Lava Lake – an Intermountain Gem

So Jeff and I decided that Saturday would be the day we’d tackle the popular Lava Lake trail.  This trail begins along the Gallatin River, aka, grizzle bear country, as compared to the more mellow Bridger Mountains fauna (well, except for the apparently abundant cougars).  We figured with our cold nights now the bears would be enjoying their winter-long snooze, and just so you don’t worry about us throughout this post, no, we did not run into any of these critters!  Even though I was looking over my shoulder for a good bit of our walk.

We had a later start than normal (note to self, do not try to figure out how to pack a new backpack ten minutes before setting out), and after a bit of a drive, finally arrived at the trailhead around 10:30 AM.  Enroute, I wished I’d photocopied the trail information from our “Hikes Around Bozeman” trail guide, but since I hadn’t, I wrote out the relevant parts to give us some markers along the way…

IMG_0392…and I ask you, do you see anywhere where it says that the entire three miles in on the trail are uphill?  No?  Doesn’t that seem like an important detail to mention? Hmmm.

So, climb we did, but I will concede that the uphill-ness was a moderate incline. The trail led through a lodgepole pine stand for the first bit…

IMG_2495…which was nice, but it does seem like bear country, doesn’t it?  Lots of looking over my shoulder through this part.  Let me say that these trees sway and creek in the wind, too.

The trail is well interspersed with rocks…IMG_2489…which means lots of looking down to prevent stumbling and tripping. (While on this trail I finally figured out why I’m always looking for smooth trails, but never finding them around here.  My West Highland Way walk was mostly all on smooth trails, but, then again, most of those were ancient drover trails, so they were certainly well-worn.  I keep comparing our trails to those.)

We soon entered the Lee Metcalf Wilderness area…IMG_2490…and as the hiking guide mentioned, the Cascade Creek was truly noisy and the water ran over rocks and zillions of fallen lodgepole pines (why were so many down?  No idea.)…

IMG_2492On we walked, eventually coming to the bridge mentioned in the guidebook.  While it looked rather iffy, it served its purpose efficiently…

IMG_2527…and, really, what better material to use while in a lodgepole pine forest?  Indy stopped in her tracks when faced with it, however, but she figured it out and certainly beat me across.

We continued on our rocky way…

IMG_2494…and eventually took a little break.  A hiker coming down the trail offered to take a family photo…

IMG_2501…a little blurry, no doubt because, well, we’re peeps of action 🙂

We came to low-lying spot, which again stopped ol’ Ins in her tracks…

IMG_2526…but, I think if you’re only eight inches or so off the ground it probably is hard to see a good way through sections like this.

The meadow mentioned in the trailguide…


On we all trooped, eventually coming to the footbridge mentioned in the guidebook…

IMG_2504…and after that, it was as if the seasons changed.  There had been a hand-written note attached to the entrance sign saying that crampons were necessary after the bridge, and as we were to find out on our way down, that would have been good advice to heed. However, those were tucked away at home, so on we went, soon beginning the series of eight switchbacks…IMG_2503Indy was thrilled at this point, and she dug into the snow (hey…traction!) and off she went, full of energy.

I had one Cytomax guzzling stop amid the switchbacks, but as I was still in my sleeveless shirt and Jeff in just a jersey, we began to chill quickly, so onward we continued, until we reaching the reason for making this climb…Lava Lake…

IMG_2512Truly gorgeous, don’t you think?  No wonder this trail is so popular in warmer seasons. Even this day we met quite a bit of traffic as the day wore on.

We chose this log as our lunch spot…


…and after a quick bite, Jeff went off to take pictures.  A cold wind began to pick up and I quickly put on my V-necked sweater, then my vest, my fleece jacket, my scarf, and finally my last piece of clothing, my hat.  And, still I was cold.  My thermos of tea helped, but I could tell I was slowly seizing up…do you know that feeling when you can tell a deep chill is setting in?  I decided to head for the forest up beside the lake, where the scenery was still stunning…

IMG_2520…but, really, I had to get moving, so we started down.

Okay, I’m a wimp when it comes to walking downhill in my hiking boots on snow covered ice, but honestly, this was slippery!

IMG_2523And, where is the path, anyway?

However, it was a an uneventful 1:40 hr walk back down to the trailhead and the Gallatin River…IMG_2538…with all limbs remaining intact, once again.  Truly a great six-mile walk…with a beautiful lake as a well-earned reward.


About walksandrambles

My love of walking began in 2005, when, travelling with my Girl Scout troop to Switzerland, I joined a group of Norwegians for a day, to walk up Elsignenalp. I wasn't at all sure I could make it, but the guide was kind and through her encouragement, started out. It was an all-day affair for me and I was always the last one, but this didn't matter a bit...I'd found my new love! No photos exist for this...the camera went missing on a train...but I remember toasting myself with a cup of tea from my thermos at the was a day of tough work and pure pleasure. If you walk, you know what I mean!
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2 Responses to Lava Lake – an Intermountain Gem

  1. linhartb says:

    What a beautiful lake! It’s nice hiking to some of these spots in off season to get a different perspective and avoid some of the crowds.

  2. Yes, and part of the pleasure for us was having no idea beforehand that it’d be such lovely scenery! A nice, local hike. Thanks for stopping by.

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