For the hiking enthusiast few places in the continental United States can compare to the state of Montana for outstanding hiking opportunities. Everything from beginner trails that the complete novice can complete easily to advanced trail that only the well-seasoned hiker dare attempt, Montana has hiking trails for everyone.
If you are a visitor to this beautiful state you will want to double check the weather conditions for the trail area before beginning. You will want to make sure you have the appropriate clothing and other gear necessary for a pleasant experience.
Hellroaring Plateau – Red Lodge – 6 miles – Easy
This in and out hike is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon. Perfect for all hiking skill levels, this is a hike that has fantastic views and great places for fishing. It’s considered accessible from May until October but those with experience on the trail suggest late June through mid September. Hiking to the upper basin also affords you better fishing as well as additional views.
Drinking Horse Trail – Bozeman – 2.4 miles – Moderately Easy
This scenic trail is a breathtaking example of the beauty of Montana. While the trail itself is fairly steep, it can generally be completed within a few hours. The views of Bridger Canyon and the Gallatin Valley are worth the trip. This is a good trail for older children and their parents. It’s considered easiest to go counter-clockwise when navigating the trail.
Blue Lake – Melville – 8 miles – Moderate
This incredible hike is easy for those with hiking experience but moderate for those new to hiking. The trail is located in the Crazy Mountains and starts at Half Moon Campground. This is an easy day hike but the camping is great so you might prefer to make it a weekend excursion. You have a lake, a river and a waterfall to fulfill all your water needs as well as the various animals and plants to enjoy along the way. Most of the trail is well kept but rocky in places.
The Beaten Path – Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness – 25 miles – Moderate
This is probably one of the most beautiful family-friendly long trails in Montana. You will want to plan at least a few days for this trail and it makes an excellent family vacation. Hiking from place to place and camping overnight will enable the entire family to thoroughly enjoy the views and the wildlife. Of particular note is the 1500 feet of vertical rock and Rainbow Lake, both of which are incredible to view.
The length of this trail affords it the ability to travel through several ecosystems, including Alpine terrain at the highest elevation. What this means in practical terms is that even in July there is likely to be snow in the highest elevation areas. It’s also important to note that the Absaroka-Beatooth Wilderness is aptly named; this is grizzly bear country. Be sure to plan accordingly to ensure the safety of both the wildlife as well as the hikers.
Granite Peak – Beartooth Mountain Range – 18.7 miles – Difficult
Granite Peak is the highest point in Montana and that alone makes it worth the hike. This is a difficult hike that should only be undertaken by the most seasoned hikers. To reach the summit, you will probably want to bring rope and perhaps some protection so that you can rappel down from the top. The most difficult part is the last 200 feet or so but if you can navigate the snow bridge then you can take the easier route to the summit.
This is a hike that is best taken over several days and the summit isn’t the only goal of this incredible trail. Beautiful Mystic Lake is itself a worthy goal of this trek. The pristine lake makes a great camping site as does the Princess Lake campsite further on down the trail.
Photo Courtesy of Arendal