Hiking Hyalite Peak in the Gallatin Range Near Bozeman, Montana
Location: Hyalite Peak, Hyalite Canyon, Gallatin Range, Montana
Rating: Grade II Class 1
Trailhead: Hyalite Creek (6,890′)
Distance: 15.8 miles
Time: 4 to 8 hours
Elevation Hyalite Peak: 10,298′ | 3139 meters
Total Vertical: 3,500′
Maps: Fridley Peak
Hyalite Peak may be the most popular summit in the greater Bozeman area. Sitting at 10,298′ at the head of the U-shaped Hyalite Canyon, Hyalite Peak towers above the popular Hyalite reservoir and the entire Hyalite recreation area. Hyalite Peak is the 4th highest peak in the Gallatin Range – Electric Peak at 10,969′ and both Mount Bole and Mount Chisholm at 10,333′ beat it in elevation. Yet, Hyalite is the most popular of them all.
After eyeballing Hyalite Peak for a long time, I decided to climb it with my friend Andy “Catfish” Tenny and his Australian Shepherd, Ozzy. After eating a tasty breakfast sandwich and drinking plenty of coffee, I hit the road toward Hyalite Canyon. My plan was to meet Andy and Ozzy at the Hyalite Creek Trailhead. From Big Sky, it’s a long and winding journey through Montana back roads to access Hyalite Canyon. The last time I was here I hiked Mount Blackmore.
Once you turn off of South 19th street toward Hyalite Canyon, it’s still a surprisingly long way to the trailhead too – about 13 miles. The road offers glimpses of Hyalite Creek before you pass the massive Hyalite Reservoir and the road turns to dirt. Stay on the main road and veer right where the road splits towards Upper Hyalite Creek. Eventually you will come to a large parking area and the Hyalite Creek Trailhead at 6,890′. The size of the parking area speaks volumes as to how popular this trailhead really is!
Andy and Ozzy arrived shortly after I did. Before we knew it we were cruising down the trail with bear spray close at hand and a steady conversation to keep us entertained.
The trail makes for easy walking. According to the sign, it’s 7.5 miles to the summit. For the first few miles to the first waterfall, the trail is even handicap accessible. Eventually the trail turns into a single track as it gradually climbs and follows the creek. It’s an obviously well maintained trail that sees lots of traffic. There are plenty of turn offs where you can splash around in scenic waterfalls or wander down to Hyalite Creek.
Honestly, the trail is uneventful as it wanders through the pine forests of Hyalite Canyon. There aren’t too many views until about mile 4 when the trail gets a bit steeper. Then you get impressive glimpses at the perfectly U-shaped, glacially carved canyon and the steep and unforgiving rock faces that make Hyalite unique. You can see why this is an ice climbers paradise.
We reached the trail split to Hyalite Lake (8,875′) after 2 hours of trail cruising, 5.3 miles, and nearly 2000 feet. A few hundred meters off the main trail and you’ll be at the lake, or stay on the trail to head to the peak. People are always camping throughout this entire area. At this point, you’re in alpine terrain that’s open and inviting.
The trail continues to climb steadily toward Hyalite Peak. It follows the path of least resistance crossing a few streams, passing a few unnamed lakes, and slowly climbing to the summit. If you’re running short of water, we saw the last water at about 9,450′ – make sure your dog gets a drink!
After this the grassy slopes of Hyalite Basin turn into a steep scree field. The trail switchbacks here to the saddle (10,000′) just north of Hyalite Peak. I imagine there could be snow on this headwall until late in the season, but in August it was snow-free.
From the saddle, follow the steep ridge to the wide open grassy summit of Hyalite Peak. Be sure to sign in at the USGS register if you want. Based solely on the register, it’s amazing to see how many people summit Hyalite everyday – even in horrendous weather. It took us 3 hours, 7.8 miles, and 3350 feet to hike Hyalite Peak. There are no technical skills necessary, it’s just a big long walk.
And what an impressive peak it is. The views are outstanding. In the hazy distance you can see the entire span of the Madison Range with mountains like Sphinx, Lone Mountain, and Gallatin Peak standing out against the skyline. The Absarokas and Emigrant Peak tower over the Paradise Valley to the East. To the west is Garnet Mountain and Storm Castle. The Bridger Range can be spotted on the far side of the glimmering town of Bozeman. And there we were smack dab in the middle of the Gallatin Range with Chisholm, Fridley, Bole, Elephant, and other summits almost within reach. Amazing.
It’s too bad we couldn’t stay up there longer. There’s even cell service so you can Instagram your adventure to all your boring friends. The weather was perfect, but once you reach the summit, you’re only half done with your day. We turned around and made good time heading downhill. After half an hour we were back at Hyalite Lake letting Ozzy take a dip in the alpine waters to cool off.
From the lake it’s time to put the legs on auto-pilot. Just follow the trail and you’ll be back at the car in no time. Don’t forget to make a few bear calls every now and then – you are in Montana.
We made it back to the car safe and sound. Car to car this adventure to hike Hyalite Peak took 6.25 hours. We covered 3500 vertical feet in 15.6 miles. Super cool hike. It was a good day.
Is there really any better way to spend a day than standing on the summit of a mountain and soaking in the views? I don’t think so.
View route on HillMap:
A few additional pictures from hiking Hyalite Peak:
The trip report for hiking Hyalite Peak is from August 7, 2015.