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DIY: Hyalite Creek Trail to Hyalite Lake, Bozeman

HyaliteCreekHiking distance: 11  miles round trip
Hiking time: 5 hours
Elevation gain: 1,900 feet

Location: 20 miles south of Bozeman, Montana, at the end of Hyalite Canyon Road.

Approximate distance from Billings: ~160 miles. Allow 3 hours.

Description: The Hyalite Creek Trail is considered the most spectacular hike in the Bozeman area. The trail passes eleven waterfalls in a deep canyon with massive cliff walls and majestic peaks. The hike leads to Hyalite Lake, an alpine glacial tarn in a horseshoe-shaped basin. The lake is surrounded by the craggy pinnacles of Fridley Peak and Hyalite Peak. Beyond the lake, the trail continues two miles (and gains 1,400 feet in elevation) to Hyalite Peak and the Gallatin Crest Trail.

To the trailhead

From Main Street and 19th Avenue in Bozeman, drive south on 19th Avenue (which becomes South 19th Road) for 7 miles to Hyalite Canyon Road on the left. Turn left and continue 11 .7 miles, crossing to the east side of Hyalite Reservoir, to a road fork. Take the right fork 1.9 miles to the Hyalite Creek/Grotto Falls parking area at the end of the road.

The hike

The Hyalite Creek Trail heads south on a wide path through the forest, paralleling the creek to its headwaters. The Grotto Falls Trail begins on the same path but zigzags through the forest, crossing the Hyalite Creek Trail four times. At the last crossing, veer to the right on the wider trail to see Grotto Falls. Along the gravel path are log benches that are placed at scenic vista points overlooking Hyalite Creek.

Head back to the Hyalite Creek Trail, and continue up the canyon. Twin Falls is on the west canyon wall to the south of Elephant Mountain, two adjacent waterfalls plunging off the sheer cliffs. At 1.4 miles, a signed side path leads to Arch Falls on the right, a falls with a natural rock arch. At 2.2 miles, a signed detour to the left leads to Silken Skein Falls. A short distance ahead on the right is an unnamed 20-foot waterfall in a rock bowl with a pool. At 3 miles, a short detour leads to Champagne Falls, an 80-foot waterfall in a narrow, fern-lined rock grotto. At 3.7 miles are three successive waterfalls—Chasm, Shower, and Apex Falls. Cross a log footbridge over Hyalite Creek below the base of Apex Falls. Rock hop over Shower Creek, then loop back and recross the creek at a stunning cascade. Cross back to the east side of Hyalite Creek and pass S’il Vous Plait Falls. Recross the creek at the base of Alpine Falls, and traverse the cliff overlooking the entire U-shaped, glacier-carved canyon. A short distance ahead is a signed junction at 5.3 miles. Bear left to a second junction. The right fork leads to Hyalite Peak, 2 miles ahead. The left fork leads 100 yards to an overlook of Hyalite Lake at the base of Fridley Peak and Hyalite Peak. Descend to the shoreline in the dramatic mountain bowl. After enjoying the views, return on the same trail.

From Day Hikes Around Bozeman, Montana (4th Edition, 2011) by Robert Stone,

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