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Montana Trails

100 Days Outdoors: Cliff Jumping in Montana’s Ironically Cold "Lava Lake"

A few weeks into this hundred day summer road-trip and I didn’t need to read far into people’s expressions upon meeting me: it was time for a rinse.


100 days outdoors - cliff jumping at lava lake

The three-mile hike up into the forests of Montana’s Cascade Canyon feels longer than three miles thanks to the steep, winding switchbacks. But it’s a small price for the feeling of jumping into the cool mountain water and drying off on the warm, giant slabs of granite scattering the lake’s shore.   

While the views are somewhat limited on the first half of the hike, the trees begin to thin out and give way to glimpses of the surrounding canyon as the trail follows the Cascade Creek up its 1600-foot climb. Still, the real view is saved for the top, where creek turns to lake and the canyon, with it’s various surrounding peaks, can be truly appreciated.   

So if you’re in the Bozeman area and need an afternoon escape into the woods or are on an extended road trip and smell particularly bad, Lava Lake is must. Just don’t expect to find any molten volcanic magma!

Gallatin River

The three miles of switchbacks winding up Montana’s Cascade Canyon is a small price to pay for a view like this!

Balancing across a buildup of old trees caught in the mouth of where Montana’s Lava Lake pours down into the pounding Gallatin River.   

Montana’s Cascade Canyon

100 days outdoors - the view from lava lake

The three miles of switchbacks winding up Montana’s Cascade Canyon is a small price to pay for a view like this!   

The Plunge

100 days outdoors - cliff jumping at lava lake

After three weeks on the road exploring the North West, I was definitely the smelliest of the bunch, but that didn’t stop the rest of the gang from joining me for an icy dip. Or plunge.  

Swimming in “Lava Lake”

With a name like “Lava Lake”, we definitely didn’t expect the water to be quite as bone chilling as it was

With a name like “Lava Lake”, we definitely didn’t expect the water to be quite as bone chilling as it was.    

Watch the Week 3 Video

Water, sun and friendly smiles—all necessary ingredients for jumpstarting summer in Montana.