Emerald Lake Trail is a 14.3 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bozeman, Montana that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until September. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 14.3 km Elevation Gain: 564 m Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

bugs

As of 5/28/19, hikers report that the FR 3163 is closed right at East Fork and FR 62 to Grotto Falls. This will add some distance to your overall hike.

hiking
snow
5 months ago

Completed the trail and camped the night of 10/5/19. The trail was snow covered, but was nice and compacted most of the way up. The last 1/4 to 2/3 of the trail is fairly deep and challenging, especially near the lake. Wind blows hard and cold at night, so bring a good tent and build a snow wall around the edges.

hiking
6 months ago

I liked the hike. I went in with my family in late July of 2019, with backpacks and camped overnight. The fishing at the lake was good. The fish are small but willing to play. Water was plentiful so if you have a filtration method you’ll not need to carry a bunch of water. The mosquitos were a bit of an issue, but not bad. Even in July it froze overnight, so be prepared for a cool evening.

hiking
6 months ago

good trail, steady uphill climb with some switchbacks around mile 3.5. The road in however was pretty bad, especially if you're hauling livestock. Probably would not go back unless they improve the road, unless it was for an extended camp trip.

hiking
7 months ago

Pretty nice hike to Emerald Lake with few people on the trail. Continued to Heather Lake and the views made it well worth the extra mile.

mountain biking
rocky
7 months ago

Great ride. Pretty technical. Tree roots and rocks. Need to be on your game. 8/17/19

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful trail. Lots of wildflowers and gorgeous lake at the top.

hiking
7 months ago

My first day hiking in Montana -- and a great choice it was. The trail is pretty well maintained. Proceeded beyond Emerald to Heather Lake. It's worth the extra mile or so.

hiking
8 months ago

Pretty lakes. Not mind blowing, but a nice days hike.

hiking
bugs
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Great day hike. Well used trail, lots of people had dogs. Will go back to camp. Decided not to hike further to Heather lake - that trail was muddy with sections of snow - if we had more time, would have proceeded.

running
bugs
8 months ago

running
bugs
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Beautiful hike! Trail is in really good condition. There was little snow at the top and mud along the way. Many cool waterfalls a long the way to stop and see. I did not go to Heather lake as it seemed like a very snowy trek to get there. For some reason, google maps took me to Grotto falls instead, the trailhead for this hike is past Palisade falls!

hiking
snow
8 months ago

Trail is gorgeous. We went when it was unseasonably cool for July in Montana. Lots of snow on the trail from emerald lake to heather lake, but it was well worth the trouble.

hiking
closed
10 months ago

FR 3163 is gated closed right at East Fork and FR 62 to Grotto Falls turn off. You can park and hike into Palisade Falls and points further down East Fork trail but Emerald Lake/Heather Lake would be a long haul. This was as of 5/26/19.

hiking
11 months ago

The hike is basically a Ricola commercial. It’s so pretty with many wild flowers and great Mountain View’s.

fishing
Tue Sep 18 2018

Bring fly pole for Graylings, also if want can try bottom fishing and get some cutthroats. Very fun hike and fishing!

hiking
Sat Sep 15 2018

Bring a fly rod for graylings.

Sun Aug 26 2018

Nice hike. Continue on a bit further on to Heather Lake via the trail that leads right of Emerald Lake once you reach the lake. It's a bit more private and quiet for this trail which gets a ton of multi-use traffick.

hiking
Wed Aug 08 2018

Take the road until it dead ends at the last trail head. Note the trail head marker might be miss marked. It mentions trail 531 seasonal usage when in fact it’s trail 432 (I think). I started at noon and a good spray of bug repellent and had no problems. Pretty wide path and perfect gentle slope all the way up. I did a slow jog for most of it, really great trail running path, Up and down. Loaded with wildflowers. Passed plenty of happy friendly ppl. The lake is at the top of a wide open meadow. Crystal-clear waters. Me and the dogs are in good shape and even with our jogging and lots of picture time and playing in the water we made it up in 2 1/2 hours. And down in 1 1/2. Total 4 hr trip. Tank top, shorts, and Obozo low hikers. Nice to have a light zippy up top. Peace love and happiness to your hike!

Tue Aug 07 2018

Epic wild flower hike - beautiful.

backpacking
Tue Aug 07 2018

Fantastic and interesting trail, and a beautiful destination- worth the extra mile to get to Heather Lake. Terribly buggy, bring multiple bug sprays if you plan on staying more than an hour or two.

Mon Aug 06 2018

Very beautiful hike to the lake. The hike is quite tough with the long uphill way (7,5K) but worth to do it. We had no problems with mosquitoes...

hiking
Wed Aug 01 2018

wow!!! The views were absolutely astounding. Wildflowers everywhere. I started early in the morning, which meant it was nice and shady on the trail, there weren’t too many other hikers/bikers, and the bugs weren’t as bad. Make sure to bring some solid hiking boots — I wore my running shoes and they did not fare well. The trail is very rocky throughout and dusty toward the top. Also beware of grizzly bears and their droppings. Keep bear spray with you just in case (I didn’t see any, but better safe than sorry), and watch out for the droppings along the trail. The lake was beautiful as well — you can walk all around it and there are plenty of little shady spots to eat lunch or dip your feet. Also make sure to veer off the small paths toward the stream every once in a while, there is a waterfall, some cascades, and there are wildflowers all along the creek bed. Overall, a really lovely outing!

hiking
Thu Jul 26 2018

Great hike! Mostly in the shade which is awesome! The bugs are pretty bad, bring bug spray. The wildflowers are amazing though! Climb is gradual, but it mostly follows the river which has some pretty cool cascades and waterfalls. I'm not in the best shape, but with a tired dog it only took us 5 hours. Would definitely recommend!

camping
Wed Jul 18 2018

As other reviewers have stated, this is a gradual steady climb to the top (meaning completely downhill on the way out). The trail was moderately crowded with hikers and dogs. The bugs were insane--flies and mosquitos all over the shore of Emerald Lake. Fishing was great, lots of grayling and cutthroat. We camped near the lake and were disappointed to have multiple groups walk through our camp between 8 and 9 PM. There were probably close to 10 different groups camping that night (Saturday 7/14) and one camp stayed up drinking and yelling until after midnight. The only plus to that was that because I was awake, I left the tent to use the bathroom and caught an amazing star show around 1 AM. Would not camp here again, but I would likely hike the trail up and back for some good exercise.

backpacking
Wed Jul 11 2018

This is one of my favorite hikes within 30 minutes of Bozeman! You can expect a gradual, steady climb on a wide trail that winds through thick trees the majority of the way up. You’ll also get a few opportunities to admire the canyon walls towering above you as you make your way up. There is also a beautiful section that runs through a small open area next to a creek. Once you near Emerald Lake, you’ll start to enter a few larger meadows. When you reach Emerald lake, you’ll have a great view of the peaks and plenty of spots for a picnic or camping. If Emerald lake is too crowded, continue up the west side of the lake through yet another beautiful meadow. The trail takes you one mile further to Heather lake. It is slightly smaller and has more bugs, but will likely be less crowded. There was still quite a bit of snow to go through to get to Heather Lake, last weekend, but it was manageable as long as you have a general idea of where the lake is.

fishing
Mon Jun 25 2018

Took my 9-year-old this past weekend and got to the top! The trail was still snowed over in some places and we had to follow the tracks from previous hikers. Due to the cold and windy conditions, we only stayed for about an hour but still caught four Grayling! Brought back a lot of memories of going up there when I was a kid.

hiking
Thu Jun 14 2018

I fell a couple miles short of the lake before I turned around (talked to others at the trailhead who did the same) there's still a considerable amount of snow/it was too deep for me. Wear boots, the way up is gorgeous and challenging for hikers wanting to get into better shape!

hiking
Mon Jun 11 2018

Great views at the lake, but getting up was sorta difficult due to the trail being snowed over, but if you follow the creek, you'll find it, very worth it (btw went on June 8 was still snowy)

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