Canyon Lake Trail is a 10.7 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Hamilton, Montana that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length10.7 miElevation gain2,729 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashHikingNature tripsBird watchingForestLakeViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeMuddyOver grownRockyScrambleSnow
Description
Waypoints (2)

Trail starts out as a nice "up the canyon" hike, but, at about 3.5 miles in, one suddenly hits a quite steep ascent (about 1,500ft within just over a mile), then a slight descent to the gorgeous Canyon Lake.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (107)
Photos (112)
Recordings (53)
Completed (185)
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Annie Kutt
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarDecember 18, 2020
Hiking

This trail is probably great in the summer. However, I hiked it today (12/17) and the trail disappeared probably a half mile from the lake. We had hiked 5 miles and would have stayed to trail blaze the rest but we were running Out of sun light. Disappointing we didn’t get the reward of the lake view after that tough incline.

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Britta Anderson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 6, 2020
HikingIcySnow

Beautiful trail and a whole bunch of snow. Having micro spikes and some poles was extremely helpful, especially toward the end. About 3.5 miles in, the previous footprints we were following vanished. The last mile we managed to make our own trail and shuffle ourselves through ankle to knee deep snow. The last mile is steep, we didn’t make it to the lake due to daylight. But we found a nice spot near the waterfall and had an amazing view of the surrounding mountains.

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john sullivan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 4, 2020
Hiking

It was a great hike. The last 1.5 mile is definitely no joke. Loved the views.

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Ariel Esser
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 1, 2020
HikingScramble

This was the longest day hike I’ve ever done, so I found it quite challenging. As with other alpine lakes, be very careful leaving the summit, it’s very easy to lose the trail. Which I did, and I made the mistake of scrambling and bushwhacking my way back to the steep section of trail, don’t be stupid like me. Nice that it’s an easy to access trailhead and not a long drive up a FS road, just come prepared to hike.

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Sadie Hansen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 7, 2020
Backpacking

My absolute favorite trail! The last 1.5 miles is tough.. but the climb is worth it. The lake is low due to construction, but I still caught a lot of fish. I camped for two nights at the lake and enjoyed every minute of it. If you are looking for a hard hike and great views, I would definitely recommend it.

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Jenna McCrorie
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 30, 2020
HikingRocky

This trail is a great one, but that last 1.5 miles is definitely a grunt! There is also a construction crew up at the lake doing some repairs on the dam right now...they have some tents set up with all of their gear, and some of it is right on the trail wrapping around the lake (just be forewarned). The water is also drawn down quite a bit so that they can do their repairs so the lake is quite a bit smaller than it would be earlier in the summer! All that being said, the views in the canyon and the views at the lake are incredible; especially when you get to the slab section of the trail! Pretty spectacular.

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Carolyn White
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 29, 2020
Fishing

Serious workout would definitely do it again. The lake dam was exactly 5 miles and we had no issue staying on trail, yes it does get little strenuous at the 4 to 4.5 mile, the last .5 is downhill to the lake. No problem staying on trail going. We packed lunch (thankfully and plenty of water!) and a couple fishing poles and caught lots of smallish trout with one spinning rod using a “super duper” and one fly rod, both worked equally well (catch and release). Did this in Aug on a perfect slightly cloudy day, amazingly no smoke from CA fires and had a little bit of rain on the way up. Since we didn’t know and had read all the reviews we took our time going and it was a little over 3 hrs to the dam of the lake. However, we got after it on the way back and did it in 2:40. We only saw 2 other people the entire day and had the lake to ourselves which was wonderful. We get it when the reviews say it’s easy to get disoriented finding the trail after leaving the lake! There are rock cairns and pink trail tape in the wrong area! Don’t veer to the right when you leave the dam. You need to stay left and be on the left side of that rock wall to find the trail. We were surprised we started off wrong as so many people had said they did the same, it’s easy to do as there is a trail going to the right and it’s incorrectly marked ..Stay left after leaving dam. That first mile going back is a challenge especially with a little mud on the trail. What I like about this canyon trail is there’s never a life and death drop off it’s just a great workout. Even on the way “down” there’s plenty of ups to keep you working and give the knees a break. We were happy to do a guided fishing trip (in a boat) the day after this hike, I will put it that way.

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Neala Siegle
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 15, 2020
Hiking

Didn’t make it to the lake but thoroughly enjoyed this hike! We turned around at the view of the waterfall - which was spectacular. Definitely some steep uphill climbs and uneven terrain, but as long as you’re paying attention and have some confidence the trail was not difficult to stay on - at least as far as we went. Would do it again.

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Ben Weber
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 12, 2020
HikingGreat!Rocky

Beautiful lake. There is also supposedly a trail to Wyant Lake on the WSW side of Canyon Lake, which we didn't end up taking. If you decide to go around the lake, take the north side rather than going over the dam to the south side like we did. I think the difficulty with this trail is in finding it (especially on the way back). Luckily we didn't have many issues (the cairns were very helpful) but in hindsight we should have been GPS tracking. For reference to the physical demands, this trail is nowhere near as difficult as nearby Trapper's Peak (or nearly any peaks for that matter) despite also being classified as ‘Hard’. However, it is a rather long day if you go around the lake. Well worth it though.

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Herma Chanin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2020
HikingGreat!RockyScramble
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Matt R
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 10, 2020
HikingOver grownRockyScramble

7/10/2020 Hike: Whoa! This was a tough one! If you’re not in great shape and relentlessly adventurous, then look elsewhere! Also, 8.4 miles is grossly underestimated. This app had me at 10.7 miles and my other app showed 11.4 miles. Even the sign at the trail head says 5 miles to the lake. The trail needs corrected to show someone’s recording and not a series of straight lines. Started this hike around 8 am on a Friday. I was the second car in the lot and it was packed when I got back in the afternoon. The drive up wasn’t nearly as white knuckly as the Bear Creek overlook drive I did earlier in the week. There were some light showers overnight, which made for some damp trekking through the overgrown trails. It was hard to see where I was walking at times with all the encroaching plants. I was glad to be wearing pants, but they were soaked along with my shoes and socks before long. The trail overall wasn’t too hard to follow until you approach the final rocky climb to reach the lake. I was extra cautious after reading other reviews when I started climbing the rocky part. I made sure to leave some rock cairns, broken twigs, and sticks to help guide me back down. I got slightly off course on the way up but was able to pick the trail back up. I also started to stray off course on my way back from the lake before the decent, but double checked my recording on the app and was able to get back to the red line where I came up. The lake was beautiful! I had the place to myself. It’s crystal clear and there were no bugs. It was definitely worth the arduous hike to get there. Would I do it again? Probably not lol.

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Hannah Blackmore
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 3, 2020
HikingMuddyOff trailOver grownRocky

Treacherous hike. ***Only for experienced hikers***

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Gracie Schwenk
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 2, 2020
MuddyOver grownRockyScramble

Whew! What a hike. Took us about 6 hours with a 4,000 foot elevation gain. Clocked in exactly at 5 to the lake but got a little lost coming back so ended up with 10.58 miles. The hike was more difficult than I expected. The first 3 miles are moderate, but at 3.5 it was quite strenuous. I run collegiate cross country and was huffing and puffing the whole last half mile. The footing is terrible and it almost feels like you're not making any progress because you're moving so slow. We pushed through and made it to the lake. It was SO beautiful. So worth the HARD climb. It was really windy at the top so bring warmer clothes even in July. I recommend gloves and a hat for the top. As I mentioned, we got lost on the way down because the trail kind of hard to follow. Half of the time I didn't know if we were on the trail or hiking up a creek because there was so much water runoff. Bring extra socks. Only attempt this hike if you are an experienced hiker and make sure to bring some sort of map. You'll want to quit the last mile and a half, but just know it is so worth it. I felt like I was in Glacier seeing the lake. One more tip, start this hike in early morning on a day where only sunshine is in the forecast. Happy trails!

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Kayla Neuharth
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 28, 2020
BugsOver grownRocky

Superb hike! The hike took us about six hours including a lunch break at the lake! the incline is a doozy, but totally worth the views of the lake and canyon below. Make sure to follow the cairns, especially on the way down because it can be easy to lose track of the trail. Not too buggy. Over grown most of the trail.

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Dawn Malcolm
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 24, 2020
Hiking

Let me preface this by saying that I consider myself and intermediate hiker. I read all the reviews and knew what I was getting into. However, the app states that it’s an 8.4 mile out and back hike. I recorded it at 12.6 miles out and back. That’s quite a bit longer!!!! I would also say the first part of the trail is not what I would consider easy. There are inclines of various difficulty, many rocks and fallen trees to contend with. As others have said, it is challenging to follow the trail when you get closer to the lake. We actually did ok going in, it was coming back down from the lake that we had trouble finding the trail. I’d leave rock cairns going in if they aren’t already there. Be sure you’re confident in your navigational skills at that point. Overall, there are beautiful views and it’s worth the hike if you’re intermediate or better. Be prepared for a much longer hike than is stated in the trail info though.

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Leigh Isaacson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 14, 2020
HikingBlowdownRockyScramble

Great hike! The first 3-4 or so miles are uneventful except for the raging creek, great views of canyon walls, and enormous scattered boulders. The trail meanders with a gradual uphill, skirts a few talus fields, and is rocky so watch those ankles. The next mile section leads up and out of the canyon bottom starting with switchbacks becoming steeper and shorter. Then it’s mostly a steep scramble up the last .5-.25 mile. Big elevation gain in this mile and the view is worth it. Unfortunately we didn’t get to the lakes. We only reached just below Romney ridge before we had to turn around due to inclement weather rolling in. We were very glad we did as it began to downpour when we got to the canyon bottom. The scramble down would have been pretty sketchy. May be helpful to note that 1) we met a few folks who said they had a hard time finding the descending trail down to the lakes so they had turned around, and 2) we had two gps trackers that gave different mileage...we figure it was about 8.5-9 miles round trip without the lake decent.

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