The Hidden Lakes are a series of eight high mountain lakes in the Gallatin Range between Bozeman and Big Sky. The chain of lakes, at the base of a ridge, rests at an altitude of 9,000 feet. The Hidden Lakes Trail begins above 8,000 feet and follows a ridge with spectacular vistas. En route, the trail crosses streams, strolls through forests and meadows, and leads to the series of forested lakes.
Hiking distance: 6 miles round trip
Hiking time: 2-4 hours
Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
From Four Corners, take Hwy. 191 28.6 miles to Portal Creek Road on the left between mile markers 54 and 53. Turn left and wind 3.8 miles up the canyon to a clearly marked Y-fork. Veer to the right and continue 2.25 bumpy miles to the Hidden Lakes trailhead parking area at the end of the road.
Pass the trailhead kiosk and head south into the forest. Follow the wide path on a gentle uphill grade. Within a quarter mile, begin weaving up the mountain with the aid of six switchbacks. Continue through lodgepole pines to the ridge. Stroll across the length of the ridge, with southwest views across the canyon of Levinski Ridge. Continue south and descend to an unsigned Y-fork. The left fork connects with the Golden Trout Lakes Trail.
Stay to the right on the Hidden Lakes Trail, the main trail. Pass a small spring in a meadow on the right. Drop down to a minor saddle and cross three streams. Climb the slope on the dirt and slab rock path to the north end of the two lower Hidden Lakes at 2.5 miles. The forested lakes sit beneath a vertical rock wall to their west.
Back on the main trail, follow the north side of the lake. Leave the lake’s edge and head up the hillside, following intermittent cairns. Steadily gain elevation to the northeast end of another lake. Follow the east side of the lake, crossing the outlet stream to the far end of the lake. Curve left and parallel the lake’s inlet stream, reaching the largest of the Hidden Lakes. The lake is tucked into a massive, rock-walled cirque, where the trail ends.
This article is excerpted from Robert Stone’s Day Hikes around Bozeman guidebook.