July 9th and July 17th, 2016
Hyalite Canyon is one of Bozeman’s closest hiking, biking, climbing, paddling, swimming, etc, etc, destinations. It’s also one of the world’s premiere ice climbing locations, but, alas, the ice has official gone for the time being. Summer, of course, has its own charms, and as stated above, Hyalite has a lot to offer. Two of the most commonly hiked peaks in the area are Mt. Blackmore and Hyalite Peak, which are located surprisingly close to our old friend, Garnet Peak.
On July 9th, I went out with my friend, Kevin, for a jaunt up Mt. Blackmore. I remember the first time I went up Blackmore with my sister during my first summer in Bozeman and I thought I would die. These days I’m more familiar with the territory, and Blackmore seems like and old friend.
Kevin and I started around 9:30 am and were out by 1:30 or so, with about and hour of stop time mixed in there. It’s a 12 mile round trip walk. It starts by meandering uphill through the piney woods until it flattens out for a short while then descends briefly to Blackmore Lake. “Blackmore Bog” would be a more appropriate and alliterative title for the body of water tucked in between the hills back there, but that is my opinion.
bog lake, the trail starts heading uphill in earnest and quickly becomes one of the most directly ascending paths I have ever encountered out West. It’s very “New Hampshire” in its approach- you know, just face straight up hill and GO! Switchbacks? What are switchbacks??
Switchbacks do appear, however, after the trail emerges from the woods into lush alpine meadows blooming with light pink Indian paintbrush, geranium, and wild hyacinth. This opens up into the basin underneath Mt. Blackmore from which we ascended to the saddle between Elephant Peak and Blackmore.
At the saddle, we could see over into South Cottonwood canyon and beyond toward Big Sky. There are few things more satisfying to me that being able to look over the other side- take this as a metaphor if you wish.
Located further back and southward into the wilderness is Hyalite Peak, the tallest mountain in the area, and its namesake. I’ve been to Hyalite Lake (the small body of water located underneath the peak) a few times now. It was the location of my first-ever solo overnight backpacking trip. I had no idea what I was doing then, and it was a vaguely disastrous ordeal but one that I look back on with fond pride at my determination to get some experience under my belt. Until last week I had yet to get to the peak, and so when the opportunity to go with a group of friends came up, I was happy to take it.
The peak stands at 10,298 ft. of which we gained about 3,000ft over the 7 miles, one way. The whole trip took us about six hours to complete. The first 5 miles that lead to Hyalite Lake are mellow overall, with the exception of the last mile or so of switchback that lead to the lake.
Bonus on this part of the trail, though, are the many, many waterfalls along the way.
The two miles after Hyalite Lake ascend to the summit rather aggressively- that is to say, it was a hard two miles. The trail meanders through various meadows and lakes in a more or less DIRECTLY UPHILL MANNER until it reaches the scree field under the saddle of the peak. There is the gesture of a switchback up to the saddle, some of which was still covered in some corny, wet snow that made the already thin trail that much more thrilling to navigate.
Once again, however, I had the pleasure of reaching that saddle and being able to look over into something new. “Revelation” is perhaps the best word to describe how it feels to look over a saddle or a pass once I’ve reached the top. The wind whipped in my face in the way that always pumps me up and I let out a hoot and holler as I strode up the last quarter mile to the summit.
Hyalite peak offers a 360 degree view of Paradise Valley, the Crazy Mountains, the Bridgers, the Tabacco Roots, The Spanish Peaks, Big Sky, the Madison Range, and finally Yellowstone, which circles back to Paradise Valley. I haven’t felt so supremely satisfied by a hike in a long time.
The seven miles back to the parking lot can feel a little long after several hours of walking vaguely downhill through the woods, but those long miles in were totally worth the thrill of the summit, and I highly recommend either Blackmore (12 miles) or Hyalite Peak (14 miles) to any avid hiker visiting the Bozeman area.