Backpacking Trips Near Bozeman

Bozeman has long been a draw for mountaineers – many who came before the town was well-known. These men and women loved the rugged, seemingly endless terrain and remote location. Today, there may be more people who love getting outside, but southwest Montana still maintains some elbow room, and if you're looking for solitude, there are options.

We've gathered a few of our favorite trails, ranging in length and difficulty, and all relatively easy to get to from Bozeman. Remember, hiking at high elevations is more strenuous, so if you're used to lower elevations, allow a bit more time on the trail and, if possible, a day or two to acclimate before hiking. Always stay hydrated, and bring layers for rain, cold, and warm weather, along with sun protection – Montana weather is unpredictable!

Cell service is not guaranteed, so download maps beforehand and familiarize yourself with where you are going.

Finally, be bear aware. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. This area is home to black bears and grizzly bears, so hike in groups, make lots of noise, and carry rope and a bear bag to hang your food at least 100 feet from your tent.

Enjoying the backcountry is an unparalleled experience, so pack your camera and a curious spirit; you're in for a treat!


Emerald Lake, Hyalite Canyon, Bozeman, Montana


Emerald Lake or Heather Lake

Moderate to Difficult

10 miles or 11 miles round trip, depending on which lake you hike to

Hyalite Reservoir is one of the most popular areas in Montana - it's a beautiful recreation area offering hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding, skiing, and more. The camp spots around the lake fill up quickly, but for those who prefer to backpack, head past the reservoir; when the road splits, take a left toward Palisades Falls to the end of the road. Here, you can hike to Emerald Lake or Heather Lake, two small lakes in gorgeous mountain bowls. The trail takes you up to 9,000 feet and is full of small waterfalls and beautiful meadows. If you're feeling ambitious, spend two nights with a day hike up Hyalite Peak, the second-highest peak in the Gallatin Range. Snow can linger into mid-July, so this hike is best done later in the summer. For bike-free trail days, visit on Sunday or Monday!


Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout

Moderate to Difficult

9 miles round trip

While this may be one step beyond backpacking, staying in the Forest Service Fire Lookout is an experience you will remember. Sitting on the Apex of Garnet Mountain at 8,245', you'll have a panoramic view of the Spanish Peaks, Gallatin Range, Hyalite Ridge, and the Gallatin River below. The lookout sleeps four people on bunk beds with mattresses. There is a wood stove for heat and a propane stove for cooking, but no electricity or running water. Reservations can be made at


Beehive Basin, Big Sky, Montana


Beehive Basin Trail #40


6 miles round trip, out and back

This destination is a favorite of locals in the Big Sky area. It's a relatively gentle hike and is known for its wildflower meadows. The turnoff is 10 miles once you turn onto Big Sky Spur Road, 30 yards before Moonlight Basin in the Spanish Peaks and Lee Metcalf Wilderness. As you hike, stay left of the T until you reach an unnamed lake at 9,200 feet. Set camp up here, and enjoy the alpine views!


Gallatin Crest Trail


42 miles point-to-point

This epic trail with varied terrain can be trekked as a whole, or there are various points you could hop on or off, depending on how far you want to hike. Strong hikers can cover it in three days, but that would be pushing hard, not allowing for some relaxation along the way. The trail, also known as the Gallatin Divide Trail or Devil's Backbone, traverses the Gallatin Range with epic views, wildflowers, and mountain goats. This hike isn't for the inexperienced; water is scarce, there is a lot of exposure, and the trail is sometimes grown over. Be sure to have maps and be comfortable with your navigation skills.


Mystic Lake, Bozeman, Montana


Mystic Lake via New World Gulch Trail

Moderately Easy

12 miles round trip, out and back

Mystic Lake can be accessed two ways, but the New World Gulch Trail is shorter. The trail begins in Bear Canyon, just outside Bozeman, and follows a stream up New World Gulch for two miles. You'll enjoy fields of butterflies, and near the water, look for swarms of colorful butterflies. The lake is suitable for fishing; if you prefer, there is a Forest Service Cabin for rent.


Pine Creek Lake


10 miles round trip, out-and-back

This hike is gorgeous and not for the faint of heart. The beginning of the trail takes you to Pine Creek Falls, which is suitable for most abilities and ages. Once you pass the falls, the trail becomes steep and strenuous, passing smaller waterfalls and two small lakes before you reach Pine Creek Lake, tucked at the bottom of Black Mountain. If you spend two days, you can hike two more miles and 1,800 vertical feet to get to the top of the mountain, where you'll have views of Paradise Valley and Beartooth Plateau.

New Call-to-action


If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:

Subscribe to the Blog

In our never-ending quest to keep up with all things new in Bozeman, we have been producing content for years and can't possibly update every blog when new businesses open or existing businesses close. Please reference the publish date and do your own due diligence when making plans.

Back to Blog