Outdoorsy pooches will go barking mad for a walk on the Crystal Lake Shoreline Trail! This fantastically Fido-friendly hiking route is tucked away in the Helena area of the vast Lewis and Clark National Forest. The closest parking lot is at Crystal Lake Campground -- the site itself is closed due to hazardous trees, but parking is still available. The trail itself is a remote enough spot, ideal for leashed pups and people who want to feel lost in the wilderness. However, the route is still pretty pawpular with visitors to the region, so you’ll probably see other hikers along the route.
Crystal Lake is located in Montana’s Big Snowy Mountains; a little bit of a misnomer, seeing as the range is both one of the smaller in the state and relatively dry. Still, the region does get quite a bit of snow in the winter, so it may be best to avoid visiting in the colder months. Or at the end of the summer, for that matter -- the path along the lake can get quite muddy by the time the season is over.
Even though Crystal Lake itself is at an elevation of 5,700 feet above sea level, the trail itself is reasonably flat, making the route a furtastic option for pups and owners of all ages and abilities. It almost goes without saying that the scenery is spectacular -- the loop hugs the shoreline for about a mile and three quarters, running through stately mature pines and passing interesting rock formations. It’s not shaded all the way around, though, so be sure to bring sunblock in the warmer months. Not only that, but the 45-acre lake attracts some interesting wildlife! The lake is fifteen feet deep at maximum, making it an attractive spot for majestic eagles looking for fish.
Lewis and Clark National Forest attracts hikers looking to "ruff" it, so don’t expect too much in the way of facilities! There are primitive toilets at the campgrounds; otherwise, visitors are expected to make like the proverbial bear. If you need further amenities, it might be best to stay closer to civilization, but if not, Crystal Lake is the pawfect place for you and your pup to get back to nature!