Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail

MODERATE 515 reviews

Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) Trail is a 5.5 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: 5.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1,620 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

camping

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

snowshoeing

walking

bird watching

running

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

rocky

The Lava Lake (Cascade Creek) climbs 1600 ft to a beautiful lake setting that is surrounded by the Spanish Peaks. 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 you're 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 you're 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. 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 you've 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.

the lake is 3 miles and total is 6 miles in and back. terrain was rocky and slushy. into the lake is a vertical climb the entire hike.

hiking
muddy
6 days ago

hiking
6 days ago

View was amazing. When we went 5 days ago, it was 20 degrees and snowing pretty hard. We passed only 2 other groups of people, both groups told us they turned around prior to the peak because of deep snow, and multiple bear tracks. We saw some tracks, and some bear scratches in the tree trunks... come prepared with bear spray! This hike is still my favorite hike we’ve done this whole trip. Don’t turn around! It’s worth it

hiking
muddy
rocky
snow
7 days ago

hiking
19 days ago

The trail is very intense has a lot of rocks. I would like to believe that a hiking stake is very helpful. It is pretty heavily trafficked people tend to hike with their dogs. bring water and a snack. A beautiful scenic at the top.

hiking
21 days ago

Did the trail in very early spring, fantastic views and a great spot to hang out before heading back down

hiking
22 days ago

5.5 MILES, bad recording

it was a bit wet today. wear layers and good shoes in this weather. rocks over 95% of this trail, but the scenery and view is well worth it!

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Beautiful hike all the way to the lake! Gallantin river on the side. It's about 90-95% rocky and clear trail. So can be done with running or trail shoes; yet, if a new hiker, better wear hiking boots with good ankle support. Bear country and someone spotted a bear lately, so be prepared and safe.

hiking
1 month ago

This trail has great scenery! The lake is amazing and definitely worth the 5.5 miles round trip.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Did this trail on 9/1/19. It had a little bit of everything. The scenery changed throughout the hike. Steep inclines but the lake at the end was worth the trek. Rocky but as long as you’re watching your footing, it’s not bad. Took our dog with us and she had no problem with the rocks on the trail. Would definitely recommend!

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
bugs
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Beautiful trail. Worth noting steep incline majority of the way, may make this ‘’moderate” trail “hard” for some of your hiking party. We had to turn around before the end because of this. Great hike otherwise!

stunning

hiking
1 month ago

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hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail. Fairly easy to the lake. Very pretty lake. If you have energy left make it to the ridge to get even more amazing views. It’s definitely harder (50 minutes of strenuous uphill path but definitely worth it). Just take the path to the right when you get to the lake crossing.

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

Nice hike, very rocky most of the way making the descent pretty much as long as ascent. Swimming was refreshing 8/5/19. Moderate traffic on trail. Next time we’ll camp there. We swam and ate lunch , bothered by some horse flies at lake edge while eating

hiking
2 months ago

It was a great hike! Definelty worth the hike to the lake!! Such a pretty view!

hiking
2 months ago

this was an amazing trail! my husband and I plus are two boys ages 8 and 10 plus our dog conquered this hike today! it was our longest hike as a family. it is definitely challenging at times, but not unachievable. The view at the top is wellworth the hardships on the way up! the wild blueberries along the way were an amazing snack! I would recommend bringing a container to take them home!

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

hiking
rocky
2 months ago

The trail is very easy to follow. We saw a lot of dogs up at the lake. The views at the lake are well worth the uphill hike. Nothing too steep but very rocky. We packed in and spent the weekend in a tent. Very cool camp spots.

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