Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail

MODERATE 95 reviews
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Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail is a 4.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Gallatin Gateway, MT that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

4.9 miles 1587 feet Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

birding

camping

fishing

fly fishing

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

horseback riding

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

rocky

The Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) trail is a 6 mile, moderately rated, out and back trail that climbs 1600 ft to a beautiful lake setting that is surrounded by the Spanish Peaks. Located 30 min south of Bozeman, MT, the trail is primarily used for hiking and is easily accessible from May until Oct. The trail to Lava Lake follows a very obvious route without any potentially confusing intersections, so unlike the vast majority of other hikes in this area, it is not absolutely essential to have a map. After skirting above some summer cabins for the first third of a mile, the trail enters the Cascade Canyon, which it follows to Lava Lake. Total distance to the lake is just less than three miles, with an elevation gain of 1600. While not a stroll along the beach, this hike is very do-able for anyone in reasonable shape. The elevation is gained steadily and gradually, and a log bridge facilitates the only creek crossing of any consequence. Views are somewhat limited for about the first half of the trip as the trail passes through a dense lodgepole forest, but open up as you get higher up into Cascade Creek. One other thing that could be viewed as good or bad, depending on your point of view, is that the trail is quite rocky. This is mostly a disadvantage for horse users, and the upside is that you wont encounter the mud bogs common to some other area trails with softer footing. Also, since the trail is not especially popular with horseback riders, hikers wont often have to step around horse droppings. As you start getting closer to the lake, the canyon bottom opens up with some meadows, a likely area to spot a moose. A little further and the trail switchbacks up the natural dam that backs up the lake, and youre there! The views improve dramatically at the lake, with 10,412 Jumbo Mountain and several other un-named 10,000 peaks surrounding the Cascade Creek valley. Should you wish to make your trip an overnighter theres several good camping sites near the foot of the lake, and even day-hikers will want to spend some time savoring the rewards of their exertion. If youre interested in fishing, its worth wetting a line in pursuit of the resident trout, which are mostly in about the 10" range. Some of the lakes in the Spanish Peaks are noted for bigger (sometimes much bigger!) fish, but they tend to be considerably harder to reach than Lava Lake. Although the official Cascade Creek trail ends at the foot of the lake, a well-trodden path extends to its upper end. Beyond that, you're on your own, though. Its not too hard to bushwhack about a half mile beyond the lake, but after that the valley becomes much steeper and choked with deadfall, making hiking beyond the lake a dubiously worthwhile venture. Seldom-visited Jumbo Lake and Cascade Lakes lie near the head of the valley, though, and I guarantee adventurous hikers will leave any crowds behind once they venture much beyond Lava Lake. Clearly, reaching these far off-trail gems will require or at least beg for an overnight trip. For those wishing a longer trip, just before Lava Lake a trail branches off and heads up the ridge to the east, gaining a grueling 2000 vertical feet, mostly in the first mile, on its way to a high (9000) ridge. Once this ridge is attained, though, the going gets easier, and the views are tremendous. It eventually crosses Table Mountain and descends to Deer and Moon lakes after about eight miles. Then you can descend Deer Creek back down to the Gallatin River, from whence you will have to hitchhike back to your vehicle unless youve arranged a shuttle beforehand. Total distance between trailheads on the route described is about 16 miles. Obviously, only fit and experienced backpackers should undertake these sort of trips.


8 days ago

Very rewarding view at the lake, it is a long steady climb to the top. 1 hour up, about 45 mins down.


12 days ago

hiking

Awesome hike. You can get up pretty quick and its moderately challenging. The lake is beautiful at the top and on a warm day really refreshing.


12 days ago


12 days ago

hiking

Nice hike...pretty lake. Manageable for 8 & 11yr old boys


15 days ago

hiking

Berry picking in midAugust is so fun!


17 days ago

hiking

Beautiful lake, completely worth the climb. Good amount of people on the trail. At an incline the whole way up. Would go again!


18 days ago

hiking

Get here very early!! Trail gets busy with people & dogs off-leash. I just used cross training sneakers, very well groomed & traveled trail. if you are daring, hike around the lake and you'll have the south end to yourself, with sandy beach.


18 days ago

hiking


18 days ago

hiking

Rocky & uphill but well worth the work. I'm out of shape as I haven't hiked in 4 years but many people were hiking it, all ages, and it didn't seem difficult for them at all. Mostly shaded and a creek follows the trail the entire way so the dogs loved this! I will be doing this one again!


1 month ago

Fun day hike!


1 month ago

New to moderate so lots of vertical, comparatively, but very nice. 10&11 had no problem.


1 month ago

simply beautiful hike


1 month ago

hiking

This is pretty close to an ideal hike for me. It's beautifully shaded, crosses a stream, ends at a gorgeous clear lake (great for a quick cold swim), and has lots of wildflowers and berries. The route is moderately uphill and rocky, enough to breathe harder but not so much that I had to take a break. So far, one of my favorite trails in the Bozeman area.

I saw one small snake, didn't notice any other wildlife (hiking with a dog so maybe we just scared them away). The rocky trail could be trouble for the clumsy or weak-of-ankle.


1 month ago

hiking

This hike is not moderate. Mostly up hill. (From a kids perspective) the hike is actually 6 miles to lava lake.


1 month ago


1 month ago

hiking

We started later in the day and were in the shade almost the entire way. The trail is pretty much like walking up stairs with all the rocks and stones. Beautiful, quiet, well worth the hike.


1 month ago

hiking

Great hike , not to hard. Bring your bear spray , heard a few bears in the area. A beautiful lake at the top. Bring your friends .


1 month ago

hiking

Beautiful hike, the lake is stunning lots of birds and wild flowers.


1 month ago

hiking

My first hike in Montana and it was definitely everything I'd want in a hike. slightly difficult at times, but I'm new to hiking so it's expected. Friendly people and beautiful surroundings.