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Lava Lake

A stiff hike leads to a beautiful alpine lake popular with fly fishermen.

Hiking Severe

8.7 km
503 m
503 m
2-3 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
2.2 km
Lava Lake Map

Lava Lake is a gorgeous lake in a narrow alpine valley below Jumbo Mountain. The rocky Cascade Creek trail provides access to the lake, climbing "through a thick evergreen forest, continuing past a few waterfalls to a forest-lined lake surrounded by rock walls and treeless mountaintops," according to OutsideBozeman.com. OutsideBozeman also notes that the rocks can make the climb technical and strenuous.


The trail climbs 1,650 vertical feet in about 2.7 miles one-way. "The trail climbs steadily and consistently for almost the entire distance. Although it is rarely steep, it is unrelenting," writes MontanaHikes.com.

Similar to Golden Trout Lake, Lava Lake is a popular destination for anglers. The lake is renowned for "foot-long wild rainbow trout," according to MontanaHikes.com. And like other alpine lakes in the area, this hike could be turned into a short backpacking trip. This could also be used as the first stop on a much longer excursion deep into the wilderness.


The Big Sky area is renowned as prime grizzly bear country. Signs at every trailhead warn that bears are highly active in the area. To mitigate the risk of bear encounters, make plenty of noise while hiking, try to hike with a group of people, and consider attaching a bear bell to your backpack. Also, make certain that you carry bear spray with you every time you hike, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.

Sources: https://www.visitbigsky.com/get-inspired/big-sky-stories/7-best-hikes-in-big-sky-montana https://www.discoverbigsky.com/best-hikes-big-sky-montana/ https://outsidebozeman.com/trails-tours/hiking-trails/lava-lake-trail https://www.montanahikes.com/lava-lake/



Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between July and October


  • Alpine
  • Picturesque
  • Water features

Guidebooks in this area