The Big Sky Country is paradise to any hiker. Choosing the best hiking trails in Montana, then, becomes a happy dilemma. From scenic views of pristine alpine meadows to sights of dazzling waterfalls, there is something for everyone in the Treasure State.
The best time to hit the Montana tails is from late June through mid-September. If you are particularly interested in Glacier National Park, going there in the summer is ideal— no slippery snow, especially in mountain passes.
But when nature calls to your soul, and you want to go now, then we can guide you. Here are the 10 best hiking trails in Montana, in any season.
1. Beehive Basin Trail, Big Sky
Beehive Basin Trail is one of the top picks of hikers in Montana for its intense views. The 6.6-mile roundtrip hike is a moderate slope, where you achieve 1,500 elevation. This allows you breathtaking views of Lone Peak with its unspoiled alpine meadows.
Beehive Basin Trail is just a stone’s throw away from the chairlifts of Big Sky Resort, a renowned Montana ski resort. Travelers are also known to take the popular day hike into the Beehive Basin glacier cirque.
If you seek a more family friendly hike, you can depart from Ousel Falls, which is located only 10 miles from the Beehive Basin Trailhead. It’s a mere 2-mile round trip, and is near Big Sky town center.
2. Lava Lake, Custer Gallatin National Forest
The trail will have you crossing the jaw-dropping Cascade Creek before you reach your destination: Lava Lake. It is within the crater of a very old volcano.
Located in Gallatin Canyon, the day hike is hugely popular among professional hikers. From the trailhead, the elevation gain towards Lava Lake is quite challenging and would require rest stops. But a successful hike in this trail is life-changing for its stunning beauty.
3. Highline Trail, Glacier National Park
One of the most sought after hiking trails in Montana is the Highline Trails— found in Glacier National Park. The picturesque trail begins from the northern side of Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass.
The departure area is from the top-most point of Logan Pass, which is accessible by car. From there, hikers traverse 7.6 miles of flat land all the way to Granite Park Chalet. The trail allows you an unobstructed view of spectacular mountains— the kind which makes Glacier National Park truly iconic.
The trail encompasses deep crevices of glacial valleys and a smattering of literally hundreds of glistening alpine lakes. From Granite Park Chalet, the trail blends toward Fifty Mountain Campground, which is a stretch of 11.9 miles.
4. Birch Lake, Jewel Basin Hiking Area, Flathead National Forest
Jewel Basin is a backpacker’s destination located at the northernmost tip of the Swan Mountain range. Close to Flathead Lake, which is 30 miles east of Kalispell, it splinters to multiple trails encompassing over 35 miles.
One of the best trails in Montana, it attracts crowds during the summer. You must, then, be okay to share the trails.
The soul-stirring trail is a scenic ribbon that winds through a high-mountain environment punctuated with pristine lakes. At Birch Lake, which is an easy 3-mile hike from Camp Misery Trailhead, you can even fish. From there, you can continue for a 3-mile hike to Crater Lake.
5. Holland Falls National Recreation Trail, Flathead National Forest
Start at the junction of East Holland Lake Connecter, which is located close to the parking lot. The easy trail stretches 1.6 miles and elevates to about 750 feet. The goal is to reach the jaw-dropping 50-foot Holland Falls, which is flanked by equally jaw-dropping views.
The trail outlines the shoreline of Holland Lake. The popular lake is snug in between northwest Montana’s Swan Mountain and Mission Mountain.
After the comfortable trail, hikers usually venture to Morrell Falls National Recreation Trail along Highway 83. The 2.7-mile hike will be rewarded with Morrell Falls— a 90-foot double waterfall. This also provides access to a glorious view of Swan Mountain.
6. Danny On Memorial Trail, Flathead National Forest
Named after an inspiring Montana ecologist and photographer, the Danny On Memorial Trail is found in Whitefish. Less than 6 miles of hike, the trail leads to a difficult elevation to the summit, but which gives you access to a rare panoramic view of Big Sky.
The trail begins at the base of the ski resort, and allows you to choose four different paths towards the iconic panoramic view. The direct trail is about 3.9 miles with views of Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley, Canadian Rockies, and Bob Marshall Wilderness.
7. The Boulder Pass Trail, Glacier National Park
If you’re within Glacier National Park and in need of a challenging trail, the Boulder Pass is recommended. For veteran hikers, this trail is moderately difficult.
If you’re a beginner, you will have to endure an arduous experience if you want to be rewarded with views of staggering beauty. You must, however, don’t just set off. You need an intense guide to accomplish the trail
The trail begins at Kintla Lakes, about 19 miles to the stunning Boulder Pass. It’s a remote-backcountry territory (with bear encounters) that overlooks the legendary Hole in the Wall waterfall.
8. Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
This trail charts a path through some of the United States’ most stunning— and treasured— terrain. Spanning an epic 3,100 miles, the trail begins from the scenic deserts of New Mexico and ends in the high mountains of the Northern Rockies.
From New Mexico, the entire Continental Divide Trail will lead you to Colorado, then Wyoming, then Idaho, all the way to the alpine peaks of Montana. The trail will reward you with access to the Chinese Wall, found in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Some hikers, however, prefer to start the trail in Montana. Here, you can depart from the Pacific Northwest Trail, a rugged trail that is 1,200 miles long between Glacier National Park and in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Plenty of day-hike activities along the way for the hiker to enjoy.
9. Trapper Peak, Bitterroot National Forest
There are multiple trailheads for Trapper Peak, but the most common starting point is Trapper Peak Trailhead. It’s a 4-mile hike to the mountain peak, with a gradual steep of up to 4,000 feet.
Mounted on the Idaho Panhandle in southwest Montana, the mountains of Bitterroot are one chunk of the Bitterroot National Forest that spans 1.6 million acres. It’s essentially a sharp but short-distanced mountain hike. Trapper Peak’s summit provides an astounding view. But hikers also tend to hike to nearby St. Mary Peak and Lolo Peak. If you are interested in views beyond mountains, the Kootenai Creek Trail and Blodgett Canyon are options to see waterfalls, lakes, and other natural magnificence.
10. Trail of the Cedars, Glacier National Park
Within Glacier National Park, 49.3 miles northeast of Kalispell, is a portal to an adventure amidst awe-inspiring scenery. The Destination is Avalanche Lake— and to get there is the easy-to-intermediate Trail of the Cedars.
Apart from Avalanche Lake, the Trail of the Cedars also leads to Glacier Cedar Forest. The departure point starts on the boardwalk at the Trail of the Cedars, which opens to a dense fairy-tale forest. The trail, then, takes you to Avalanche Creek’s drainage before you arrive at its famous lake.
Avalanche Lake features a double narrow waterfall that cascades down into the valley. You can pack your lunch and enjoy snacking along the shore.
Montana is home to a thousand trails that will melt the stress away from travelers. These 10 hiking trails offer the best of the Treasure State.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a frequent hiker, there is something for you in Montana. Breathe in the fresh air, and navigate through scenic views of alpine peaks, dazzling lakes, and virgin wilderness. Montana truly invigorates the soul.