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Summit Lake

Skip the crowds of Beehive Basin with this long hike to a remote high alpine lake.

Hiking Difficult

25 km
1.1 km
1.1 km
6-7 hrs
Low Point
2.2 km
High Point
3 km
Summit Lake Map

If you're looking for an epic hike in the Spanish Peaks, but you want to escape from the press of the crowds found on the Beehive Basin trail, try this hike to Summit Lake instead.


This route to Summit Lake is situated two valleys to the east of Beehive Basin. Since this hike also runs deep into the Spanish Peaks, you'll enjoy many of the same views, just without the hordes of tourists. Here you'll find expansive meadows filled with wildflowers, crystal-clear alpine lakes, deep forest, rushing mountain streams, and rocky peaks towering above the entire tableau.

The difficulty of this hike will discourage many from attempting it. To reach the end goal of Summit Lake, you'll have to hike almost 16 miles round-trip and gain about 3,658 vertical feet. It's a much more rigorous endeavor than the easy jaunt into Beehive Basin.

One of the highlights of the entire hike is Bear Basin. "Cruising across Bear Basin hearing the echoes of bear calls, it’s easy to get distracted by the towering rock walls and stunning ski potential," writes MountainJourney.com. "You’ll instantly be attracted to the Bat Ears and the cirque on your left, along with the Bear Hump at the head of the basin. Every direction is incredible."

To reach the lake, you'll have to gain a saddle on the mountain ridge and drop over the other side into the lake basin. The push to the saddle is steep and somewhat loose, but the views from the top are to die for!

From the saddle, you'll have to drop about 375 vertical feet over 0.7 miles to reach the lake itself, but this idyllic location is a rich reward! From the lakeshore, you'll enjoy views of 11,015-foot Gallatin Peak towering high above you.

If tackling a 16-mile round-trip day hike sounds too daunting, consider turning this route into a quick overnight backpacking trip. If you do, be sure to follow all Leave No Trace guidelines and camp well away from any water source.


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.


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/ http://mountainjourney.com/summit-lake-spanish-peaks-montana/



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

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
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area