HIKE: Lava Lake – Big Sky Montana

L A V A  L A K E   H I K E

State: Southern Montana
Location: 45.406556, -111.224061
Distance: 8.7km round trip
Elevation Gain: 490 metres

Montana is famous for its stunning lakes, with over two hundred and thirty in the Big Sky Area alone. Nestled among the Spanish Peaks of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness is one of our favourites – Lava Lake. Its stunning waters make for a fantastic destination to kick back and cool off on a hot Montana day!

Starting from the Gallatin River, this beautiful trail winds its way up through a lodgepole pine forest to the lake. The hike begins gently along Cascade Creek to a series of switchbacks until it flattens out a few minutes before the lake.

The Lava Lake trailhead is located about a 20 minute drive from Big Sky Town Centre. The hardest part of getting to the lake is pulling into the trailhead parking lot! If you approach from the north it’s a simple right turn. If you are coming from the south you will have to drive past the turn a few hundred metres to the Lava Lake Turnaround to then make your way back north for a simple right turn into the access road.





  • If you head into Lava Lake in August be sure to bring your appetite, loads of huckleberry bushes line the sides of the trail!
  • This is a great backpacking trip. You are able to set up camp in an established area just before the lake.  Given that the lake sits at 7,193 ft and campfires are not permitted at any time a warm sleeping bag is essential. Set up a basecamp and day hike nearby Table and Jumbo Mountains!
  • Dogs are permitted off leash along the Lava Lake Trail and there are many spots for your four legged friends to grab a drink on a hot summer day.
  • There is an outhouse at the trailhead.  When on the trail please be mindful of where and how you are going to the bathroom and remember to always pack out your toilet paper. If you’re new to packing out your toilet paper here is a great how-to video! ²
  • A section of this trail runs right along private property. Please be respectful of the surrounding landowners and the natural surroundings by staying on the clearly defined trail and ensuring your dogs are on leash and or stay close.
  • The lake is over 40 acres in size and offers up great trout fishing and swimming opportunities (on a hot day!)
  • This trail is open to hikers only.
  • If you want to make your adventure a little longer, park one car at the the Lava Lake Trailhead then take a second vehicle south for about 17.6km on Hwy 191 to the Deer Creek Trailhead.  From Deer Creek you can hike over the Spanish Peaks and down into Lava Lake.  If you take this route it will be about 23.3km from trailhead to trailhead, with an elevation gain of 1,290m. 



From Big Sky, drive north on Hwy 191 for about 17 miles. Turn right onto Storm Castle Road, stay right at the helipad. Drive about 2 miles until you approach a row of parking stalls on the left side of the road. You will see a Forest Service trailhead sign.

_DSC3291 copy.jpg

G E A R  W E  U S E D


 E R I C ‘ S   H I K I N G   K I T 


A . V ‘ S   H I K I N G   K I T 

– S H A R E  T H I S  P O S T –
– B Y  C L I C K I N G  O N  A N Y  P R O M O –

– right click on any of our promo material to save –


P H O T O G R A P H Y  B Y



Leave a Reply