Hiking in Montana is a fantastic opportunity to see the state while also interacting with nature and animals. In addition, it is possibly the most distinctive state in the United States regarding natural beauty! With that in mind, what enriching hiking trails does Montana have to offer?
Montana showcases the state’s wild and rugged environment, from awe-inspiring walks in Grinnell Glacier Trail and The Beaten Path. Along winding Cedars Trail, you’ll find Avalanche Lake, untamed rivers, high-mountain meadows, and a zoo of species, as well as beauty unique to the Big Sky country.
If you’re planning a family hike or just want to get away for the weekend, Montana has you covered! There’s a terrific path for every level of hiker that will ensure you get the most out of nature while also leaving you content and rejuvenated. That said, journey through some of the best locations Montana has to offer.
The Best Hiking Trails In Montana
Take a detour from the well-worn hiking paths on your next trip to Montana to experience sites that most people never see. This selection has something for everyone, from extreme wilderness treks and demanding day hikes to family-friendly nature, wildlife, and history tours.
Many people have never visited Montana, but all say they’d like to go there one day. That’s because they hear about the fortunate folks who have visited Montana and witnessed its incomparable splendor.
In addition, Montana’s whole state is represented. So, everywhere you venture, a less-traveled path will be nearby. So, starting with Avalanche Lake, here’s what inspiring views await you.
The Trail Of The Cedars Through To Avalanche Lake
The climb to Avalanche Lake is one of the most popular in Glacier National Park because of the lake’s highly pure blue waters and the magnificent sights you’ll see along the way. The Avalanche Lake Trailhead is located at the park’s West Entrance, just past Lake McDonald.
The Trail of the Cedars begins south of the Avalanche Gorge Footbridge and winds through old-growth cedar and hemlock woodland. The renowned Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park is beloved for numerous reasons.
It’s one of the few ADA-accessible trails in the park, it’s pretty easy to find, and it’s just a mile long so that you can fit it into almost any busy park schedule.
However, the fact that it’s surrounded by old-growth forest, cushioned with lush green ferns and mosses, is the part that sinks in the most for many. It’s as if you’ve walked into an unreal fantasy when you enter the woodland.
The boardwalk winds its way along the raging stream to a stunning glacial melt lake fed by cascades from the surrounding alpine basin.
Following the walk of the Cedars segment, the trail gradually climbs along Avalanche Creek, offering stunning vistas and sights of the area’s birds and fauna. Flora fans will like the variety of species. Once you approach the lake, the route flattens out.
Because the Trail of the Cedars is a popular stop along the Going-To-The-Sun Road, it is suggested that you arrive early. In addition, the hiking paths in this region are notorious for bear sightings. As a result, it is best to be prepared and know how to respond in the event of a wildlife encounter.
Kootenai National Forest: Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area
Hike through the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area, surrounded by a dense canopy of enormous western red cedar trees, some of which reach 175 feet.
The 100-acre rainforest area, located south of Troy in northwest Montana’s Kootenai National Forest, protects an awe-inspiring grove of ancient cedars, most of which are more than 500 years old and some of which are over a century old.
The accessible nature route, which begins in the parking lot, crosses Ross Creek and loops through part of the grove, providing up-close views of the vast trees. There are seats and interpretive signage along the paved walk, which is less than a mile long.
Then, follow the nature walk to Ross Creek Trail 142, a 4.5-mile day trek suited for families, for a deeper dip beneath the cedars.
Custer National Forest, Black Canyon Lake Trail
Next, we have the Black Canyon Lake Trail near Red Lodge, Montana. This challenging fourteen-mile track, nestled among the gorgeous Beartooth Mountain Range, is undoubtedly a trek for the professionals.
It’ll be difficult, you’ll break a sweat, and you’ll need a lot of preparation to accomplish this climb ultimately – but you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking vistas.
If you’re an experienced hiker, the first section of the trek, beginning at the end of Lake Fork Road, is pretty straightforward. A few miles in, you may take a side route down to Lost Lake (if it’s safe to do so), which is well worth the extra few minutes and short but steep detour.
The route becomes considerably more complex around the midway mark. In addition, it may be dangerous in the winter, so only go if you’re familiar with the terrain and have expertise in doing icy excursions.
Make no mistake: arriving at Black Canyon Lake, which is breathtaking, is the genuine highlight of this trek. The brightly colored turquoise lake stands at the foot of spectacular Beartooth Mountain, and the scenery is quite breathtaking.
National Historic Landmark: Rosebud Battlefield State Park
The 3,052-acre park, which is roughly 90 miles southeast of Billings, protects one of the best instances of a Great Sioux War battlefield and is holy territory to the Northern Cheyenne.
Hundreds of Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors and US Army soldiers fought in the 1876 Battle of the Rosebud, which lasted eight hours and involved thousands of Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors.
Paths in the rustic park, formerly a ranch reclaimed by nature, lead to historic sites like petroglyphs engraved beneath an ancient buffalo leap. Hike up to the crest of Crook’s Hill, which served as the US Army command post during the fight, for panoramic views of rocky outcroppings and the wave-like plains.
Ousel Falls Park Trail Near Gallatin Gateway, Montana
With winter soon coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about some outdoor activities that don’t require skis or snowshoes. The Ousel Falls Park Trail is ideal for your first trek of the season since nothing beats fresh air coupled with the mist of a waterfall.
It’s easy to locate and short enough for hikers of all abilities, but most importantly, it’s a lovely stroll in the woods. Big Sky is home to Ousel Falls, which is undoubtedly one of Montana’s most gorgeous regions. To get there, take Highway 191 south from Four Corners for 30 miles and then turn right onto Big Sky Spur Road.
After about three miles, take a left into Ousel Falls Road and follow the signage. The path is well-marked and straightforward to locate, and the trailhead even has a free parking lot. While the route is delightful on a hot day, it is available all year and is beautiful in any season.
The short trip includes three bridges that run beside the South and West Forks of the Gallatin River. The river may be seen up close and personal from the bridges. This trek is approximately 1.6 miles long, so it’s not genuinely challenging.
Flathead National Forest, Danny On Memorial Trail
The Danny On Memorial Trail, which is located near Whitefish, honors Danny On, a guy who was a photographer and environmentalist and someone whose unbridled enthusiasm for Montana and its beauty encouraged many people to visit Big Sky Country.
The moderately-paced climb is just under six miles long. While there is some strenuous elevation gain, the vista from the summit affords a tremendous panoramic perspective of Big Sky. If you go on this trek in the spring, you’ll be able to see the beautiful wildflowers that bloom across the region!
Sluice Boxes Trail Near Belt, Montana
Sluice Boxes State Park in Belt offers adventurous day hikers breathtaking views of the limestone cliffs, creek crossings, and Montana’s mining heritage artifacts. The 1,450-acre park, named after the gold-panning trays used by prospectors, spans the canyon’s eight northernmost miles.
When the water level in the fast-moving stream is low (usually from July to September), you may climb the rustic Sluice Boxes Trail into the canyon. An abandoned railroad bed runs 7.5 miles one-way from Riceville Bridge at the top of the canyon to Logging Creek Bridge.
Hike the first two miles of the path and turn around for a shorter Sluice Boxes sampler—scenic overlooks, stream crossings, abandoned cottages, and some cliff-hugging parts.
Glacier National Park’s Highline Trail
Glacier National Park, which encompasses over a million acres and is home to glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and a diverse range of plant and animal life, is one of Montana’s claims to fame.
There are numerous treks to choose from in Glacier that are well worth your time. They range in difficulty from easy family treks to strenuous backcountry excursions and everything in between.
Though it’s difficult to choose just one walk from Glacier’s 700+ miles of trails, if we had to, we’d recommend lacing up your hiking boots and heading out on the Highline Trail. Thousands enjoy this trail as it begins at Logan Pass, the park’s highest point accessible by vehicle.
Take the magnificent Going-to-the-Sun Road all the way to the summit, and the Highline Trail will begin there. This trek will take you 7.6 miles to Granite Park Chalet and is relatively level. You’ll see stunning vistas of the mountains that make up this spectacular national park along the route.
When you make your way past a steep cliff for a portion of the climb, you’ll get a taste of adrenaline-pumping excitement. However, you can also depart from this path and embark on another journey that will take you to the Grinnel Glacier Overlook.
Glacier National Park’s Hidden Lake Trail
It’s not surprising to find Glacier National Park again on the list since it is not only Montana’s (and probably the world’s) most aesthetically magnificent destination but also packed with daring treks and expansive views.
Furthermore, even the most experienced hikers will find some of the greatest hiking paths with the most breathtaking vistas challenging to negotiate.
That said, several short walks are well worth your time and provide spectacular views. One of these is the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail. Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is located near Siyeh Bend in Glacier National Park.
This 2.7-mile hike, also known as the Hidden Lake Nature Trail, is rated moderate on AllTrails, which means it’s doable for most Montanans. The hike begins on the Logan Pass Visitor Center’s west side.
After climbing the steps, follow the signs to the Hanging Gardens Trailhead or the Hidden Lake Nature Trail. The route begins on a paved surface before swiftly transitioning to an elevated boardwalk for the initial segment.
Snow is present every season, at least in portions of the city. Hike long into the summer months to avoid it on the path. The ascent can be a little steep for a beginner hiker, but it’s so gradual that you might not even notice. The vistas of Mt. Oberlin and Clements Mountain, on the other hand, will make you forget you’re working out.
You’ll reach the Hidden LakeOverlook after around 1.4 miles of climbing, where you’ll be rewarded with bird’s-eye views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Lava Lake Trail Near Gallatin Gateway, Montana
Even the most ardent hiker will concede that the most significant routes in Montana have some form of rewards, such as a waterfall or a panoramic vista. For example, if you’re hiking in the Gallatin Gateway region, you may select a path that takes you to one of Montana’s most beautiful lakes.
The Cascade Creek Trail, also known as the Lava Lake Trail, starts at the Gallatin River. Take Highway 191 south into Gallatin Canyon to get to the trailhead. Then, drive 20 miles north of the Gallatin River bridge to the Lava Lake trailhead parking area.
It isn’t a minor hike; it’s over 6 miles long. However, while the hike is strenuous at times, it is not very challenging. Initially, vistas are limited due to the deep foliage. However, as you get closer to the lake, the environment transforms from pleasant to stunning. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of strenuous hikes, these sights make it all worthwhile.
This large lake is surrounded by mountains and makes for a spectacular scene. Autumn colors are spectacular if you can face the elements. If the weather permits, there are many spots to camp in the vicinity. Just remember to bring enough water, food, and bear spray.
The list doesn’t end there with Montana’s best trails, as the Big Sky Country has far more to offer. However, these trails have something for everyone, no matter what skill level you are at, with family-friendly hikes to more challenging trails for you and your friends to feast your eyes on remarkable views that would be remembered forever.