2. Spanish Peaks
West out of town on Main Street, becomes Huffine Rd, then US 191. 8 mi to 4-Corners, left towards Big Sky and West Yellowstone.
South Fork of Spanish Creek (driving 50 min, 30 mi). 15 mi from 4–Corners, right at sign for South Fork (just before the highway curves left), then next right in ¼ mi. 6 mi of easy-to-follow, good gravel rd then left on a narrow paved rd another 7 mi. Large parking area, avoid the part obviously designed for horse trailers. There is a large nest of trails with many superbly beautiful loops. Look up craggy alpine meadows or wild flowers in the dictionary and find this area. You should get the easy-to-read Back Country Spanish Peaks map to gain maximum advantage. I will describe two main trails but there is a multitude of overlapping loops available, mostly in high alpine terrain with snow fields into August.
1. Beacon, Summit Lake, Mirror Lake, Spanish Creek Loop (22 mi, 5600’). By far my favorite loop, almost never really steep, lots of runnable trail but enough steep to walk from time to time, 3 alpine lakes and flowers all summer. Start near the outhouse and water pump. 5 mi, 2700’, to Indian Ridge trail, right 5 mi, 2100’, to Beacon Point (10,100’). Spectacular view of Gallatin Peak (11,025’). Left ¼ mi before summit, 3 mi down 1400’ to Hellroaring trail (directions below) just before Thompson Lake, right 2 mi, 700’ up to Summit Lake, then down 3 mi, 2600’ past Mirror Lake to South Fork trail. (Access Gallatin Peak up scree field just past Thompson Lake. Route up should be carefully studied. It is a very tough scramble.) Right 4.5 mi very runnable down to the trailhead.
2. From South Fork to North Fork, Big Bro, Jerome Rock Lake, South Fork loop. Go north across Spanish Creek, then right climbing up above the road. The trail forks briefly but rejoins. Not much climbing for several miles in the foothills paralleling Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch. 5 mi to turnoff to Big Brother Lake. Go straight 1 mi to North Fork trail. Left up North Fork 4 mi to junction (right goes to Cherry Lake). Go left back over the divide to Big Brother Lake 4 mi.. Watch carefully for cairns as you go around and above Big Bro Lake. If you are off-trail and not following cairns, backtrack until you find one. There are a lot but sometimes knocked down. At Jerome Rock Lakes, 2 mi from Big Bro (there is a sign saying to camp 100’ from the lake, but no name) either go left to Spanish Creek (5 mi) or straight to Spanish Lakes (2 mi) and then down to Spanish Creek and on to the parking lot (6 mi). From Spanish Lakes you can go off-trail up Blaze Mountain (10,300’) and glissade on the blaze all summer. When done just hike downhill and angle across the canyon until you intersect the very obvious trail.
Indian Ridge (driving 35 min, 27 mi). 17 mi from 4-Corners. Small parking lot on the right just off the highway. Quicker access up to Beacon Point but no loop, unless you want 35 mi. 5 mi to intersection with trail from South Fork of Spanish Creek (directions above) but 600’ more climb.
Hellroaring Trails (driving 35 min 28 mi). 18 mi from 4-Corners. Small parking lot on the right just off the highway. After 5 miles in a tree ditch take N Hellroaring branch to Thompson Lake, up to Summit Lake and then around Gallatin Peak (11,025’). At the trail junction just past Summit Lake go left watching after a steep climb for the next left down South Hellroaring about 1 mi later back to the trailhead. I haven’t done this but it looks like about 25 mi, 5000’, not too steep, mostly above tree-line once you pass the Hellroaring junction.
Lava Lake trail (driving 40 min 30 mi). 20 mi from 4-Corners. Turn right off the road just before it crosses the Gallatin River. There is more parking hidden past the outhouse. Heavily used boulevard to the lake but at the lake you can go left up to Table Mountain (9,600’). From tree-less Table Mountain it is possible to go clockwise around the lake, over Jumbo Mountain (10,400’) and down to the Lava Lake trail near the trailhead. Much of the route has no trail so you need a good sense of direction. Another choice is to continue on from Table Mt and down Deer Creek trail (14 mi) to the highway and hitchhike back 11 mi.
Deer Creek trail (driving 50 min, 41 mi). 31 mi from 4-Corners. Small sign on the highway, crosses the Gallatin on a large, steel-frame bridge to the trailhead. Go up Deer Creek trail and take the right to Table Mountain (9,600’), moderately steep, not many rocks, or go straight to Moon Lake. From Moon Lake it is possible to go over the divide to the South Hellroaring trail but I haven’t done that. Deer Creek to Lava Lake trailhead is about 14 mi.