road.
Whits Lakes, or Whits Lake, is a pair of small lakes located north of Hebgen Lake and just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Since the descriptions of these two bodies of water is somewhat confusing (some maps refer to them as Whits Lake, whereas others refer to the lakes as north or south Whits Lake) in this guide I’ll refer to them as separately as north or south Whits Lake. Now that we have that bit of confusion cleared up, let’s dive into the hike itself. Although the trail is only 2miles round-trip, it allows you to escape the crowds of Yellowstone and explore the Gallatin National Forest. For big game hunters, Whits Lake is especially popular in the fall, which is also when I prefer to hike this trail.
This is a difficult hike to name since the hike runs along both Moser and Buckskin Creeks in Hyalite Canyon. Some guides refer to this hike as the Moser Creek Loop, while others stick to the more accurate name of Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop. This trail has many side options to change the length of the trail, but the hike as described in this guide is an easy 5-mile loop. Along this trail, you will have plenty of opportunities to view wildlife or search for garnets and fossils. The Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop is less popular than some of its neighbors in Hyalite Canyon, such as Heather Lake or Palisade Falls , making it one of the few day hikes that may allow you to spend most of the hikeby yourself.
History Rock Trail is one of the few places where someone leaving a trace behind is acceptable. Settlers, old timers, and even a scout for George Custer all left their marks on this large outcropping, and it stands as a historical “guest book” of sorts, storing the names and dates of those who have passed along this trail. Located in Bozeman’s busy Hyalite Canyon, History Rock is a short 2.5-mile hike that is a perfect way to stretch your legs. Make sure to bring a camera along this hike– not only is the scenery beautiful, but the soft sandstone on History Rock won’t be along forever. This last reason alone should tell you that you should stop and hike along the quick trail to History Rock.
If you’re traveling along Highway 212 (The Beartooth Highway), and need a quick stop to stretch your legs, stop by Gardner Lake. This trailhead is one of the highest in the Beartooths, at 10,550 ft above sea level, so be prepared to be winded on this short trail. In addition to the altitude taking your breath away, the view certainly will as well. Gardner Lake sits at the bottom of a bowl, and the hike down to the lake allows you to see Tibbs Butte and Littlerock Creek. The scenery is beautiful any time of the year, but it’s wise to hike to Gardner Lake in the late summer, due to the rampant mosquitoes. Leaving the trailhead, and hiking straight down, your quick hike to Gardner Lake begins.
Fan Creek is possibly the most popular hike along the Yellowstone National Park boundary. With the trailhead located just off of Highway 191, Fan Creek is a quick drive from West Yellowstone and Bozeman. It’s also an easy hike, gaining only 50 feet in the 1.2 miles to the junction with Fan Creek Trail. The fishing along Fan Creek is great any time of the year. The scenery certainly won’t disappoint, either. Since Fan Creek is this accessible and beautiful, it’s easy to see why Fan Creek is popular in the summer and winter.
Red Lodge Creek Trail #14 is a quick day hike through a mature forest. This hike is mostly traveled by local residents, so the traffic is usually lighter than other day hikes near Red Lodge. The trail traffic is exceptionally light in the late fall (where about half of the upper trail is inaccessible), which makes Red Lodge Creek Trail a nice late season or early season day hiking trail. If you’re looking for the possibility of an uninterrupted day in the mountains, Red Lodge Creek Trail might have what you’re looking for.
Keyser Brown Lake is a beautiful mountain lake that is easily accessible from Lake Fork Trail #1, in the Beartooth Mountains. This forested lake is at 8,700 feet, making it one of the easiest to access lakes along the Lake Fork Trail. The trail to Keyser Brown Lake only climbs 1,600 feet along the seven mile trail, which is what makes this lake so easy to reach. Keyser Brown Lake also excels as a base camp, supports a good brook trout fishery, and will help you escape the busy crowds on their way to Lost Lake. Leaving the paved parking lot, and crossing a sturdy bridge over the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, your trip to Keyser Brown Lake begins.
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.