According to Robert Stone, author of Day Hikes Around Bozeman, Montana, “The Hyalite Creek Trail is considered the most spectacular hike in the Bozeman area.” And justifiably so. Eleven waterfalls—some modest, some breathtaking—dot a trail that climbs over five miles from the Hyalite Creek parking lot to a fork that peels off to either Hyalite Lake or Hyalite Peak. Dot, however, is a relative term. While most of the cascades, cataracts, and chutes are within steps of the trail, Champagne Falls requires a hundred-yard jaunt, and delicate Silken Skein demands a fairly strenuous half-mile uphill trek. While most falls have proper signage, heart-stopping Twin Falls is designated neither by a sign nor within steps of anything besides deadfall and rock. Strike west (right) from the trail about halfway between Grotto and Arch Falls, ford Hyalite Creek, and bushwhack a mile uphill to the canyon’s west wall to reach it.
Alpine Falls, the most distant of the eleven, is approximately five miles from the trailhead, but one need not be an alpinist to enjoy Hyalite Creek Trail. Grotto Falls, pretty at any time of year and an earth-shaker during runoff, is a little over a mile on a wheelchair-accessible trail. Trek another mile to Arch Falls, a 40-foot cataract that has bored a hole through the living rock.
From Grotto to Alpine, they’re all worth the time and calorie burn, but Champagne Falls, three miles from the parking lot, remains my favorite. Tons of water plunge 80 feet onto the shoulders of a huge black rock. Choose your own image, but I like to think of that rock as humankind, buffeted yet standing firm against the vicissitudes of a rapidly developing world.