Length: 11 miles (round-trip to Hyalite Lake)
Duration: 4-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet
Activities: Hiking, mountain biking, trail running, cross-country skiing
Crowds: Heavy traffic
Located just south of Bozeman past Hyalite Reservoir, Hyalite Creek Trail is a great place for a scenic hike or an active trail run. With waterfalls scattered throughout a glacial U-shaped canyon, this out-and-back trail starting from Grotto Falls Trailhead is well-maintained for hikers, bikers, and skiers of all abilities. The trail runs all the way up to Hyalite Lake, and Hyalite Peak is an extra two miles beyond for those interested in a longer journey. This trek is doable for most skill levels, and the beauty surrounding the trail is unmatched. Hikers look out for bikers, and vice versa. Carry bear spray.
A short offshoot from Hyalite Creek Trail will take you to the base of a nice waterfall cascading into a tranquil pool. This is a very easy, flat hike on a wide trail that is wheelchair-accessible. At 3/4-mile up the trail, take the right fork at an obvious sign. Continue another 3/4-mile to the falls. A connector trail cuts back up to Hyalite Creek Trail just before the falls if you want to continue up canyon.
There exists some confusion in the nomenclature of the Hyalite Creek and Grotto Falls trails. The Grotto Falls Trail was created as a wheelchair-accessible path to the falls, and has since replaced the initial segment of the former "Hyalite Creek Trail," which is rarely used anymore. There is still some confusing signage at the parking lot with arrows pointing in different directions for Hyalite Creek and Grotto Falls trails. If you're confused, just go up the obvious wide gravel trail. The fork that branches off to Grotto Falls will also be obvious.
Hyalite Creek Trail is part of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest's timeshare program, which aims to limit traffic on certain days of the week. Hyalite Creek Trail is hiking and horseback only on Friday and Saturday, and open to bikes and motorcycles Sunday-Thursday.
Snow sticks around up Hyalite Creek well into the spring, so be wary of dangerous run-off conditions. During the winter, wear gear for slick, icy conditions; it's a bit of a trek over the ice but seeing the frozen waterfalls is worth it. Another option is to strap into a pair of cross-country skis for a beautiful winter trip.
Head south on 19th Ave. and turn left onto Hyalite Canyon Rd. Drive past the reservoir. Keep right at the fork and take the road until it ends at the Grotto Falls Trailhead.
Map courtesy of Robert Stone's Day Hikes Around Bozeman, Montana.