Hiking The Golden Trout Lakes Trail In Montana’s Gallatin Range
Location: Portal Creek, Gallatin Canyon, Gallatin Range
Trailhead: 5.1 miles north of Big Sky Turn off, then 6.8 miles east on Portal Creek Road
Distance: 5 miles round trip
Time: 2.5 to 3 hours
Upper Portal Creek Trailhead Elevation: 8058 feet
Golden Trout Lakes Elevation: 9075 feet
Total Elevation Gain : 1300 ft
USGS Map: Hidden Lake, Lone Indian Peak
Golden Trout Lakes trail is a 5 mile out and back hike to a beautiful alpine lake in the Gallatin Range of SW Montana. The Golden Trout Lakes trail (Trail #89) is located up Portal Creek in the Gallatin Canyon near Big Sky.
To get to Golden Trout Lakes, head north out of Big Sky on highway 191 for 5.1 miles. Turn east at the Portal Creek turnoff – FS Road 984. The dirt road follows Portal Creek. Stay right at the first fork. At 3.8 miles, there is a well-marked fork in the road. The right fork takes you to Hidden Lakes Trail. The left fork takes you to Windy Pass and Golden Trout Lakes trails.
Head left and continue for 3 miles to the Upper Portal Creek Trailhead. The road is not in the best shape. You will need decent clearance on your vehicle to make it up this rocky road as it is easy to bottom out. The parking area is large and has plenty of room for lots of vehicles.
The USFS trailhead sign is next to the trail for Windy Pass. Head south out of the parking lot toward a log fence on an old logging road to access the Golden Trout Lakes trail.
The Golden Trout Lakes trail quickly passes some small ponds and weaves through a forest of spruce and pine. In 0.6 miles it crosses an old logging road. In another 0.2 miles it passes the Hidden Lakes Trail Cut-off Trail. If you take the cut-off trail for 1.8 miles you will intersect the Hidden Lakes Trail. Stay left for Golden Trout Lakes Trail. No bikes are allowed past this point.
The trail continues to climb steadily uphill for another 1.6 miles. There are several small stream crossings that are easy to rock hop across. After passing a large meadow, the trail climbs steeply toward some large boulders before it levels off for the final approach to the lake.
The trail ends at Golden Trout Lakes on the northern slopes of Eaglehead Mountain (9979′). There are actually 3 lakes in the area. One to the east and a smaller one to the west. A quick lap around Golden Trout Lakes is about 0.3 miles. There are several well established campgrounds along the shores of the lakes. It’s a short adventure to see the other lakes.
The lakes are filled with crystal clear mountain water. Golden trouts regularly rise to the surface and are easily visible in the clear waters. It’s the ideal place to spend the day or a weekend fishing, if you have a MT fishing license, and enjoying the peaceful Gallatin Range.
As always in SW Montana, be bear aware. It’s a good idea to download Topo Maps for this hike because Golden Trout Lakes is located on the very corner of the Lone Indian Peak USGS Quad map. Be sure to enjoy the spectacular views, take a dip in the deep, chilly, clear alpine water, and appreciate the silence of Golden Trout Lakes. Return to the trailhead by retracing your steps back down the same trail.
Golden Trout Lakes is an absolutely picture perfect, hidden gem in the Gallatin Range of Montana. If you haven’t been yet, be sure to go here. If you’ve already been, go again because it’s awesome.
Here are some additional images from the Golden Trout Lakes Trail: