Hiking in Bear Trap Canyon.
Bear Trap Canyon is a spectacular drainage encompassing 6,000 acres in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness within the Madison Range. The Madison River, its headwaters in Yellowstone Park, rages through the remote, roadless canyon for nine miles, from Ennis Lake to the Madison River Bridge. The canyon is a well-known and popular fishing area between Bozeman and Norris.
The trail hugs the east shore of the river, winding along sheer rock cliffs carved 2,000 feet deep by the river. The only hiking access is from the north, so solitude increases deeper into the canyon. The full length of the trail is seven miles. At the southern end is the powerhouse and dam holding back Ennis Lake. Hiking is prohibited around the dam.
Note: Bear Trap Canyon has rattlesnakes. Watch and listen for snakes on the trail, and keep a close eye on your pup.
Hiking distance: Up to 14 miles round-trip
Hiking time: Up to all day
Elevation gain: Up to 500 feet
U.S.G.S. Bear Trap Creek, Norris, Ennis Lake
U.S.F.S. Gallatin National Forest: West Half
BLM Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness Guide
From Four Corners, head west on Highway 84 for about 20 miles, to Bear Trap Road on the left. It is located by the Bear Trap Recreational Area sign, just before the bridge crossing over the Madison River. Turn left and drive on the gravel road for three miles, along the east side of the river. The trailhead parking area is at the end of the road.
From the parking area, hike south along the east bank of the Madison River. The wide trail soon becomes a footpath and follows the eastern edge of the cliffs. The coarse canyon continually becomes steeper and deeper below the 2,000-foot cliffs. The trail reaches the mouth of Bear Trap Creek at approximately 3.5 miles. It’s a level area with campsites and a good spot to take a break. The Madison Powerhouse is at seven miles, which is also the end of the trail. Hike as deep into the rocky canyon as you choose, returning on the same path.
This is an excerpt from Day Hikes Around Bozeman by Robert Stone.