Hiking To Albino Lake In Montana’s Madison Range
Location: Albino Lake, Gallatin National Forest, Madison Range, Montana
Type: Loop (Or Out And Back)
Rating: Grade I, Class 1
Trailhead: Albino Lake Trailhead or Lower Wapiti Trailhead
Distance: 7.25 miles total
Time: 2.5 hours
Albino Lake Trailhead Elevation: 6,975′ | 2,125 meters
Lower Wapiti Trailhead Elevation: 6,845′ | 2,086 meters
Albino Lake Elevation: 7,105′ | 2,166 meters
Total Vertical: 625′ | 191 meters
Maps: Lincoln Mountain or Beartooth Publishing Maps
Weather Forecast: Albino Lake Weather
When it’s bluebird skies and perfect weather on a lazy Saturday in October, what are you going to do? Go for a hike. This time my wife, my dog, and I decided to go for a leisurely hike to Albino Lake. Albino Lake is located in Montana’s Madison Range and is accessed by turning off of Highway 191 onto the Taylor Fork Road.
Hiking to Albino Lake is a simple, dog friendly hike, with lots of different options. It can be done as loop, an out and back hike, or even as a shuttle. We opted for the loop option, but choose your own adventure. The loop we did went from the Albino Lake Trailhead to Albino Lake to the Lower Wapiti Trailhead and back along Taylor Fork Road to the car. It’s basically a circumnavigation of Lincoln Mountain, 7,718′.
We started our hike at the Albino Lake Trailhead at 6,975′. It’s 5.6 miles down the dirt Taylor Fork Road, just past the air strip at the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch. The trail immediately crosses Taylor Creek and then a not even a hundred meters later crosses another creek. Get ready to get your feet wet – there is no bridge and not many good places to rock hop across.
After the two stream crossings, Trail 223, the Meadow Creek Cutoff Trail (which ultimate heads to Cinnamon Mountain), is easy to follow and well trodden by hikers, horses, and hunters. The trail works its way across open meadows and past some unexciting unnamed lakes, but the views off to the west of Koch Peak and the Taylor Hilgards are unbelievable.
In 1.7 miles, the trail splits. In the distance you can see Albino Lake shimmering to the east. Here we joined the Albino Lake Trail, Trail 33, and headed toward our destination. The Albino Lake Trail stretches 3.4 miles back to the Taylor Fork Road and the Lower Wapiti Trailhead. The area is surrounded by low angle, open slopes. In another .75 miles or so you will reach the shores of Albino Lake. It’s long and beautifully nestled in to the terrain.
At a rough guess, I’d say that Albino Lake stretches for about 3/4 of a mile. In the distance the Taylor Hilgards stand out over the lake making for a stunning location for photos, a break, and maybe a swim if you’re brave. You also have a few options, you can turn around and do an out and back hike or you can continue on the Albino Lake Trail back to the Taylor Fork Road. That’s what we did.
The trail continues through similar terrain following a meandering creek. I kept thinking the marshy areas were prime moose habitat and it was. We spotted a mama moose with two calves near a small unnamed lake as we got toward the road. Always fun to have a wildlife spotting.
Eventually we rounded a corner and saw Taylor Creek and the Taylor Fork Road. A large bridge spanned the flowing river back to the Lower Wapiti trailhead, 6,845′. No need to get your feet wet on this side!
From here the walking is easy – just head west back down the Taylor Fork road as it parallels the Taylor Creek. Be sure to step to the side as trucks rumble past churning up dirt into the air. You’ll soon pass the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch and before you know it you’ll be back at the Albino Lake Trailhead. From the Lower Wapiti Trailhead to the Albino Lake Trailhead is 1.8 miles.
Car to car this adventure covered approximately 7.25 miles and 620 vertical feet. We did the entire hike at a leisurely pace and made it back to the car in 2.5 hours.
The Albino Lake hike is definitely a beautiful hike that is family friendly and dog friendly. It’s not very strenuous and definitely worth checking out.
View Route On HillMap:
A few additional photos from the Albino Lake hike:
This trip report is from October 17, 2015.