Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail

MODERATE 120 reviews
#1 of 79 trails in

Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail is a 4.9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Gallatin Gateway, Montana that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
4.9 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1643 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

birding

camping

fishing

fly fishing

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

horseback riding

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

rocky

The Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) trail is a 6 mile, moderately rated, out and back trail that climbs 1600 ft to a beautiful lake setting that is surrounded by the Spanish Peaks. Located 30 min south of Bozeman, MT, the trail is primarily used for hiking and is easily accessible from May until Oct. 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 youre 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 youre 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. Seldom-visited Jumbo Lake and Cascade Lakes lie near the head of the valley, though, and I guarantee adventurous hikers will leave any crowds behind once they venture much beyond Lava Lake. Clearly, reaching these far off-trail gems will require or at least beg for an overnight trip. 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 youve 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.

hiking
18 days ago

The trail is lightly covered with snow and still a very enjoyable uphill hike. Lava Lake is beautiful when iced over. Great hike.

29 days ago

The uphill hike is tough right now in march bring your yaktracks. But we'll worth the hike

1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Despite a few iced-over sections of the trail, the hike was well worth it. The lake is still frozen and is even more beautiful than summertime. I recommend that you bring ski poles

hiking
2 months ago

Jan 22, 2017 solo 12:30p - 4:30p. 1pm Observed young couple on the way out. Snow packed easy to follow trail. Came across a spring exiting mountain side of path causing a huge mound of ice to hike around. Trail crosses quaint log bridge with man-made rail. Lake was frozen, no clear indication where the outflow to the creek began without off trail rugged exploration along the lake.

A short hike will experience all the trail has to offer hiking 20 minutes to the NFS sign designating the Wilderness Area. Turn back for the best of the trail sans lake.

3 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

Breathtaking! I enjoyed the challenge of the uphill hike and the lake was the perfect reward!

5 months ago

BEAUTIFUL!!!!

6 months ago

Well worth the climb!

hiking
6 months ago

6 months ago

7 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

Talk about amazing views and complete serenity once you arrive to the top of Lava Lake. This was absolutely one of the prettiest views I've seen and definitely worth the hike. The turnoff is off the highway; which cane a little confusing. The hike is moderate to difficult depending how much you hike. There is camping available and will be definitely coming back to take advantage of that the next time I come through this way. If you have some time, take this hike and you won't regret it.

8 months ago

Very rewarding view at the lake, it is a long steady climb to the top. 1 hour up, about 45 mins down.

hiking
8 months ago

Awesome hike. You can get up pretty quick and its moderately challenging. The lake is beautiful at the top and on a warm day really refreshing.

8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Nice hike...pretty lake. Manageable for 8 & 11yr old boys

8 months ago