Horsetail Falls, Park County, Montana

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: March 4th, 2023

Horsetail Falls in Park County, Montana, is a beautiful, rushing waterfall that is popular for visitors in both spring and winter. The water freezes firmly enough that folks like to climb the frozen falls in winter, and during the spring, when the flow is heaviest as the snow melts off the nearby mountains and feeds the source, Pyramid Creek. It’s beautiful year-round, though.

Details About Horsetail Falls

horsetail falls

Horsetail Falls is nestled into the Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman.  The falls are east of Flanders Mountain and south of Palisade Mountain.

  • Location: Gallatin National Forest, Park County, Montana
  • Latitude: 45°26’26.77″
  • Longitude: -110°54’58.78″
  • Elevation: 8,389 feet

Can I Drive to Horsetail Falls?

The falls are located 17.5 miles from Bozeman, closer to Kotke, Montana. Horsetail Falls is a hike-in-only waterfall. There is a trailhead with parking at FS3163.

Are There Trails to Horsetail Falls?

To reach Horsetail Falls, you’ll need to hike in on Emerald Lake Trail. The trail is considered moderately challenging and takes most folks about 5.25 hours to complete the hike. The trail is an out and back heading to Emerald Lake and Heather Lake.

The trail runs alongside East Fork Hyalite Creek much of the way. The trail is popular and attracts many hikers and backpackers, people fishing, and camping. You’re likely to come across other people along the trail.

You may bring your dog along on a leash in most areas, but off-leash in others. Be sure to pay attention to signage for locations. The trail is used by hikers, mountain bikers, dirt bikers, and others.

Many locals find the trail to be among their top local hikes, thanks to the gradual elevation, sound of rushing water, wildflowers, and wildlife found everywhere along the way.

The wooded trail has a mix of lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, and Engelmann spruce. All along the way, you’ll find great places for a picnic or rest break.

  • Distance: 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,165 feet
  • Route type: Out and back

Can I Go Camping at Horsetail Falls?

park county

Horsetail Falls doesn’t have camping itself, but the Emerald Lake Campground is nearby, between Emerald Lake and West Rosebud Lake.

There’s fishing access for Emerald Lake and West Rosebud Lake located along the West Rosebud drainage. The campground has 32 sites, with bathroom access. The maximum length for trailers is 30 feet.

There’s a 16-day cap for your camping visit, for $15 a night. There are no reservations available at Emerald Lake Campgrounds. The sites are very popular, so be sure to get in early, especially in summer.

The campground is maintained from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The campgrounds, however, are open and free for use in the non-peak season (September to the end of May). If you stay off-season, you’ll need to bring your own water and toilet paper, and you’ll need to pack your own trash and remove it from the grounds.

Are There Lakes Near Horsetail Falls?

At the end of the Emerald Lake Trail, you’ll find Heather Lake, with Emerald Lake a bit earlier on the trail. All along the way, you’ll also East Fork Hyalite Creek several times, as well as an unnamed stream.

Visiting Horsetail Falls in Park County, Montana

Horsetail Falls is a lovely waterfall located within the Gallatin National Forest in Park County in Park County, Montana. You’ll need to hike into the waterfall itself, from the Emerald Lake Trail, which is considered a moderately challenging hike.

Before you head out to the falls, be sure to:

  • Wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes fit for hiking
  • Wear weather-appropriate attire
  • Apply sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Wear sunglasses and other sun protection
  • Bring along plenty of water and snacks for your hike
  • Consider bringing an emergency kit with a flashlight, bandages, blister care, and similar aids.

Have you been to Horsetail Falls? Tell us what we missed in the comments – or share your pictures and highlights!

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About The Author

Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca has been a travel blogger and editor for over 5 years, working with some of the biggest brands in industry. She’s taught English as a foreign language in 5 different countries, and her most fulfilling role was as a tour guide around some of Europe’s finest vineyards. She the one behind the social channels here at Discovering Montana, whilst also finding the time to perform an assistant editor role.

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