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Best trails in Custer Gallatin National Forest

7,647 Reviews
Looking for a great trail in Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana? AllTrails has 108 great hiking trails, trail running trails, mountain biking trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. Ready for some activity? There are 60 moderate trails in Custer Gallatin National Forest ranging from 1.6 to 48.2 miles and from 4,901 to 10,311 feet above sea level. Start checking them out and you'll be out on the trail in no time!
Description

Encompassing more than 3 million acres and stretching across seven ranger districts including Bozeman, Hebgen Lake Ranger District in West Yellowstone, MT, Yellowstone R.D. in Livingston, MT, Gardiner R.D., Beartooth R.D. in Red Lodge, MT, the Ashland R.D. in far southeastern MT and Sioux R.D. in Camp Crook, SD, the Gallatin National Forest is known as one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the region. As Gateway to Yellowstone National Park, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness; the Forest features many adventures among rugged mountains, including the tallest Peak in Montana to remote buttes and the bluffs of southeastern Montana and northwestern South Dakota.

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Map of trails in Custer Gallatin National Forest
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Top trails (108)
#1 - Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail
Custer Gallatin National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(786)
Length: 6 mi • Est. 3 h 19 m
The Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) climbs 1600 ft to a beautiful lake setting that is surrounded by the Spanish Peaks. 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 you're 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 you're 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. 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 you've 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.Show more
#2 - Ousel Falls Park Trail
Custer Gallatin National Forest
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(599)
Length: 1.6 mi • Est. 49 m
#3 - Storm Castle Peak
Custer Gallatin National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(510)
Length: 4.7 mi • Est. 3 h 9 m
Please note: gate to trailhead closes seasonally and adds about 3 miles or 45 minutes to the hike overall.Show more
#4 - Drinking Horse Mountain Trail
Custer Gallatin National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(489)
Length: 2.1 mi • Est. 1 h 17 m
The trail is great for hiking and normally takes 1-3 hours. The trail is steep, and it is easiest to go counter-clockwise. Great views of Bridger Canyon and the Gallatin Valley.Show more
#5 - Grotto Falls Trail
Custer Gallatin National Forest
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(233)
Length: 2.4 mi • Est. 1 h 9 m
This dirt, forested trail has great views of cliffs and mountains, is used for walking and biking, and ends at the beautiful Grotto Falls. Accessibility: This trail is dirt and typically at least four feet wide. It is somewhat steep, however, with several sections with a 10% grade (at about 0.5 miles, 0.8 miles, and 1.1 miles). The average grade is 5%. This trail may be too steep for manual equipment users without assistance.Show more
#6 - Hyalite Creek Trail to Hyalite Lake
Custer Gallatin National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(160)
Length: 14.5 mi • Est. 7 h 50 m
Please note that trails in this area/roads leading to the trailheads are often closed well into May for snowy conditions. Please check with the Gallatin National Forest for more information if visiting during winter.Show more
#7 - South Cottonwood Creek Trail
Custer Gallatin National Forest
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(186)
Length: 4.9 mi • Est. 1 h 57 m
#8 - Blue Lake
Custer Gallatin National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(79)
Length: 7.5 mi • Est. 4 h 29 m
#9 - Mount Blackmore via Blackmore Trail
Custer Gallatin National Forest
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(129)
Length: 10.8 mi • Est. 6 h 53 m
#10 - Passage Falls
Custer Gallatin National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(113)
Length: 5.1 mi • Est. 2 h 28 m
Showing results 1 - 10 of 108