Best Easy Day Hikes Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness  by Bill Schneider

Best Easy Day Hikes Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Guide Book

by Bill Schneider (Falcon Guides)
Best Easy Day Hikes Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness  by Bill Schneider
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness contains about 944 lakes, and of these, 328 support fisheries and 616 are barren. Only a few lakes in the entire wilderness (within the Slough Creek drainage) are thought to contain native fish, with surviving original Yellowstone cutthroat stock. All other fisheries within the wilderness were created when fish were introduced to lakes or streams. In some cases introduced fish migrated and established populations in new locations. Lakes are currently managed by drainage due to the nature of the drainages and fish migration within each drainage, although this has not always been the case.

© 2015 Bill Schneider/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Easy Day Hikes Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 29.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 29.

An easy day hike well suited for families on a designated National Recreation Trail. The West Fork of Rock Creek Road (FR 71) actually boasts four separate trailheads, all in close proximity. Three vehicle campgrounds are also found in this area, and the lower valley has several residential developments. Since the road starts right in Red Lodge, the lower valley feels like the town’s backyard wilderness. The West Fork Road is paved for the first 7 miles up to Basin Creek Campground. This is a heavily used area, both for day trips and extended backcountry excursions.
Red Lodge , MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
A truly spectacular route through the famous high lake country of the Beartooths. The Island Lake and Beartooth Lake Trailheads are in what is commonly called the Beartooth High Lakes country. It’s hard to believe that this isn’t officially part of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, but it’s just as wild and the Forest Service manages it “to preserve its wilderness character.” Backcountry travelers don’t officially cross the wilderness boundary until they reach the Montana-Wyoming state line. Dozens of lakes are easy hikes from either trailhead, and both trailheads have wonderful vehicle campgrounds and picnic areas.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.9
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A nice day hike suitable for children and families.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.8
An easy day hike with a remarkable number of lakes to enjoy on such a short hike. The Island Lake Trailhead is the main entry point to what is commonly called the Beartooth High Lakes country. It’s hard to believe that this isn’t officially part of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, but it’s just as wild and the Forest Service manages it “to preserve its wilderness character.” Backcountry travelers don’t officially cross the wilderness boundary until they reach the Montana-Wyoming state line. Dozens of lakes are easy hikes from either trailhead, and both trailheads have wonderful vehicle campgrounds and picnic areas. The scenery is outstanding, and exploring requires little effort.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
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A short uphill trek along a magnificent cascade of white water.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
An easy day hike along a beautiful stream with good fishing.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
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A fairly easy day trip to a fish-filled mountain lake. Many people who know the Beartooths say the East Rose-bud is the most scenic valley of all. It’s filled with lakes and waterfalls that would be major tourism attractions anywhere else. Here, there are so many that most don’t even have names. The cutthroat-filled lakes bring a smile to any angler’s face, and climbers love the place because of the endless array of rock faces. Adding even more use to the area is the small community of summer homes called Alpine right at the trailhead.
Red Lodge , MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
Three Rivers Park District and MORC boast 13 miles of sublime singletrack at Elm Creek Park Reserve, twisting around the northeast corner of the park through dense hardwood forest and open prairie, with a perfectly blended mix of beginner to expert terrain on a fast-flowing path with only rare unintended obstacles. Decadent paved trails through the rest of the wildlife-packed park add bonus points. I double- dipped on my Elm Creek day and rode both the paved and dirt trails, so this route starts from the dog park trailhead. Follow the road north to the junction with the paved trail and hop on the singletrack, cruising through an open, meadowy landscape to a short climb through a chunk of woods, then squiggle around through the open again to meet the access to Grizzland, the expert section dotted with technical features like log piles and rock gardens, and boasting the most elevation gain on the trail.
Osseo, MN - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7.5
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A steep but short day trip to a high-elevation lake within sight of the Beartooth Highway.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
A steep but short day trip to a high-elevation lake basin.
Red Lodge , MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
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A very easy day trip to a spectacular area that is close to the highway but still a remote wilderness. The undesignated wilderness south of the Beartooth Highway (US 212) is often ignored as hikers flock to the more well-known trails north of the road. Yet the area south of the highway is equally wild and scenic and, of course, less crowded. This hike is similar to the Gardner Lake hike but without the big hill. The trail is not well defined in the meadow along the road, so keep your eyes peeled for a few big cairns marking its location. Once you get near the trees, the trail becomes easy to follow and is well defined all the way to Hauser Lake. The elevation on this hike is much lower than the trail to Gardner Lake—starting at 9,841 feet and dropping to 9,650 feet at Hauser Lake, and the entire area is mostly open—and very scenic.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
This is a short, mostly off-trail trip into a high-elevation basin filled with lakes. The Rock Creek area is the last stop before driving up the world-famous switchbacks to the top of Beartooth Pass and into Wyoming. Actually, there are two trailheads—Glacier Lake and Hellroaring—in the area, both accessed from the Forest Service campgrounds at the base of Beartooth Pass. Day hikers can camp at one of the three vehicle campgrounds and go to Hellroaring Lakes and Glacier Lake on extended one-day outings. The trails in this area are great for learning to explore the high country with a topographic map and compass, and they are especially well suited for hikers who aren’t in top physical condition. Many lakes and other scenic areas can be reached within a few miles of the trailhead. The climbs are steep but not extended.
Red Lodge , MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
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A short, flat trail to a large, forested lake. Anyone who has been to the Clarks Fork Trailhead could mount a strong argument that it’s the most beautiful trailhead in the Beartooths. It rests on the south shoreline of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone as the river leaves the Beartooths, right at a spectacular falls and large pool. A spacious grassy area with picnic tables is especially nice for people wanting a leisurely picnic in a gorgeous setting followed by a short day hike. In fact, a worthwhile attraction lies just beyond the trailhead, where a major footbridge spans the Clarks Fork where it has cut a narrow gorge.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
An easy day hike to a gorgeous forested lake. This trailhead is slightly harder to locate than most others in the Beartooths, but this hasn’t lessened its popularity. The area has much to offer, and it receives heavy use both by locals and those who travel from afar for a chance to experience this spectacular wild area. The trailhead lies on the eastern fringe of the section of the Beartooths that has been extensively mined, logged, and roaded. Even in the 2 miles of gravel road to the trailhead, the contrast between this area and the pristine wilderness is clearly evident. You can camp at the undeveloped campground at the trailhead to get an earlier start.
Cooke City, WY - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 3
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An easy day trip to a small in-stream lake. The Lake Fork of Rock Creek area is similar to the West Fork, just to the north. Both areas are easily accessible from Red Lodge and receive lots of use. This high level of use maybe even more obvious in the Lake Fork because everybody uses the same trail. In the West Fork multiple trails tend to disperse the use. Like the West Fork Trail, you can hike as far as you like up the Lake Fork. The well-maintained and heavily used trail is not only one of the most scenic in the Beartooths, but it’s also only about an hour and a half drive from the Billings area. This trail offers absolutely spectacular scenery.
Red Lodge , MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
An easy day hike to two forested lakes. Anyone who has been to the Clarks Fork Trailhead could mount a strong argument that it’s the most beautiful trailhead in the Beartooths. It rests on the south shoreline of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone as the river leaves the Beartooths, right at a spectacular falls and large pool. A spacious grassy area with picnic tables is especially nice for people wanting a leisurely picnic in a gorgeous setting followed by a short day hike. In fact, a worthwhile attraction lies just beyond the trailhead, where a major footbridge spans the Clarks Fork where it has cut a narrow gorge. Since this trailhead is the south end of “The Beaten Path,” the popular trans-Beartooth trail from East Rosebud through the Beartooths, it’s obviously heavily used.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
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A moderate day trip to the deepest lake in the Beartooths.
Gardiner, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
This is a beautiful and accessible lake with an incredible number of alpine lakes within easy walking distance. As at Island Lake, the Beartooth Lake Trailhead sits on the edge of a large mountain lake, and the trails start right at Beartooth Lake Campground. Hikers can camp right at the trailhead and get an early start on the day—if they are fortunate enough to find a campsite in this popular campground. Beartooth Lake lies in the shadow of Montana’s famous 10,514-foot Beartooth Butte, which dominates the western horizon. Beartooth Butte is an enigma, a tiny island of sedimentary rock in the sea of granite making up the Beartooth Mountains. How to get to Native Lake can be a tough decision.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
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An easy day trip or super-easy overnighter on a well-traveled trail. This trailhead is officially named “Island Lake Trailhead,” but perhaps a more appropriate name would be “Top of the World Trailhead.” Looking around at the surrounding high country, it sure seems like the top of the world. And in fact, the Top of the World Store is only 1 mile to the west. The trails here start at 9,518 feet, and obviously, they can’t climb too much from that point. Therefore, all trips starting from this trailhead are made-to-order for people who don’t like big hills. The trailhead is right in the middle of the uniquely beautiful Beartooth High Lakes country. It’s hard to believe that this isn’t officially part of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, but it’s just as wild and the Forest Service manages it “to preserve its wilderness character.”
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
This is a delightful, short hike to the magnificent Passage Falls on Passage Creek, a fairly large stream. The falls is most spectacular in the spring but worth the trip any time. The trail is double-wide except for the last 0.2 mile where you turn left onto a singletrack for a small drop down to the waterfall. This last section has a few steep spots, so hang onto the kids. The route follows the stream until the junction with the Wallace Creek Trail. It’s quite heavily traveled, so don’t expect to be alone. The trail goes right down to the falls for an up-close and personal view.
Cooke City, WY - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
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