Palisade Falls- Gallatin Range
Palisade Falls- Gallatin Range
There are many hikes on this site that can last for days, test your physical strength, and require navigational skills to reach your intended destination. Fortunately, Palisade Falls is not one of those hikes. The hike to Palisade Falls is quite possibly the easiest hike I’ve ever written about. You don’t need a water bottle or a backpack for this hike, and you don’t even need hiking boots for this hike. Instead, Palisade Falls offers something that few trails do- accessibility for everyone. This short 1-mile out-and-back hike can be explored by toddlers, the elderly, and even people who require wheelchairs or crutches. Simply put, this is the easiest hike you’ll ever take, but don’t let this dissuade you from hiking the Palisade Falls Trail. The natural beauty that Palisade Falls provides will still awe you, even if the hike won’t.
Starting from the easy to access trailhead, you’ll immediately notice something unique about this hike- the entire hike is paved with asphalt. Now, you might think that this trail is an insult to hiking trails, and many would agree with you. However, the beautiful thing about this trail is the hiking diversity present on it. I wasn’t kidding when I wrote that this trail is wheelchair accessible- this short .5 mile section to the falls only gains 251 feet along the way. Quite simply, the best feature of this trail is that it is designed so that practically anyone can enjoy it- tourists coping with the altitude difference, the disabled, and young children are all welcome on this trail. This trail is also excellent for dogs- my 4 month old puppy enjoyed the falls almost as much as my kids and I did.
The trail to Palisade Falls has few switchbacks, and is over before you realize it. The easy grade is set to no more than 11%- the maximum recommended grade for wheelchairs. As you hike along the trail, take the time to notice the fellow hikers you pass- this is an extremely busy trail, and there are likely small children that will pass by you. Remember that this is probably their first time hiking, and greet them with a smile- there’s no reason not to, since you should expect company along this busy trail. Once you reach the falls, you’ll see why this trailhead is so popular.
Towering 80 feet above you, basalt columns abruptly drop to the valley floor. Water gushes over these columns in an almost random fashion- don’t expect to see a stereotypical waterfall here. Instead of the water establishing a stream channel over the falls, the water seems to randomly slide down the path of least resistance. Fingers of water descend from the falls, striking the base of the falls. One really nice feature of Palisade Falls is the accessibility of the base- although the left side is covered in scree (and probably not a good idea for kids), the right side of the falls allows you to walk all the way to the base for a closer look at this ancient volcanic structure.
Once you’ve stayed long enough at the falls, continue down towards the trailhead for more adventure. Palisade Falls is a good way to stretch your legs after a long car ride, but it is the least that Hyalite Canyon can offer. Consider hiking to nearby Grotto Falls, Blackmore Lake, or even Heather Lake. Regardless of whether or not you choose another hike, at least take the time to visit the reservoir. From here, you can fish for cutthroat trout, or relax by the lake and unwind. Hyalite Canyon has much more to offer to hikers, campers, anglers, and climbers. Palisade Falls should be the beginning or end of your stay here, but not the purpose it.
Directions to the Trailhead
From Bozeman, drive on S 19th Ave for approximately 6.5 miles. Turn left onto Hyalite Canyon Road, and follow this road for 14 miles to the trailhead, which is well signed and on the left.