The 9 Most Beautiful Mountain Lakes in Montana

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: July 5, 2023
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Montana’s geography is recognized for being contrasted with flatlands in the east and soaring mountains in the west. The top lakes in Montana range from enormous reservoirs to pools of water formed by glaciers, and they all perfectly capture the state’s untamed and rough landscape. More than 3,000 lakes and reservoirs may be found in the state. It may not be as abundant as Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, but it sure reveals the state’s natural scenic beauty.

Boating, fishing, swimming, and taking in the state’s natural beauty are common pastimes on the best lakes in Montana. But perhaps the most beautiful lakes in the world sit atop mountains. They don’t just let you enjoy refreshing cold waters; they also let you experience nature’s finest air, see beyond the mountain’s overlooking terrain, surround yourself with towering pine trees, and, most importantly, take you on a thrilling hike. Whatever it is you are seeking in mountain lakes, Montana has a fair share of those. Below, we will uncover 9 of Montana’s most beautiful mountain lakes.

Discover the 9 Most Beautiful Mountain Lakes in Montana

1. Pine Creek Lake

Pine Creek Lake is a 31-acre pristine body of water in Paradise Valley, about 10 miles south of Livingston, MT. Gaining an elevation of 3,400 feet in five miles, the trail suddenly opens into a wide basin with sweeping views of Paradise Valley just as the air is truly drained out of your lungs. The trail passes three more of these views, providing sceneries of further waterfalls and wildflowers as it skirts the edge of imposing granite walls. The journey to the breathtaking, icy alpine lake is worthwhile, and there are a few spots for camping around it. 

2. Ramshorn Lake

Lake, Water, Backgrounds, Horizon, No People

Ramshorn Lake is at an elevation of 8,485 feet.

©iStock.com/Inna Polekhina

A path connecting the Buffalo Horn Trail to the Gallatin Crest Trail provides a destination stop at Ramshorn Lake while progressively ascending. Before starting the last ascent to Ramshorn Lake, the trail’s surroundings fluctuate between wooded areas and wide meadows with views of Ramshorn Peak. There is plenty of room to pitch a tent and cast a line at this jewel-toned lake, a well-liked equestrian destination. Hikers undoubtedly enjoy the stunning views of the lake and the flora and fauna at this lake’s elevation of 8,485.36 feet.

3. Lava Lake 

Lava Lake in Montana

Although it is within a short drive from Bozeman, Lava Lake is a picturesque wilderness getaway.

©Gray Moeller/Shutterstock.com

Finding a mountain lake accessible to a city and still surrounded by unexplored wilderness is difficult. Fortunately, Lava Lake is a picturesque wilderness getaway, even though it is within a short drive from Bozeman and is incredibly easy to find. Trees entirely cover the trail, so the first real view is on the banks of the charming lake, encircled by evergreen trees and jagged peaks. The lake is located at an elevation of 7,130 feet. However, there are many beautiful rest stops along the way.

4. Fossil Lake

Lake

Fossil Lake covers 164.7 acres.

©Meirav Ben Izhak/Shutterstock.com

In Montana’s Carbon County, Fossil Lake covers 164.7 acres and rises to 9,895.76 feet. The vast Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness surrounds Fossil Lake, located on the Beartooth Plateau. Starting at the Clarks Fork trailhead, hike through the forest alongside Russell Creek, along Kersey Lake’s edge, and ascend into a canyon with numerous rocky views.

5. Campfire Lake

Camping, Montana - Western USA, Cloud - Sky, Hiking, Horizontal

Campfire Lake is the source of the Middle Fork Sweet Grass Creek, which rushes out of the lake’s eastern shore.

©iStock.com/bmswanson

Near the center of the Crazy Mountains, Campfire Lake is a stunning mountain lake tucked away beneath imposing mountain ridgelines at an elevation of 8,600 feet. There are trailheads on the Crazy Mountains’ east and west slopes from which one can ascend to the lake. Campfire Lake is the source of the Middle Fork Sweet Grass Creek, which rushes out of the lake’s eastern shore. Campfire Lake is 35.4 acres in size and has a maximum depth of 30 feet, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP), with 71% of the lake being less than 15 feet deep.

6. East Rosebud Lake

Lake, Montana - Western USA, Horizontal, Mountain, Mountain Range

East Rosebud Lake can be found in Gallatin National Forest.

©iStock.com/wayneharney

In southwest Montana’s Custer, Gallatin National Forest is where you’ll find East Rosebud Lake Campground. The campground spans 8 acres and is situated at an elevation of 6,200 feet. The lake is accessible by car, and popular activities include hiking, camping, and fishing. One of the trailheads for The Beaten Path, a 26-mile trail that leads to Cooke City, is located near the stunning scenery of the lake. Elk Lake, the Snow Lakes, Arch Lake, and Sylvan Lake are just some lakes that may be found in between. 

7. Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake is one of the deepest lakes in the Beartooth Mountains.

©Jessica Nicole Williams/Shutterstock.com

About 80 miles southwest of Billings, in the heart of Montana’s Yellowstone Country, is a natural lake called Mystic Lake. At about 300 feet deep, the lake is among the deepest in the Beartooth Mountains, if not the deepest. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, which encompasses more than 900,000 acres of the Custer National Forest and parts of the Gallatin National Forest, are all located within the bounds of Mystic Lake. At a height of more than 7,000 feet, the lake is among the most picturesque in the state, in addition to its setting in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

8. Dailey Lake

Dailey Lake

Dailey Lake covers 205 acres.

©Asher2233/Shutterstock.com

A 205-acre natural lake with breathtaking views of Emigrant Mountain, Dailey Lake is perched on a bench above the Yellowstone River. Due to its two boat ramps, dock, accessible fishing station, and 17 campsites, it is well-liked by boaters and anglers. Fishing for walleye, yellow perch, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and rainbow trout is outstanding in Dailey Lake. While the walleye and rainbow trout need annual stocking to feed the fisheries, the yellow perch is self-sustaining. Anglers fish at the lake all year round, and in the winter, ice fishing is occasionally a popular activity there.

9. Beartooth Lake

Beartooth Lake

Beartooth Lake is a stunning high-mountain lake situated alongside the well-known Beartooth Highway.

©Byan V Egner/Shutterstock.com

In addition to fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and backpacking, Beartooth Lake is a stunning high-mountain lake situated alongside the well-known Beartooth Highway. Beartooth Lake sits at an elevation of 8,900 feet and is a must-stop if you go along the famous Beartooth Highway since it has campgrounds and stunning vistas that are perfect for a day-trip picnic.

Summary of 9 Most Beautiful Mountain Lakes in Montana

Here’s a recap of the nine magnificent Montana mountain lakes that we took a look at.

NumberLakeElevation
1Pine Creek Lake3,400 feet
2Ramshorn Lake8,485 feet
3Lava Lake7,130 feet
4Fossil Lake9,895 feet
5Campfire Lake8,600 feet
6East Rosebud Lake6,200 feet
7Mystic Lake7,000 feet
8Dailey Lake5,246 feet
9Beartooth Lake8,900 feet

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/dstaerk


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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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Sources
  1. Wild Montana, Available here: https://wildmontana.org/2020/08/21/community/explore-5-alpine-lake-hikes/
  2. Yellowstone Country Montana, Available here: https://www.visityellowstonecountry.com/alpine-lakes-in-montanas-yellowstone-country#:~:text=In%20between%2C%20you%27ll%20find,as%20far%20as%20you%20like