Hog Canyon Lake Loop is an excellent hike in spring and fall, showcasing the unique geology and plant diversity of the area. The trail is within the Fishtrap Recreation Area, which consists of over 8,000 acres of former farmland now open to non-motorized recreation access. The trail passes through a mix of open grasslands, seasonal wetlands, native shrub-steppe habitat, basalt outcroppings, and steep cliff faces. The geology of this landscape was shaped by a series of floods from Glacial Lake Missoula over 15,000 years ago. Spring visits are ideal for enjoying the diversity of native wildflowers in this area. Numerous aspen groves along the trail make the area excellent for fall hikes as well.
There are several trail access points within the Fishtrap Recreation Area. The two main trailheads for Hog Canyon are located at Folsom Farm on Jack Brown Road North and the Hog Lake trailhead on the Lake Valley Loop Road/Hog Lake Road. The Hog Canyon Lake Loop is adjacent to the Fishtrap Lake North and South Loop trails for additional hiking options.
For the 5.3 mile version of this hike, start at Folsom Farm. This former ranch now has interpretive signage explaining the history of the site. Spend a little time at either the beginning or end of the hike exploring the still-standing farm buildings or enjoying the bench overlooking Smick Meadows. For a bonus side-hike, walk the path down to the edge of Smick Meadows where a bird viewing blind sits at the edge of the meadows, perfect for observing waterfowl.
The hike begins by hiking north from Folsom Farm on the closed-to-motorized-vehicles portion of the old Jack Brown Road North. This portion of the hike is an old double track farm road, quickly leaving the Folsom Farm buildings behind and passing through a former farm field, now being overtaken by wildflowers. At just shy of the mile mark, the trail intersects the Hog Lake Road just east of Lake Valley Loop Road at a farm gate (be sure to close the gate after passing through, as there is range land in this area and cattle need to remain on the correct side of the fence). Hike the road east for the next 0.6 mile until reaching the Hog Lake Road TH (an alternate starting location for a shorter version of this hike). Pass through another gate at this trailhead to enter a wooded section of the trail. The trail opens up again as it approaches Hog Lake, reaching an excellent viewing site for Hog Canyon Falls at approximately 2.2 miles. Please note that while the trails are on BLM property, Hog Canyon Falls are on private property. Please enjoy from afar using binoculars or a zoom camera lens, and respect the private property signs.
After taking in the view of the falls, continue along the edge of the cliffs overlooking Hog Lake. The trail stays several feet back from the edge, but the drop-off is severe (keep children and pets close). At the 2.5 mile mark the trail veers slightly from the cliff edge and continues southwest until it intersects the Hog Lake Road at approximately the 3 mile mark. Follow the road toward the lake for the next 0.1 mile. Watch carefully for a carsonite post on the south side of the road indicating the trail through Hog Canyon. If you reach the boat launch you've gone slightly too far.
For the next mile the trail winds its way through pine trees and seasonal flowers as it passes through Hog Canyon. At the 4.1 mile mark the trail turns right and heads uphill until returning to the Jack Brown Road North at 4.6 miles. Shut the final gate behind then hike north to return to Folsom Farm and the starting trailhead for this hike.