If you’re looking for a heart pumping, leg burning, aesthetically inspiring hike in Montana, Lava Lake Trail, outside of Big Sky and Bozeman Montana, is the hike for you. Located along the Gallatin River, Lava Lake (also known as Cascade Creek) is a 6-mile out and back hike with a 1,600+ foot elevation gain. Your hard work is rewarded with a beautiful lake setting that you can swim in (if you are willing to brave the cold!)

Fast Facts:

  • Location: Gallatin Gateway, Montana
  • Length: 6 miles
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 1,620 ft.
  • Base Elevation: 7,193 ft.
  • Type of Hike: Out and Back
  • *Important*: There are bears in the area so it’s of the utmost importance to ONLY go on this trail with bear spray.

Location: 498-300 Cascade Creek Rd, Gallatin Gateway, MT 59730

According to AllTrails, “follow US 191 west and south out of Bozeman past Gallatin Gateway. Just over nine miles after the highway crosses the Gallatin River at the mouth of the Gallatin Canyon, it again crosses the river at an abrupt ninety-degree corner. A narrow gravel road departs the highway immediately before this bridge, and reaches a well-developed trailhead within a few hundred yards.”


What to Expect on the Hike

This hike is going to challenge you for a good three-hour steady climb with bits and pieces of steep climbs. You’ll start the hike on a clearly marked trail, passing cabins, and navigating your way through the forest. The majority of the hike has a great deal of tree coverage, so layers are recommended. The tree coverage dissipates once you approach Lava Lake. The trail is also very rocky so we recommend wearing proper hiking shoes with a hard sole.


Once you arrive at Lava Lake, there are plenty of beach areas along the water. While this is a heavily trafficked trail and there will most likely be other parties around the lake, there are plenty of private alcoves for you to enjoy. We took advantage of the peaceful and picturesque setting by enjoying our lunch while up at the lake. We even went for a swim in the water! (GASP!)