Ennis-Area Hikes

Oddly enough, it always seems that as October nears, there is inevitably a week of some of the most picture-perfect weather of the year. This little window of possibility is perhaps one of the best times to discover, or rediscover, a couple of trails in and around the Madison Valley. Both are close enough for a half-day trip, and you can roll into Ennis afterward for a cold beer and juicy burger at the Gravel Bar.

Hollow Top Lake
One spectacular hike, particularly in autumn, is the Hollow Top Lake trail. It's 12.5 miles roundtrip and is of medium difficulty. The first part goes up an ATV road, but the trail switches to a single-track at Willow Creek Trail 301, follows a northerly path along the creek, and winds its way through fir and spruce groves as well as beautiful open meadows. As the trail winds upward, absorb the spectacular views of the Spanish Peaks as well as the Gallatin Valley to the east. Four miles in, at the intersection with Trail 365, bear right and head upward and in a westerly direction. The last few miles are rocky but not overly difficult, and Hollow Top Lake greets those who make it to the end. This lake is home to a good number of six- to 12-inch rainbow trout, and you may encounter elk, mule deer, and grouse, as well as a number of nongame species on the trail. Some of the impressive peaks in the Tobacco Root range complete the vistas around Hollow Top Lake.

Bear Trap Canyon Trail
This trail winds along the Madison River and in many cases is the only way to access this portion of the river. Though heavily used during summer, this trail is inspirational during the autumn months. Not only does it offer some of the best access to fantastic fall fishing, the scenery isn’t bad either. Deceivingly easy at the lower stretches, the Bear Trap Trail becomes a bit more strenuous at the upper sections. Edged off by rock walls and an array of wildlife habitat including mule deer, black bear, and the occasional elk, this nine-mile trek is well worth an afternoon. One word of caution: the canyon is rattlesnake country.

Things to Remember
Fall is hunting season—wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter's orange above the waist when hiking these, or any other trails during this time of year.

As a courtesy to hunters, if you are not hunting yourself, leave the dog at home. Ranging mutts not in pursuit of game birds tend to annoy your fellow trail users.

Carry plenty of water, clothing, food, and first aid supplies, as the weather and other conditions in these areas changes rapidly during the autumn months.

You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Carry spare trash bags and pack out your own litter and any you find on the way.

The hike from the Norris Hot Springs parking lot to a toasty soak is perhaps the best post-hike trek there is.