The Hyalite ridge traverse, as taken from Hyalite Peak to Divide Peak, is on the very doable side of the burly spectrum. As a lollipop trail run from the Hyalite Creek trailhead, the route has waterfalls, singletrack, forest, ridgelines, sidehilling, and scrambling. What’s not to love? Going from east to west, expect to do about 18-19 miles car-to-car with approximately 4500’ of vertical gain, with at least one class 3+ moment (up to class 4, depending on your route finding skills).
I started out from Bozeman early on the morning of Saturday, September 1st, 2017. Montana was deep in the throes of serious wildfire smoke. Plus side--a lot less trail traffic. Minus--burning lungs and less-than-stellar views.
The trail from the Hyalite Creek trailhead is wide, beautiful, and well-maintained. In the first few miles, the Grotto Falls trail zigzags across the narrower Hyalite trail, but the junctions are pretty well marked. If you’ve got time to spare, Grotto is a beautiful, wide, pooling waterfall well-worth making the extra half-mile-ish detour for. For five miles, from trailhead to lake, the trail meanders past ELEVEN waterfalls, with varying degrees of jaw-dropping splendor.
At about 5.5 miles, the trail to Hyalite Peak splits at a junction. Here, you’ll have gained about 3000’, from 6900’ at the trailhead to 8900’. Bear left towards Hyalite Peak, or left to Hyalite Lake (very pretty and a great place to camp).
Following the trail for two miles, up to the 10,000’ saddle on the northwest flank of the peak, bear left to the trail to the summit. In high summer, it’ll be easy to spot, but in late spring or a year with high snowpack, snowbanks will probably still be present. Hyalite Peak’s summit is just half a mile and a few hundred vertical feet from the saddle.
At this point, if you’re planning to continue along the ridgeline, descend to the saddle and climb back up the ridge to the unnamed Point 10,201. This very cool-looking peak, looming over the basin, has a huge notch. From here, you can see the ridgeline extend all the way to Divide Peak itself - and it’ll be mostly sidehilling and scrambling until you get there.
The ridge drops about 500’ before climbing back up to the third summit--Point 10,024. The mass of volcanic rock calls for careful scrambling, as it gets steep and the rock itself can be pretty abrasive. Staying on the ridge proper sets up you for solid class 3. Traversing a bit further to the south can give you an easier route, if you’re careful, but I got into a class 4 pitch before I knew it. All the scrambling is pretty shortlived, though, and at the top you’ll find a nice grassy flat ridge.
Further northwest, the ridge climbs up and over Point 10,073, a straightforward and pretty hike abutting a saddle which separates Hyalite Basin and Squaw Creek. The stuff singletrack dreams are made of. Keep chugging along the ridge to Divide Peak proper, just a mere half mile and 250’ away. From Divide, the views are excellent. I know some people take the ridge further, to Bole and Blackmore, but Divide is as far as I went (and this trip report goes).
Return to the saddle between Point 10,073 and Divide, and take the well-marked trail east, down into the basin. The singletrack crosses a creek or two (depending on the season) before meeting back up with the Hyalite Creek trail below the junction between the peak and lake trails.
This is a big, beautiful day out in the mountains with lots of water before and after the ridgeline. Know that the ridge itself, while not too intimidating, is a big committing in terms of those notorious afternoon thunderstorms… there aren’t really any comfortable bail-out points back into the Hyalite Basin from any of the three unnamed peaks between Hyalite and Divide, it’s mostly sheer exposure with a 500’+ drop. Bad summer weather can usually be easily avoided with proper planning, an early start, and no qualms about retreat if something pops up on the horizon.
Hyalite is an incredibly special place, and with just a little extra effort, you can see some wonderful new country and leave the crowds behind. As it’s said, Hyalite provides!