Hike Cabin Creek Trail To Discover A Lake That Shouldn’t Exist In Montana
Hebgen Lake is a popular stillwater fishing, boating, and swimming spot, mainly because it’s conveniently located for visitors of West Yellowstone and those who call southwest Montana home. But did you know this lake has a rather sinister history and didn’t exist a century ago?
The next time you find yourself in this area, lace up your hiking boots and check out the Cabin Creek Trail. Despite the bizarre and tragic way the lake was formed, this is still a remarkably beautiful area, and the trail showcases it beautifully.
Hebgen Lake is also known as Earthquake Lake. In fact, you may only know it this way.
Technically, the lake formed in 1914, when the Montana Power Company impounded the Madison River with the concrete-core Hebgen Dam. Back then it was much, much smaller. Then, in August of 1959, a devastating 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the area, causing a huge avalanche of rock, soil, and trees to cascade down from the south wall of the Madison River Canyon. A lot of vacationers were camping in the area for the weekend and 28 people lost their lives.
The aftermath of the earthquake was horrible, aside from one side effect -- the tiny Hebgen Reservoir was now a full-sized lake.
That is how the lake that never should have been here became one of the most popular destinations in southwest Montana.
The Cabin Creek Trail begins at the Hebgen Lake Day Use Area and spans almost 4.5 miles.
This out-and-back hike is ranked as a fairly easy one on AllTrails, so if you're capable of walking nearly five miles, you'll be able to enjoy it. Parts of the trail are rather narrow and steep, so you'll want to take it slowly.
The hike takes you through a gorgeous canyon, a broad valley, and a dense forest.
Eventually, you'll start to parallel Cabin Creek.
On warm summer days you might see people down by the creek, but for the most part, the trail simply winds around it.
The creek isn't always easy to reach from the trail, so no one will blame you if you decide to stick to just looking.
Eventually, you'll wind your way back down to the beautiful Earthquake Lake.
Montana has had a few substantial earthquakes since that fateful day in 1959, but nothing registering a 7.5, and nothing that changed the entire landscape like this one did. Still, Hebgen is a beautiful lake, and we're lucky we get to enjoy it.
Have you ever been to Earthquake Lake?
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Hebgen Lake, Montana 59758, USA