Blacktail Lake is a small mountain lake nestled in the Absaroka Mountains near Livingston, MT. The lake is 4.2 acres and sits at 8,750 ft elevation. It’s used by day hikers, backpackers and horse packers. While Blacktail Lake is the only lake in the West Boulder drainage that has a trail to it, it can be reached using three different trails that are in three different drainages.
Finding Blacktail Lake
Blacktail Lake is at the end of the Blacktail Lake trail (trail #105) which cuts off from the Blacktail Creek trail (trail #337). The Blacktail Lake trail is only about 1/3 mile in length with an elevation gain of about 100 ft. It’s a well maintained trail that sees enough use that it is almost always easy to follow.
The Blacktail Lake trail is reached from either end of the Blacktail Creek trail. The upper section of the trail approaches from the north and is about 3/4 mile in length from its intersection with the North Fork Deep Creek trail (trail #37) and the Elephanthead Mountain trail (trail #45). The North Fork Deep Creek trail comes up from Paradise Valley just south of Livingston while the Elephanthead Mountain trail originates in the Mission Creek drainage east of Livingston. Click on a trail name to get full directions.
The Blacktail Creek trail also connects to the Davis Creek trail which begins at the West Boulder River trailhead. This section of trail is about 2 miles in length and climbs nearly 1,800 ft. You can get full info on this trail on our Davis Creek Trail page.
Camping at Blacktail Lake
There are several excellent campsites at Blacktail Lake. On the eastern side of the lake there is a large, well-established campsite that can accommodate multiple tents. While I’ve never seen it, there is ample evidence that this camp is used by horse packers.
The lake is in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and, especially when there are no other camping parties, you can expect a solitude experience. The clear skies and high altitude provides great stargazing.
This is prime bear country so be sure to take precautions with your food storage. You should always carry bear spray (and know how to use it) when you are hiking in the area.
Fishing the Lake
Although the lake is fairly small, it has a maximum depth of 20 feet and sustains a good trout population. It was first stocked in 1945 and has been stocked periodically since then. Since the trout are unable to reproduce in the lake it relies on stocking to provide a fishable population. The current stocking plan calls for the lake to be stocked every 8 years. When first stocked the fish are quite small but they grow rapidly and after a few years they reach a pretty good size. 4 – 5 years after stocking it’s possible to get fish in the two pound range.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks publishes stocking data for the lake. Visit their site to get full information including recent fish stocking data for Blacktail Lake
The margins of Blacktail Lake are often quite shallow and feeding fish may be quite a distance from shore. This can present difficulties to fly anglers as there are limited areas that allow for long back casts. However, being able to fish in such a beautiful place makes up for any difficulties.