11 Top-Rated Hiking Trails In Montana: For An Awe-Inspiring Hike (2022)
As far as nature is concerned, Montana is by far one of the greatest States in the entire United States. And for hiking enthusiasts, it is no less than a paradise. From the awe-inspiring hikes in the Glacier National Park to giant cedars in Kootenai National Forest, Crazy Mountains in Custer Gallatin National Forest, hiking trails and options in Montana knows no boundaries. You may visit any corner of the State and still avail benefits from a wide variety of recreational opportunities.
Outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, off-road bikers, and mountain climbers find them naturally drawn towards Montana. The hiking-based exploration here isn’t just great but also unexploited. Considering Montana’s lower population and lesser preaching, the hiking pathways here are still less touched, untapped, and kind of hidden. Though those who know Montana claims hiking is their favorite way to learn and understand the State. Its unparalleled and raw natural beauty is definitely a major draw. So why wait? Walk on these Montana Hiking Trails, and let your inner enthusiast soak into the vibe. Have a look:
11 Top-Rated Hiking Trails In Montana: For An Awe-Inspiring Hike
1. Jewel Basin Hiking Area
The Jewel Basin Hiking Area is a unique hiking space within the Flathead National Forest. The area is home to 35 miles of hiking trails that begins from the trailhead and goes all the way to the summit of Mount Aeneas. The pathway unwinds through a rough or managed route, several water bodies, and unending panoramic views. Depending upon the trails you choose, all of them are nearly four and six miles one-way. Some of the notable destinations that will open up on your way include Birch Lake and Crater Lake.
In contrast, the ultimate end is the summit of Mount Aeneas, which provides a 360-degree view of the valley underneath. On your way, you can expect mountain goats and other harmless wilds. If you plan your visit during summers, expect a great crowd.
2. The Ice Caves Trail
True to its name, the Ice Caves Trail in Montana leads all the way towards year-round ice caves. Yes, upon passing through this route, you can literally lead to some famous ice caves. The trail basically begins from the Crystal Lake Campground and, for the first three miles, ascends over 2,200 feet. Further, it passes through the flat top of the Snowy Crest, ultimately ending into the ice caves. These caves maintain iciness all year long. However, close to the caves, be careful as the seeping water makes the floor quite slippery. Apart from that, on the way, you may see multiple other mountain ranges, including Highwoods, Little Belts, Crazies, Judith, and more.
3. The Highline Trail
The most iconic Hiking trail in the Glacier National Park in Montana, the Highline Trail, is a favorite amongst enthusiasts. It begins from the highest vehicle-accessible point in Glacier Park, the Logan Pass. To reach the trailhead, travelers are required to drive through the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is an attraction on its own. Highline Trail is mostly flat, and it goes nearly 7.6 miles towards the Granite Park Chalet. Even though the route is easy, near to the beginning, a steep ledge portion can make fragile hearts skip some beats. Throughout the way, the trail opens views of impressive mountains, grasslands, and all those features that make up the worldwide popularity of Glacier National Park. One of the best parts about Highline is the in-between and close to the trail; there are several camping grounds as well.
4. Mount Sentinel “M” Trail
One of Montana’s popular and most-common hiking trails is the Mount Sentinel “M” Trail. This short and steep zigzag trail begins from just above the campus of the University of Montana. It leads towards the M landmark (Mount Sentinel), which is a destination in itself and provides a bird’s eye view of the entire Missoula. Though the actual trail is nearly 0.7 miles long, hikers can continue another steep mile and reach the summit. The trail is definitely accessible with less technicality and dangers in between; but, your legs might start paining towards the end. However, if you are short on time and still want to go for a hike, the Mount Sentinel “M” Trail is definitely your route.
5. The Trapper Peak Trail
Trapper Peak, the granite giant of Montana, is where every adventure heart wants to reach. This majestic peak (10,157 feet) stands over the splendid Bitterroot Mountains. Though different trails lead towards the summit, the common one begins from the Trapper Peak Trailhead. This four-mile-long summit is nicely designated, steadily steep, and isn’t very strenuous. However, it becomes technically demanding and challenging for many upon coming towards the very end. While a sharp eye and rigid foot can make you get over it, some silly mistakes can cause you much. The best time to follow this adventure is during summers. During Monsoons and winters, the hiking conditions can become dangerous and highly demanding. However, if you are an experienced hiker, all you need is some hiking gear and experience to summit Trapper Peak, regardless of the season.
6. The Sweetgrass Trail
The Sweetgrass Trail offers hiking opportunities in south-central Montana. The trail basically lies in the Crazy Mountains, mainly part of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Sweetgrass Trail is ideal for beginners who want to explore nature but aren’t well versed with the stress of hiking (except walking). To begin with, reach the Halfmoon Campground, hike on the Big Timber Creek Trail (2.9 miles), and it will ultimately open your path into the Sweetgrass Trail. The main trail encompasses nearly 17 miles and is ideally for solid-day hikers or backpackers. On your way, you will come across Thunder Lake, Twin Lake, and several adventures pictures of the Crazy Mountains. Though because most of the land here is private, hikers are advised to stay in designated trails only. To avoid trespassing into private land, make sure you take a map along.
7. The Lava Lake Trail
Located in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, this hiking trail in Montana leads you to the gorgeous Lava Lake. It is nearly a 5.1-mile out-and-back steep trail that follows Cascade Creek and introduces you to some of the Greater Yellowstone region, the famed area of Montana. The course starts gaining elevation from the trailhead itself, which might lead to altitude sickness for many. The challenges at the beginning might require you to take various stops, drink water and grab some energy bars. However, after that, you will find some comparatively easy routes that will make you find ways of the oval-shaped Lava Lake. Upon standing on its banks, one can grab views of Jumbo Mountain to the southwest and Spanish Peaks to the southeast. And when the hiker looks into the reflection on the water, the image will prove why Montana is called the Big Sky Country.
If you are a fan of jaw-dropping views, this hike is something you must not miss.
Additional Popular Hiking Trails In Montana That Are Worth Exploring:
8. The Beehive Basin Trails in Big Sky
(There are multiple trails, both short and long, leading towards different destinations)
9. The Ross Creek Nature Trail in the Kootenai National Forest
(It is famous for a large family and group hikes and goes nearly 4 miles. The route brings close several giant western cedars, some even five centuries old).
10. The Palisade Falls outside Bozeman
(It is one of the most accessible hiking trails in the State. The hike is less than a mile, is ideal for kids, and opens up some stunning scenery of the city).
11. The Holland Falls National Recreation Trail in the Flathead National Forest
(A 1.6-mile national recreation trail climbs upon an elevation of roughly 750 feet, reaching towards the fall).
Special Mention: Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
(It is a vast 3,100-mile trail system of which 820-mile stretch through Montana. Within the State, hikers can access it from Lower Seymour Lake trailhead, Rocky Ridge trailhead, and the Homestake Pass. Or, if you are on a hike for a lifetime trip, you can accomplish this significant hike and walk across the country).
Best Time For Hiking In Montana:
The best time for going on a hike in Montana is during the months of July and August. It is when the crowd is not overwhelming, and the temperature is at its comfortable best.