Cottonwood Lake is a 11.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Wilsall, Montana that features a great forest setting and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length11.2 miElevation gain2,378 ftRoute typeOut & back
BackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsDog friendlyForestLakeViews
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UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (40)
Photos (70)
Activities (26)
Completed (84)
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Samantha D
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 10, 2020
BackpackingRocky

Entire trail to ourselves on a peak fall Friday in October. I can tell this is a popular spot for backpacking as there were a lot of great spots at least halfway up and along the way to the lake.

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Erin Kelly
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HikingNo shadeRocky

First 2-3 miles were easy, along an old road fairly well shaded then the trail head really starts. First incline is moderately steep and lengthy but after that one the rest isn’t as bad. Beautiful views the entire time but the lake at the end is stunning!

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Sean Kretovics
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BugsRocky

Overall a very nice hike. One very steep incline, and one moderately steep incline, but the lake is pretty awesome! The lake did not have any fish though which was a bummer (multiple people fishing, no catches, and no rises on any bugs that hit the surface). A high clearance vehicle is recommended to get to the trail head, though it can be done in a sedan.

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Jenn Treinen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 12, 2020
Hiking

Beautiful hike! Snow is off the trail for the most part, tons of wildflowers, and beautiful views. It’s obviously a very popular trail, there were a lot of people camping at Cottonwood Lake, so we camped about .4 miles below at some very pretty ponds connected by the stream. It was still very beautiful and felt more private.

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James Brutsche
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Snow

first time on this trail and was planning to camp at cottonwood lake, made it to approximately 8300 feet and the snow made tracking the trail too difficult. Overall a great trail and I'll be back when the snow clears a little more.

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Jeffrey Potter
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HikingBlowdownBugsPrivate propertyWashed out

Heavy Impact made by increased route usage over recent years. Not what it used to be, better hikes similar to this in the Beartooths at this point with less people. There is a road you can ATV up so unless you live nearby or are gonna trailer up just to cut a couple miles of flat hot roads it isn't worth it. Horseback riding this trail takes serious dedication.

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Jacque Lorang
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 2, 2019
HikingRockySnow

We actually hiked from Clyde park up to campfire lake then down and over to glacier lake then up and over to blue lake and out. We did it in 2 night (first night at campfire lake and the second night about a half mile before blue lake). There are 2 ridge crossings that make this hike pretty difficult. The trail is pretty rugged but gorgeous. You are along water for the majority of the hike with some crystal lakes, soaring mountains, waterfalls and glaciers to see along the way. Camping spots can be few and far between but we found some around campfire lake, moose lake, the trail intersection up to sunlight canyon, and the twin lakes areas. Some folks said they were camping at glacier lake but we didn’t see much for spots around there. The trail is mostly easy to keep but in a few areas it disappears however there are well placed carins to keep you on track.

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Danielle Schram
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Great hike that felt like it took forever! Hard to keep track of the trail but people try marking with rock stacks.

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Amy Linck
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Backpacking

A nice short hike, with one fairly steep one mile stretch and a second somewhat steep 1.5 mile rocky path, but with some flat parts. (These distances are approximations!) There are a couple of river crossings as well and the path seems to disappear at certain points, but there's a lot of little rock towers to guide you. But most importantly: BUG REPELLENT!!!! I amassed over 25 mosquito bites whilst being mostly covered in clothing. And it does get pretty windy.

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Elizabeth Bobowiec
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 21, 2018
Hiking

Phone died... Actual 15 mile RT hike. First 4 miles through woods mostly and on ATV road. Last 3.5 miles were tough! Technical and incline challenges. Lost the path here and there but was able to pick it up again. Followed beautiful views, waterfalls, wild flowers, and the river. Ended the hike at Cottonwood Lake. We were the only ones up there! Took a swim-it was gorgeous. Loved the challenge/reward of this hike.

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Susan Meyer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 21, 2018
Backpacking

Beautiful trail and lake at the end. Well worth the tough hike up. Camped at the lake for a night, just my dog and me and it was so nice.

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Zach LeBlanc
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Gorgeous, able to go in and out in one day. Would recommend camping for the views

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Susan Meyer
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Great hike! Tough but only for about half of it and totally worth it

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Matt Matt Evans
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Fun Hike.

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Michael Mansfield
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Camping

This hike is incredible, while one mile is basically straight up and exposed to the sun (so time your approach) the other 4 miles are in the trees with scenic views over the entire valley. The mountains are incredibly scenic and the lake is beautiful. Bugs became an issue towards night time but all in all incredible

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casey grote
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First to Review

trail is good at first on atv road for 2.5 miles or so then climbs steeply and crosses a creek and becomes sometimes difficult to find. but fallowing the creek up wards you can easily pick it up if it is lost.

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Lexie Folkerts
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Backpacking
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Alyvia Thielke
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Hiking
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Mary Casey
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Hiking
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Debi Herren
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Hiking
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Alyssa Mount
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Hiking
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Robert McMahon
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Mitch Mitchell
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Hiking
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gary dunn
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Hiking
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