The hills and canyons surrounding the Missouri River in the Big Belt Mountains provide many picturesque trails and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors in Montana. The Juniper Bay to Log Gulch Trail is a fairly short trail along Holter Lake that offers great views of the reservoir. Furthermore, there are some nice camping options and spots near this trail to spend time by the water.
Getting to the Juniper Bay Trailhead
Holter Lake sits not too far off I-15 between Great Falls and Helena. Exit off I-15 to the small town of Craig. Turn right on the Craig Frontage Road and follow it until you reach the Wolf Creek Bridge. Instead of crossing the bridge, continue left onto Beartooth Road.
The road leads along the river and Holter Lake and eventually turns to well-maintained dirt. You’ll pass the BLM campground and State Recreation Area, quite a few lake houses, and some boat launches before reaching a small inlet. This inlet also has a boat launch area and you’ll see a turnoff on the left. Pull into here where you’ll find a small dirt parking area and the Juniper Bay trailhead. There are no restrooms at the trailhead.
There are no fees to hike the Juniper Bay to Log Gulch trail.
However, there are fees to use the campsites and certain day use areas. Fee areas range between $5 for day use and $80 for large group campsites. See the camping section below for more details.
Hiking Juniper Bay to Log Gulch
Hike Type: Moderate loop
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) roundtrip
Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours
Regulations: Pets are permitted – leash them while near the campground. Be respectful of campers while walking through the campground.
During the summer in Montana, we typically head further into the mountains to hike. But in the winter, we like to head into the Big Belts because they’re closer to where we live in Great Falls and the trails usually aren’t as snowy as those deeper in the Rocky Mountain Front.
It was a chilly day in late winter when we headed out to hike the Juniper Bay to Log Gulch Trail. The trail was a bit muddy and there were a few snowy patches. From the Juniper Bay trailhead, we ascended somewhat steeply up the hillside. The climb isn’t anything too difficult, but we did have to take off some layers as we heated up from the effort!
For much of the trail, we had pretty views over Holter Lake, which was still frozen over. We were the only ones hiking, but there were quite a few people out ice fishing on the reservoir below. The path somewhat flattened out where it split around a ridge. We took the left path, heading down the Upper Log Gulch Trail towards the campground. It was a steep descent, but we soon came out at the upper end of the campground. It was still closed for the season, so it was very quiet.
At the lower end of the campground, we tied into the Lower Log Gulch trail. We ascended again, the trail climbing just above the road and reservoir. Eventually, the path cut back into the hillside, tying into the Juniper Bay trail. We followed the trail we had hiked before back down towards the trailhead we began at.
What to Bring
Water: An essential for any hike, especially when it heats up here for the summer.
Layers: For chilly summer days or visits during the winter and shoulder seasons. It can get pretty windy here, so a windbreaker is good to bring.
Hiking Boots: Sturdy hiking shoes with solid tread.
Food: There are many great spots in the area for a picnic if you want to spend a little more time here.
Extra Gear: Hiking poles may help if you enjoy hiking with them. Early or late in the season, you may need spikes/Yaktrax to hike the steeper parts of the trail if it becomes snow packed.
Sun Protection: The trail offers little shade, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and/or sunglasses.
Camera: In case you want to capture your adventure.
Camping Near Juniper Bay
There are multiple campgrounds near Juniper Bay. Here are a few options:
Log Gulch Campground: This is the campground you walk through on the Juniper Bay and Log Gulch loop. There are 70 sites here without electric hookups, but there is a boat ramp and slips, potable water, restrooms, a fish cleaning station, and more. Sites start at $15 per night and day use at the recreation site costs $5 per vehicle. Check here for reservations and more info.
Departure Point Campground: This area has four campsites and some picnic day use spots available on a first-come, first-served basis. It also costs $5 for day use and $15 per night for a campsite. Click here for more info.
BLM Holter Lake Campground: The Holter Lake Campground sits a few minutes north on Holter Lake. There are 52 sites without electric hookups, some for RVs and others for tents only. Some of the spots are reservable while others are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are restrooms, a boat ramp and slips, potable water, grills, and more. Sites cost $15 per night. Click here for reservations and more info.