Activities

The 10 Best Hiking Trails in Montana

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Big Sky Country. The Treasure State. The Last Best Place. Montana is one of those states that many people have never visited, but everyone says they want to go. That’s because they hear about the lucky people that have been to Montana and have experienced its unparalleled beauty.

As the fourth-biggest state in the United States with a population that recently just hit a million people, there is plenty of space to roam and enjoy the beautiful outdoors in its raw, natural beauty.

This beauty comes in the forms of lakes, forests, national parks, and so much more. Hiking is one of our favorite ways to explore Big Sky Country, so if you’ve got Montana on your list of places to visit, check out these hikes that are a must.

10 Montana Hikes You Don’t Want to Miss

Woman Pauses to take in view of Montana mountains from bend in trail

1. Highline Trail | Glacier National Park

One of Montana’s claims to fame is that it is home to Glacier National Park, which spans over a million acres and is home to glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and all kinds of plant and animal life. There is no shortage of hikes to explore in Glacier that are certainly worth checking out. They range from easy, family-friendly hikes to intense backcountry hikes, and everything in between.

Though it’s hard to pick one hike in Glacier to put on your list (thanks to its 700+ miles of trails), if we had to, we would say to lace up your hiking boots and head out on the Highline Trail. One of the reasons we love this hike so much is because you get to start it from Logan Pass, the highest point in the park accessible by vehicle. Take the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road all the way up to the top, and that’s where you’ll start the Highline Trail.

This hike is mostly flat and takes you on a 7.6-mile journey to Granite Park Chalet. On the way, you will take in breathtaking views of the mountains that make up this impressive national park. You’ll even get a bit of adrenaline-pumping adventure when you make your way across a steep ledge for a bit of the hike. From this trail, you also have the opportunity to jet off and head on a different hike that will lead you to the Grinnel Glacier Overlook.

KOAs nearby:
West Glacier KOA Resort
Whitefish / Kalispell North KOA Holiday
Polson / Flathead Lake KOA Holiday
St. Mary / East Glacier KOA Holiday

Holland Falls Trail in Montanaa

2. Holland Falls National Recreation Trail | Flathead National Forest

Tucked away in the Swan Range west of Montana’s famous Bob Marshall Wilderness is Holland Lake. There is all sorts of recreating to do in this area, not limited to hiking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking. A number of trails depart near the lake that take you on all sorts of journeys around the lake, but the most popular one is the Holland Falls National Recreation Trail.

This day hike takes you 1.6 miles up to waterfalls that are sure to wow. You may have to push yourself a bit to get past the climb at the eastern end of the lake, but trust us – you won’t regret doing so. Once you reach the falls, you have an incredibly picturesque vantage point of Holland Lake with the Swan Mountains behind it and the 50-foot waterfall.

This trail is loved not only for the views but also because it is easy to access and is well-marked. It is also a trail you can enjoy year-round, as long as you dress for the weather.

KOAs nearby:
West Glacier KOA Resort
Whitefish / Kalispell North KOA Holiday
Polson / Flathead Lake KOA Holiday
St. Mary / East Glacier KOA Holiday

View of lake on Trapper Peak Trail

3. Trapper Peak | Bitterroot National Forest

The granite giant that is Trapper Peak stands at over 10,000 in the splendid Bitterroot Mountains. You can reach the peak of this mountain via the Trapper Peak Trial, but know that you are in for a challenge. This 8.4-mile hike takes you on a 3,800-foot elevation gain over the course of approximately 5 hours.

You’ll journey through thick forests of lodgepole pines and douglas firs, which will then open up to provide you views of the peak that you are about to conquer. The trail can be hard to follow at times, but keep your eyes out for cairns that help guide the way.

The best time to hike Trapper Peak is in July and August. Snow exists nearly year-round at the peak, and conditions can get a bit iffy when attempting to hike any time other than the heart of summer. It is possible, just know you may need some additional gear and may need to be a more experienced hiker to reach the peak.

KOAs nearby:
Missoula KOA Holiday

View form Beehive Basin Trail in Montana

4. Beehive Basin Trail | Big Sky

Big Sky Resort is one of the best ski resorts in Montana and is known all over the country as a place that is a must for lovers of skiing and snowboarding. We certainly agree with that, but we also love this area for its hiking. Near the chairlifts of Big Sky Resort is the entrance to the Beehive Basin Trail that is recognized as one of the best hikes in the country.

From the trailhead, you trek up an elevation gain of 1,500 feet for three miles to reach the basin. You’ll have no issues getting lost on this trail – it is well-marked. Though the hike is only three miles, you may find yourself spending quite a bit of time on it, as the views will have you in awe. The alpine meadows make you feel like you’re frolicking through a scene in a movie and you’ll also take in views of all the other things that make Montana such a desirable place: mountains cut with glaciers, alpine lakes, wildflowers, and wildlife galore.

KOAs nearby:
Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA Journey
Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA Holiday
Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA Holiday

5. Ice Caves Trail | Crystal Lake

Year-round ice caves? Sign us up. You’ll have to go to central Montana to find them, but we are banking that you’ll feel it’s worth the while.

This well-groomed trail climbs a whopping 2,200 feet from the base of Crystal Lake up to the top of the Big Snowy Mountains. And once you reach the top, guess what you’ll find there? Snow! (But you likely guessed that, thanks to the name of the mountains.)

Once up at the top, you have sweeping views that make this spot one of the best places for an expansive view. You can see the Little Belts, Highwoods, Crazies, and Judith Mountains, as well as other mountains in the distance. You can even spot the Grand Tetons on a clear day.

Along the way to the top, you’ll find the famous Ice Cave. This limestone rock formation stays cold enough year-round to contain ice. Water in here either freezes into columns or spreads across the floor, making it as smooth as an ice rink – so watch out!

The trail is a total of 5 miles from bottom to top and the first 3 miles are quite difficult, so be sure to bring plenty of water.

Lave Lake, nestled high among the Spanish Peaks of the Gallatin Mountain Range in the US state of Montana. Rocky Mountains.

6. Lava Lake | Custer Gallatin National Forest

This area of Montana is home to the Greater Yellowstone region, which is another claim to fame for this beloved state. Yellowstone National Park is spread across Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and measures in at over 2.2 million acres – 3.472 square miles– which is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. And, Yellowstone is the first national park ever, which is a pretty big deal for us at KOA.

There are endless parts of the park to explore, but one of our favorite hikes in the area that introduces you to Yellowstone is Lava Lake. This fairly steep 5.1-mile out-and-back trail follows Cascade Creek and may cause you to run into some issues with altitude sickness if you haven’t taken the time to acclimate.

After some steep climbs, you’ll make your way to the oval-shaped lake, with the Spanish Peaks to the southeast and Jumbo Mountain to the southwest. For a real “wow,” take a look at the reflection on the water and you’ll see why this is called Big Sky Country.

KOAs nearby:
Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA Journey
Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA Holiday
Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA Holiday
Three Forks KOA Journey
Butte KOA Journey
Big Timber / Greycliff KOA Journey

Palisade Falls in Hyalite Canyon near Bozeman, Montana,

7. Palisade Falls | Bozeman

If you’re looking for a family-friendly hike that is convenient, head to Palisade Falls just 10 minutes outside Bozeman. The hike is less than a mile, making it one of the easiest in the state to see some stunning scenery. Kids will love this hike, but do note that it can get quite busy because of its accessibility.

Follow the trail to the magnificent falls where you will be amazed that something so wonderful was so easy to get to! For the fullest waterfall experience, head here in the spring when the increased rainfall and snowmelt make the falls an even more epic sight.

To avoid the busiest crowds, head here first thing in the morning or during the week. Weekends have this place quite busy.

KOAs nearby:
Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA Journey
Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA Holiday
Livingston / Paradise Valley KOA Holiday
Three Forks KOA Journey
Butte KOA Journey
Big Timber / Greycliff KOA Journey

8. Stuart Peak | Rattlesnake National Recreation Area

The Rattlesnake Recreation Area is home to some of the most popular trails in the college town of Missoula. Head here to the Rattlesnake Main Trailhead which offers numerous different trails, including our favorite, the trail to Stuart Peak. While this trail does offer some stunning views, we are going to warn you that it isn’t just a quick in and out. This trail spans 20 miles and has an elevation gain of over 4,580 feet. That is no joke. So if you’re looking for a quick little hike, definitely look elsewhere.

However, if you’re ready to embark on an adventure that will give you some views you’ll never forget, then let’s get going. From the top of Stuart Peak, you can see all of Missoula as well as some stunning lakes whose water is so clear, you’d swear it’s fake. If you go in the summer you may be lucky enough to find some tasty huckleberries, but you know what that means? Bears. You are in black bear country here, so be careful. Expect to also see elk, deer, turkeys, and maybe even a moose! In addition to the wildlife, you’ll see some stunning wildflowers that light up the whole mountain.

KOAs nearby:
Missoula KOA Holiday

Various viewpoints in Glacier National Park, Montana.

9. Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

If you’re looking to accomplish a major hike in your life, consider the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This hike takes you up and down the peaks of the Rocky Mountains all the way from Canada to Mexico. You will pass through meadows, granite peaks, and high deserts.

From start to finish, this scenic trail will see you through five states, 25 national forests, 20 wilderness areas, 3 national parks, 1 national monument, and more. This 3,100-mile long journey has some of the most stunning scenery in the entire country.

The biggest part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is the 820-mile stretch through Montana. There are a number of different entry points including Homestake Pass, Lower Seymour Lake trailhead, and Rocky Ridge trailhead.

KOAs nearby:
West Glacier KOA Resort
Whitefish / Kalispell North KOA Holiday
St. Mary / East Glacier KOA Holiday
Helena North KOA
Townsend / Canyon Ferry Lake KOA
Three Forks KOA Journey
Butte KOA Journey
Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA Journey
Yellowstone Park / West Gate KOA Holiday
Rock Springs / Green River KOA Journey
Craig KOA Journey
Denver West / Central City KOA Holiday
Buena Vista KOA Journey
Salida / Mt. Shavano KOA Journey
Cripple Creek KOA Holiday
Colorado Springs KOA Holiday
Royal Gorge / Canon City KOA Holiday
Alamosa KOA Journey
Cortez / Mesa Verde KOA Journey
Santa Fe KOA Journey
Albuquerque KOA Journey
Albuquerque North / Bernalillo KOA Journey
Silver City KOA Holiday
Lordsburg KOA Journey

10. Mount Aeneas Loop

Spend a day exploring the beautiful Jewel Basin by hiking on the Mount Aeneas loop. This trail is near Bigfork and starts at the parking lot for Camp Misery, which is the major access point for all of the trails in the Jewel Basin network.

This specific loop takes you to the 7,500-foot summit of Mount Aeneas and on the way there, you will enjoy taking in the incredible views of the Flathead Valley. The hike isn’t long, but it worth taking your time on to enjoy the sights, especially once you reach the top. You may even be lucky enough to spot some mountain goats along the way – there are quite a few in this area that love roaming around.

KOAs nearby:
West Glacier KOA Resort
Whitefish / Kalispell North KOA Holiday
Polson / Flathead Lake KOA Holiday
St. Mary / East Glacier KOA Holiday


Leslie K Hughes

Leslie is a travel writer, copywriter, and web designer who gets butterflies from telling stories through words and visuals.

Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.

With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie loves the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.

To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing and design world, visit her website here.

 


Montana is know for big skies, epic views and wide open spaces. But with a state so large, it can be hard to know where to start. Check out 10 of our favorite Montana hikes to inspire your next Montana adventure.