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11 Breathtaking Recreational Lakes near Bozeman, MT

Bozeman is a charming town with plenty of lodging and amazing outdoors. It's a getaway to a selection of fantastic lakes known for fly fishing, camping, and kayaking.
ItIsWild.com: Best Lakes near Bozeman Montana

Known for its charming downtown and incredible outdoors, Bozeman attracts thousands of visitors every year, many of whom stopover on the way to Yellowstone National Park.

The area is famous for fly fishing and breathtaking landscape worthy of Instagram shots. This is where the lakes come in.

Most of the options on the list can be reached by car and offer swimming, paddling, and camping. Others are hike-in destinations for those who like a challenge and to have the whole lake for themselves.

It is a beautiful part of the country, well worth the time. Check out what Bozeman has to offer!

Lakes near Bozeman:

  1. Meyers Lake
  2. Fairy Lake
  3. Hyalite Reservoir
  4. Willow Creek Reservoir
  5. Ennis Lake
  6. Canyon Ferry Lake
  7. Delmoe Lake
  8. Ruby River Reservoir
  9. Lava Lake
  10. Mystic Lake
  11. Hebgen Lake
Lakes near Bozeman Montana Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Meyers Lake

Pond in Montana
Source: pixabay
  • Website: Meyers Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 4 miles (10 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Ice Skating

A few miles west of downtown Bozeman, Meyers Lake sits within Valley West Park. Not to be confused with Meyer Lake, located 175 miles in Lewis & Clark County, this small lake offers a pleasant oasis on Bozeman’s west side. 

Located within a residential subdivision, West Valley Park has a variety of pathways – along with a playground, picnic tables, pavilion, and a volleyball court – that make this a popular place for pedestrians and bicyclists to visit.

Water activities are limited to fishing, but the fish population within the lake is limited. Wintertime opportunities to ice skate along the lake keep crowds coming, just as summertime strolls do. 

2. Fairy Lake

Sacajawea Peak from Fairy Lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Fairy Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 28 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking

A scenic but challenging drive 28 miles north of the city provides access to Fairy Lake. Located at the base of the highest spot within the Bridger Mountains, Sacagawea Peak, this glacial lake is 7,534 feet above sea level, more than 2,700 higher than Bozeman. 

Non-motorized watercraft are permitted on this lake. It is known for its trout and chilly mountain water, ideal for escaping summer’s heat. A 1.2-mile loop trail provides an enjoyable walk around this 11.3-acre lake. 

A popular place to picnic, hike, and fish, visitors to Fairy Lake who wish to stay overnight may camp at the first-come, first-serve Fairy Lake Campground which is open from July through mid-September. 

Rough road conditions, snow, and ice may persist late into the spring, so those unfamiliar with this area should check road conditions. A ranch gate prevents vehicular access when the road is impassable.

3. Hyalite Reservoir

Hyalite Reservoir Montana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Hyalite Reservoir
  • Distance from Bozeman: 20 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Ice Fishing, Snowshoeing, Cross-country Skiing

A little more than 15 miles south of Bozeman, Hyalite Reservoir is located within one of the most frequently visited areas of Custer Gallatin National Forest. 

Created by a dam built in the 1940s and later enlarged, Hyalite Reservoir provides most of the city’s municipal water supply. 

Depending on seasonal drawdowns, this body of water, once known as Middle Creek Reservoir, spans from 155 to over 200 surface acres.

The reservoir attracts crowds interested in outdoor recreation, as well as a variety of wildlife. Moose, elk, mountain goats, bears, and bighorn sheep frequent the forests reaching from Hyalite southward toward Gardiner and Yellowstone National Park. 

The Friends of Hyalite raise funds to preserve wildlife, advocate for high-quality water and keep roads open for access in the winter. 

The boating season usually runs from May until temperatures start to drop after Labor Day. Campgrounds at Chisolm and Hood Creek operate from May until mid-September. 

The fishing season for trout and Arctic grayling generally runs from late May into November.

4. Willow Creek Reservoir

a reservoir and mountains during sunset in Montana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Willow Creek Reservoir
  • Distance from Bozeman: 51 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Ice Fishing

Driving 50 miles west of Bozeman allows visitors to enjoy Willow Creek Reservoir. This impoundment on Willow Creek was built by the US Bureau of Reclamation, creating a reservoir with approximately 11 miles of shoreline after the dam was completed in 1911 and subsequently reinforced and modified. 

Used for flood control and irrigation, Willow Creek Reservoir’s surface level may vary from 700 to more than 1,500 surface acres, depending on precipitation and drawdowns.

This earthfill structure creates a reservoir that provides opportunities for boating and fishing, as well as hiking and camping at the nearby Harrison Lake Campground. 

Anglers will find cutthroat trout and longnose and white sucker native to the region, as well as brown and rainbow trout that conservation staff have introduced.

5. Ennis Lake

Gentleman in a hat paddleboarding
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Ennis Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 50 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing, Windsurfing, Kite Surfing, Ice Fishing

Ennis Lake is an impoundment of the Madison River found 45 miles southwest of Bozeman. 

Created after Montana Power erected a dam at the head of Bear Trap Canyon in 1905, this 3,600-acre reservoir is somewhat shallow, allowing the water to warm more quickly than deeper lakes in Montana. 

The primitive Meadow Lake Campground often fills in the summer.

Accessible throughout the year, Ennis Lake is a popular location for summertime powerboating, jet skiing, and windsurfing as afternoon winds whip up, as well as for iceboating after the shallow water freezes during winter.

Less than seven miles from the Town of Ennis, the boat launch at Kobayashi Beach on the lake’s north end is a popular gathering place. 

Whitewater rafters often launch their personal watercraft northwest of the lake, on the other side of the dam, to enjoy the thrilling rapids along that stretch of the Missouri River.

Trout proliferate in these waters. Those who come to fish should find plenty of rainbow and brown trout. Other fish swimming here include Arctic grayling, mottled sculpin, mountain whitefish, and Utah chub. 

6. Canyon Ferry Lake

  • Website: Canyon Ferry Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 85 miles (1hr 20min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

Canyon Ferry Lake is a drive of a little more than 80 miles north-northwest of Bozeman. Located only about 50 miles from where the Madison, Jefferson, and Gallatin Rivers come together to form the Missouri River, this 35,200-acre reservoir is the state’s third-largest body of water. 

Workers built a smaller dam to provide hydroelectric power to Helena in 1898. When the decision was made to start construction of the current Canyon Ferry Dam in 1949, the reservoir’s volume increased by 50 times, covering more than 4,000 acres of farmland and the former settlement of Canton after completion in 1953. 

A church originally built within the town was preserved and moved to higher ground. The current dam provides flood control, electricity, and irrigation for the region. 

Marinas, day-use facilities, and campgrounds offer access to Canyon Ferry Lake. The size of the reservoir makes this a great destination for both sailboating and winter iceboating. 

Anglers who cast a line will find everything from native minnow, suckers, and mountain whitefish species to trout, bluegill, and perch that have been introduced to the reservoir. 

The state record for a Utah chub, a fish weighing 2.39 pounds, was caught here in March 2022.

7. Delmoe Lake

OHV near Delmoe Lake
Source: flickr/public domain
  • Website: Delmoe Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 78 miles (1hr 25min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

Delmoe Lake formed along the Big Pipestone Creek River after crews built the Delmoe Lake Dam in 1914. 

This 279-acre reservoir that is located 75 miles west-northwest of Bozeman stores water for irrigation purposes. 

Also, just a short drive approximately 20 miles east of Butte, this reservoir occupies an area surrounded by evergreen trees and has impressive mountain views.

The Delmoe Campground and a nearby picnic area sit a short distance from the lake. Opened seasonally from Memorial Day into September, this location also offers great locations to enjoy bank fishing for trout and white sucker. 

8. Ruby River Reservoir

Ruby River Reservoir in Montana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Ruby River Reservoir
  • Distance from Bozeman: 83 miles (1hr 35min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking

A drive 83 miles southwest of Bozeman and approximately 35 miles beyond Ennis Lake allows for a visit to Ruby River Reservoir. 

An impoundment created along the Ruby River to provide water to irrigate nearby ranches, this 940-acre reservoir may fluctuate as drawdowns occur to sustain agriculture. 

A primitive campground sits along the eastern shoreline, close to Barton Gulch. Basic boat launches are available near the campground. Those who plan to stay should bring potable water, since facilities are very limited. 

Anglers who spend time fishing at Ruby Reservoir will find a body of water well-stocked with trout, such as Arctic grayling, as well as brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Longnose suckers and mountain whitefish also swim at Ruby Reservoir. 

9. Lava Lake

Lava Lake Montana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lava Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 29 miles (35 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

A drive of under 30 miles south-southwest of the city, followed by a scenic hike, offers an opportunity to experience Lava Lake

A parking area along the Gallatin River offers access to the well-traveled Lava Lake Trail, a three-mile one-way hike with a gain in elevation of approximately 1,600 feet. 

Pines, lush meadows, and log-bridge crossings are found along this trail that generally follows the path of Cascade Creek. 

Weather conditions generally allow for hiking this trail from May into late October, though snow may be found on the ground well into those months. This straightforward, uphill trail has excellent views along the way. 

No motorized vehicles or vessels can access Lava Lake, though anglers may carry fishing equipment. 

A popular stopping place near the Lake is the Hoodoo Cascade. Impressive mountain views are enjoyed by those who ascend to the lake, and it is a great place to fish for rainbow trout. 

10. Mystic Lake

Small pond in montana during the summer
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Mystic Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 7 miles (15 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Located along a largely unmaintained US Forest Service road near Hyalite Reservoir, Mystic Lake is a hike-in destination that is accessible from different trails. 

The 435-acre lake sits at 7,668 feet, nearly 2,875 feet higher in elevation than Bozeman. Mystic Lake Cabin is a remote structure near the lake that is available year-round with reservations for those willing to hike or cross-country ski to get there.

Those wanting to visit Mystic Lake can follow the Bozeman Creek Trail. A length of five to ten miles from nearby access points – and nearly 20 miles from Bozeman’s southern suburbs – allows those with the stamina to gain access to the lake. 

Originally created as a logging road, Bozeman Creek Trail, also known as Sourdough Canyon, allows for many beautiful resting stops along the creek. 

Those who bring their rod may enjoy year-round fishing in Bozeman Creek and Mystic Lake. Fish found in these areas will find cutthroat, brook, and rainbow trout. 

11. Hebgen Lake

Hebgen Lake in Montana
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Hebgen Lake
  • Distance from Bozeman: 92 miles (1hr 50min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Camping, Hiking, Biking, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, Tubing

A 92-mile drive south to Hebgen Lake offers a great option for those who have an interest in visiting the Yellowstone National Park region. 

Located a few miles northwest of the park’s entrance at West Yellowstone, this substantial reservoir first took shape when the Montana Power Company built the Hebgen Dam in 1914 to impound a section of the Madison River after it flows out of the park. 

A different entity manages the dam today. Depending on drawdowns, the lake may exceed 12,000 surface acres.

There are a number of day-use recreation and camping sites in the Hebgen Lake Basin Area

Boating, fishing, hiking, and winter activities flourish in this area, with Cherry Creek and Rainbow Point serving as popular camping destinations. 

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake in August 1959 led to a large avalanche, with significant rockslides and debris entering the Madison River Canyon and shaping the lake.

Anglers who fish in Hebgen Lake may notice strong winds blowing across the expansive reservoir. Cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout are common catches in an area with a reputation for quality fly fishing. 

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