Making A Day Of It: Hebgen Lake

Hebgen Lake

Adventure surrounds Bozeman. To get a feel for how special it is, we recommend exploring some of the lesser-known areas. One of these hidden gems in the area is Hebgen Lake. Approximately an hour and a half away, the drive to the lake is beautiful. One direction takes you through Gallatin Canyon, where “A River Runs Through It” was filmed. The other route, through Ennis, is lined with rolling hills along the Madison River and framed with majestic mountain ranges.

Either way, be sure to see Quake Lake on the west side of Hebgen. This lake was formed by a massive earthquake in 1959. At 7.5 on the Richter scale, it is the worst earthquake on record in Montana. In less than a minute, 80 million tons of rock fell into the canyon, blocking the Madison River. Three weeks after the quake, a 190-foot lake had formed. Today, the lake is stocked with cutthroat and brown trout, making it a great fly fishing location. The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center has a full history of the earthquake.


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Hebgen Lake itself is a mecca for fishing, known for its enormous rainbow trout. Whether you are fly fishing, trolling, tubing, or bank fishing, you won’t be disappointed. For boaters, there are three marinas; slip rentals are available at some locations, but there are also boat rentals and guided tours available. Hard-core fisherman will love the ice fishing during winter and the quiet seasons of spring and fall are lovely times to visit.


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Fortunately, the lake is big enough to share and perfect for water skiing, jet skiing, and wake boarding. You may hear music pumping, but everyone is generally respectful of each other and keep their wake away from fishers.

Bring your hiking boots and binoculars; there are miles of trails, perfect for wildlife and bird watching. Wildflowers are abundant, so don’t forget your camera.


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If you’re looking to stay overnight, there are plenty of campgrounds and cabins around Hebgen Lake. However, you’ll want to book early because they do fill up. Not into roughing it? No worries, there are some rooms available, but you can also opt to stay in West Yellowstone, just 20 minutes down the road.

For accommodations on the lake, check out:

Whether you’re staying overnight, or simply enjoying a scenic day drive, be sure to loop home in the opposite direction from Hebgen Lake. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed!


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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.

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