Bozeman Summer Hiking Series - Lava Lake
Lava Lake - Lee Metcalf Wilderness near Bozeman, MT
Located just 25 minutes from downtown Bozeman, the Lava Lake Trailhead begins a stone's throw from the west bank of the Gallatin River. Lava Lake is a popular hike due to its proximity to both Bozeman and Big Sky, its gradual ascents along Cascade Creek and the sheer beauty of the lake itself. The trail to and from the lake is a roughly 6 mile loop that meanders through the Gallatin National Forest and Lee Metcalf Wilderness before reaching the hikes namesake.
Cascade Creek on the way to Lava Lake
Several springs and small tributaries of Cascade Creek flow out of the hillsides and across the trail along the way. Two bridges are crossed en-route to the lake as well, one over a small rivulet and the second over the rushing water of Cascade Creek. The route to the lake is populated with several unique rock formations and is dotted with wildflowers. The trail is quite rocky from start to finish and if young children are accompanying you, plan to carry them over a portion of the journey. Strollers are not an option on this particular hike either, however dogs appear to be near mandatory....just a little joke as I saw 1.5-2x as many dogs as people on the trail.
Forest Service Bridge over Cascade Creek
From the trailhead to the lake, about 1,600 feet of elevation gain is realized with the lake sitting at about 7,800ft., nestled between Table Mtn. and Jumbo Mtn. in the distance. A trail to the peak of Table Mtn. branches off of the Lava Lake Trail where you gain another 2,000ft. of elevation to reach its summit. The hike took me about 3 hours and 45 minutes car to car with a roughly 40 minute stop at the lake to take in the scenery and visit with some fellow hikers/campers. Several fisherman were pulling eager cutthroat trout out of the lake near the outlet.
Cascade Creek Meanders Through an Alpine Meadow