The hike to Lava Lake in the Spanish Peaks – Lee Metcalf Wilderness is a great hike. It is an easy hike for experienced hikers and a challenge well worth it for new hikers. The trail is also great because it is accessible year-round. This makes it a popular hiking option for anyone living in the Bozeman area.
The trail begins from a well-established trailhead just beside the Gallatin River. The trail starts out ascending a small hill before turning to follow along Cascade Creek which comes from Lava Lake (and further up from Lava Lake – Cascade Lakes). You follow Cascade Creek for the majority of the hike and have views looking down at the creek, of a few wetland areas, and the surrounding lodgepole forest. The forest the Lava Lake trail travels through is beautiful and seemingly very healthy and lush compared to the hikes we typically do further west. At about 2-miles in is where you pick up the most elevation. The last mile takes you up through a heavily switchbacked section of the trail. After 3-miles you will arrive at Lava Lake and be treated to beautiful views of Jumbo Mountain, Table Mountain, and other unnamed mountains that make up the Spanish Peaks which are part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.