Bear Trap Canyon

EASY 11 reviews
#2 of 3 trails in

Bear Trap Canyon is a 15 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Norris, Montana that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

15.0 miles
1515 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips





9 months ago

Hiked into Bear Trap with the little sister on the 5/2/17. The plan was to backpack into the first campsite(about 3-4 miles in), set up camp, and then day hike back down to the slow and low parts of the river for some fly fishing. Unfortunately for us, we picked a day to hike in where a group of several Conservation Corp members were putting in some serious work on the trail (along the fishable parts of the river), and given the hard work they were doing we didn't want to be continually interrupting by fishing through them repeatedly. So we ended up just setting camp, exploring the immediate area, and enjoying the scenery. We did see a lot of bear sign along the trail, but fortunately had no encounters. The nighttime got pretty cool, given the time of year and how close to the river we'd set up camp. Easy hike in though, and the scenery is pretty nice the whole way.

Monday, March 14, 2016

More of a stroll than a hike, there is very little elevation change on this trail. It is suitable for all skill levels. And because it's an out-and-back, one is under full control of the distance they wish to cover. Beautiful scenery. The sound of the river comes and goes as the trail alternates being close to and away from the water.

Monday, June 22, 2015

From everyone else's review, I would have loved to continue this trail. The river and initial section of the canyon is beautiful. However, within the first mile, the poison ivy was so thick along the single track path, that even long pants and long sleeves would have gotten contaminated. Also had to hop over what I think was a bull snake den - saw the holes and saw the snake in the grasses along the river bank.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Beautiful hike. I did an overnight hike on this trail this week, and loved it. I plan to go back and do it again this summer. First, a few things I think people should know starting out:
1. Fishing is allowed year round on this trail. This section of the Madison is very popular with Fly Fishers, and produces some huge brown and rainbow trout. I had a ton of difficulty trying to find out the fishing regulations for this stretch of river, so hopefully this will help someone out.
2. This trail has snakes and bugs. Lots of snakes and bugs. If that is bothersome, this trail might not be the one to hike. Be on the lookout for rattle snakes in particular, as they frequent this area, but there are also rubber boas near by that are much less dangerous.
3. The trail is listed as a 14 mile out and back. Along with other reviewers, I feel this falls short. It is probably closer to a 16-17 mile out and back. It is also listed as easy-moderate with little elevation gain. This is false. The entire last half of the trail is a series of steep inclines and declines, that probably gives you alot more elevation gain accumulated than indicated.
4. There are only campsites in the first half of the trail. I was unaware of this, and when I came upon a nice little camp site at around 5 miles in, I decided I still had enough energy to keep going for a bit, and figured I'd turn off at the next campsite within a few miles. There is NO such camp site. I walked, and walked, and walked, and finally came to the dead end Montana Power fence that marks the end of the trail. As I previously mentioned, this last half of the trail has ALOT of steep up and down sections. I was very upset that I now had to walk the 3-4 miles back to the last campsite. You are much better off to stop at one of the campsites along the first half of the trail, set up camp and dump your gear, and then dayhike the rest of the trail.
5. This trail is not dog friendly. While dogs are allowed on the trail, some of the more rocky sections could be pretty damaging to their paws. I brought my dog along, and finally ended up just carrying him across the rockier stretches, after watching his paws get pinched between rocks innumerable times. He never complained, but it was still not fun to watch.
All in all, this was an amazing hike with TONS of beautiful scenery. The craggy peaks and white water rapids make for some excellent views, and the noise of the river is nice to fall asleep to.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Views of the Madison River are wonderful! Watch out for the Poison Ivy
It's loaded along the trail .

Thursday, April 03, 2014

There was a devastating fire in this area about 2 years ago and the first part of the hike is thru this. Search Bear Trap Canyon Fire if you wish. Don't be too concerned as the hike is still very scenic. The first 3rd is really easy but the last two thirds are moderate to strenuous. The trail undulates from river level to quite higher up and then back down again and repeats this almost endlessly and for this reason the trail is difficult. I think the true vertical gain and loss is more like 2000 feet instead of the 500 that is the change from start to finish. Many guides show this as a 7 mile one way hike but I think it's closer to 8 or 9. We went on April 2, 2014 with about an inch of new on dirt. The trail was a bit slippery in spots and with the sheer drop offs to the river was an "interesting" hike. By noon the snow abated and most of it melted so it was more or less a standard hike. The canyon walls are near vertical in many spots that my neck is sore one day later from looking up so much. LOL. The trail ends abruptly at the power station property and is fenced off with no trespassing signs so you will know when you are at the end. We did sneak around the corner to see what we could see but there wasn't any power station in view so we returned back to our side and became law abiding citizens again. We were really hungry for lunch anyway. We didn't see anyone all day until about 2 miles from the parking lot. Overall a nice hike.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Make this hike as long or as short as you wish. The breath-taking views and flowing Madison River keep your mind off the distance and draw you deeper into this gorgeous canyons. Watch out for snakes in the Summer months as they will be out enjoying the sunshine (just like you are!). If time allows, I try to get all the way to Bear Trap Creek (its about 4ish miles back). This is a great spot to stop, grab a bite, wet your line, and take stock of all that you've seen. Early mornings and Late evenings are best for wildlife and dramatic lighting.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Busy trail but easy and beautiful, follows the river and goes on forever! Love this one in the fall when the fishing and tubing crowd has died down.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sunday, August 25, 2013