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Deer Lake

Big Sky + Gallatin River Valley, Montana

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Deer Lake

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  • Early section of trail.- Deer Lake
  • The Deer Creek Trail leads you into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness- Deer Lake
  • A large and beautiful stand of lodgepole pines.- Deer Lake
  • Cross Deer Creek several times.- Deer Lake
  • Brief open patch of mountanside on the Deer Creek Trail- Deer Lake
  • A small waterfall along the way.- Deer Lake
  • The trail swings right by Moon Lake.- Deer Lake
  • Short uphill climb to Deer Lake from the junction.- Deer Lake
  • Enjoy lunch at Deer Lake. There are also several backcountry sites around the lake.- Deer Lake
  • Deer Lake has a scenic mountain backdrop.- Deer Lake
  • Heading back down to the trailhead through a large stand of lodgepole pines.- Deer Lake
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Stunning alpine lakes and lodgepole forest.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Big Sky + Gallatin River Valley, MT
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Highest point: 
9,143.00 ft (2,786.79 m)
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Permit required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Horseback
Total Distance: 
12.00 mi (19.31 km)
Total elevation gain: 
3,248.00 ft (989.99 m)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,895.00 ft (1,796.80 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

A lesser-traveled hike in the Gallatin Canyon, the hike to Deer Lake is sure to take your breath away. Enjoy a long steady climb through beautiful lodgepole forest and along hillsides loaded with huckleberries to a large alpine lake with a rocky mountain backdrop.

Immediately begin gaining elevation from the Deer Creek Trailhead. The first half mile climbs up through an open sagebrush filled hillside. As the trail enters the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, lodgepoles start to creep in closer to the trail. Before long you’ll be entirely immersed in a tall lodgepole pine forest. The atmosphere feels still, almost magical. Hear the babbling of Deer Creek not far in the distance. Cross Deer Creek three times in total, with each crossing made easy through fallen trees and large boulders.

Hikers in late July and early August will enjoy an abundant buffet of berries just off the trail including black currant, gooseberry, huckleberry, low bush blueberry, raspberry, and thimbleberry. A small opening in the forest might not have as many berries but reveals a unique view of Gallatin Canyon, along with views of how far and high you have come.

Eventually pass the junction to Table Mountain. From the junction, continue over a quarter mile and come across Moon Lake, a lovely isolated-feeling alpine lake. Less than half a mile more and you reach Deer Lake, a magnificent alpine lake about 9,000 feet. An unnamed mountain in the Spanish Peaks is the backdrop. The lake has clear blue waters and a thriving population of grayling. Enjoy a well-deserved lunch before taking the same route back down.

Backpackers rejoice – there are a handful of backcountry sites leading up to and along Deer Lake. Fewer sites are available around Moon Lake due to the marshy perimeter. There is also the opportunity to continue past Deer Lake to head up to a ridge for dramatic views of the Spanish Peaks and back down into the Hell Roaring Creek drainage.

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Location + Directions

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(19 within a 30 mile radius)

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