Montana is a state known for its outdoor recreations. Hiking is one of the many thrilling outdoor recreations that Montana offers. In fact, hiking is one of the best ways to explore nature and experience the wildlife in Montana. Hiking trails in Montana run along amazing landscapes. From alpine lakes and rocky cliffs to glaciers and high mountains, a hiking experience in Montana offers you a lot more than just hiking. Get your gear ready because we are going to take you through 9 of the best hiking trails in Montana.
1. Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park
Grinnell Glacier Trail is an 11-mile long trail in Montana’s Glacier National Park. The Grinnell Glacier Trail provides hikers with an enthralling hiking experience. The trail passes by exquisite lakes like Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine. It also passes by three beautiful glaciers: Gem Glacier, Grinnell Glacier, and Salamander Glacier. As the trail ascends, the hiking gets strenuous but you get to see beautiful waterfalls and alpine meadows with a lot of wildflowers. The terrain along the trail is home to local wildlife like wapitis, lynxes, and bighorn sheep.
2. Highline Trail, Glacier National Park
If you wish to have an arduous yet stirring hiking experience, you should opt for Highline Trail located in Glacier National Park. The trail is nearly 20 miles long and starts from Logan Pass, the highest point in the Glacier National Park and continues to Fifty Mountain Campground. The trail runs through stunning lakes, beautiful avalanche channels, and waterways. This trail also offers a remarkable view of the Logan Valley at the top. You’ll also find some wildlife such as mountain goats at the trailhead as it is a wildlife conservation area.
3. Ice Caves Trail, Lewistown
Ice Caves Trail is a 5-mile long trail that starts from Crystal Lake Campground and climbs over 2,200 feet up to permanent ice caves on the Snowy Crest. Though a hike on this trail is a bit difficult, the scenic views that the trail has to offer makes up for the arduous journey to the top. As you get to the top, you can get the sight of various beautiful mountain ranges like the Grand Teton Range, the Highwoods, the Crazies, the Little Belts, Judith Mountains, and the Moccasins. While hiking, you may come across wild animals like grouse, chipmunks, and ground squirrels.
4. Beehive Basin Trail, Big Sky
If you intend to hike during the day, Beehive Basin Trail is the best option for you. It’s considered as one of the best day-hikes in the U.S. The trail is approximately 7 miles long with an elevation gain of 1,500 feet. After you cover 3 miles, you enter Beehive Basin, a U-shaped cirque that affords a beautiful view of Lone Peak. As you get there, you get fully immersed in enjoying the beauty of wild flowers specifically in summer.
5. Ousel Falls Trail, Big Sky
Ousel Falls Trail is a short yet stunning trail in the Big Sky region. It’s a round trail of nearly 2 miles with an elevation gain of only 400 feet which makes it a good hike for hikers of all skill levels. The best part about hiking on this trail is that you can take your dogs with you. The trail is bordered by the South and West Forks of the Gallatin River. Ousel Falls trailhead is located approximately 10 miles away from the Beehive Basin Trailhead. Hikers have to cross three bridges before they reach Ousel Falls. The trail is best for hiking from May to October.
6. Black Canyon Lake Trail, Custer National Forest
If you are a highly skilled hiker and looking for a challenging trail, you will be immensely gratified with a hike on Black Canyon Lake Trail. It is a 14-mile trail cuddled up in the beautiful Beartooth Mountain Range. It has an elevation gain of nearly 2,000 feet. The first half of the trail is relatively easy but it gets very difficult and tricky as you hike farther. Though a hike on this trail will be full of exertion, the pleasing landscape that runs along the trail and the exquisite Black Canyon Lake that perches at the base of Beartooth Mountain will make up for all the perspiration.
7. Mount Sentinel “M” Trail, Missoula
If you are looking for a difficult yet short hiking trail, M Trail can solve your problem. It’s a very steep trail with an elevation gain of 620 feet. It also has a lot of switchbacks and leads to the concrete M that symbolizes the University of Montana. The actual length of the trail is less than a mile but you can travel another mile to enjoy incredible views from the mountaintop.
8. Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Glasgow
If you are a wildlife lover, a hike on this trail should be on the top of your bucket list. The length of the trail is approximately 9 miles. As the trail ascends, it gets steeper and steeper. As you hike along this trail, the beauty of wildlife there utterly engulfs you. From coyotes and cougars to porcupines and pronghorns, you’ll find all your favorite wild animals there.
9. Mount Aeneas Summit Trail, Flathead National Forest
This is a 6-mile trail that climbs up to the top of Mount Aeneas. Though Mount Aeneas Summit is one of the most reachable summits in the state, the hike is still pretty hard with a few switchbacks and an elevation gain of 1,780 feet. However, the picturesque landscape you see when you reach the top tells you that the hike is worth the effort.
Tips and Instructions for Hiking in Montana
Most of the hiking trails in Montana are snow-covered for most part of the year. Therefore, you should wear warm clothing and trail running sneakers. Make sure you put everything in your rucksack from food and water to a first-aid kit as there are no shops on these trails. Moreover, as most of the trails are home to wildlife, you must act responsibly and follow all safety instructions.