Fall is a great time for hiking in Yellowstone Country: cool air, fewer people and lots of color. We guarantee you won’t run out of options, but to get you going here are four of our favorites, all leading to alpine lakes with some amazing waterfalls along the way. Bring your camera, plenty of water, an extra layer of clothing and allow enough time to soak up the scenery.
East Rosebud Trail to Elk Lake
Located between Roscoe and Red Lodge, Montana, this eight mile out-and-back hike begins at East Rosebud Lake, a beautiful mountain lake literally at the end of the road. A moderate hike, you’ll steadily climb 1,600 feet to Elk Lake, just as stunning as the first with waterfalls all along the way. It’s not often your hikes are bookended with beautiful water. Bring a picnic and enjoy the scenery.
One of the most popular hikes in Yellowstone Country, the trailhead to Lava Lake is located across from the 35 MPH Bridge along the Gallatin River, a picturesque drive in and of itself.
The is a moderate six mile out-and-back hike, climbing 1600 feet to a beautiful forest lined lake surrounded by the Spanish Peaks. Spring and fall aren’t as busy as summer which makes them a great time to explore. The trail follows Cascade Creek, passing numerous waterfalls before reaching the alpine lake. Swimmers take note: this chilly water will cool you off even on the hottest days.
If you have a hankering to bag a peak, Hyalite Peak will not disappoint. This 15 mile, round trip hike takes a full day with an early start but is well worth it. Starting from the upper parking lot at Hyalite Canyon, the trails is nicely shaded and follows the creek most of the way to Hyalite Lake passing several waterfalls along the way. This is the perfect place to stop and relax for lunch and a good place to turn around if you want a shorter hike. Though steep, the last two miles to the peak are well worth it. In the summer, the wildflowers are amazing. The last part of the hike will leave you scrambling through scree to 360 degree views including the Montana Absaroka Range, the Bridger Mountain Range and the Spanish Peaks.
Palisade Falls at night
The Crazy Mountains stand tall in the Montana landscape. They are the first big mountain range you’ll see when coming from the east, and they are spectacular. There are few places you can publicly access them, but one of the most popular hikes is to Twin Lakes. The hike passes Big Timber Creek Falls, (the trail takes a slight detour to get to the falls). The trail is an old road bed, which is wide and fairly level, but rocky. Lower Twin Lake is surrounded by high mountain peaks, but if you have time, continue to Upper Twin Lake which is bordered by a sheer 10,000 foot mountain.