Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness  by Bill Schneider

Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Guide Book

by Bill Schneider (Falcon Guides)
Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness  by Bill Schneider
Lace up your boots and sample more than sixty hikes in the spectacular Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness that straddles the Montana-Wyoming border. Experience the high-altitude grandeur of the Beartooth Plateau, the breathtaking view from 12,799-foot Granite Peak, and the abundant wildlife of the densely forested Absaroka Range. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness offers hikers some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the United States as well as peaceful mountain meadows, trout-filled lakes, stunning waterfalls, and many options for off-trail adventure. Veteran hiker and outdoor writer Bill Schneider will introduce you to all this and more.

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

Trails from the "Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 62.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 62.

A base-camp backpacking adventure to the stark beauty of this high plateau area with a wide diversity of potential side trips. You could hike into Aero Lakes and out the same day, but that would be a shame. Instead, plan on a long day hike to get to the lakes and spend the extra time finding an idyllic campsite. Then spend two or three days exploring this incredible high country.
Cooke City, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 11.4
An easy day hike well suited for families on a designated National Recreation Trail. The Forest Service has designated Basin Creek Lakes as a National Recreation Trail, so, not surprisingly, it’s popular. It’s so popular, in fact, that this is one of the few trails in the Beartooths restricted to hiking only—no horses are allowed until mid-September when the big- game hunting seasons get under way. Technically, Trail 61 to Basin Creek Lakes doesn’t pass through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, but it’s a wilderness trip by all other defi nitions. The trail is well maintained, easy to follow, and ideal for family day trips for anyone who can handle a gradual but steady uphill gradient. The route crosses Basin Creek twice, but bridges keep your feet dry.
Red Lodge, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
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A truly spectacular route best suited for long day trips, and perhaps the best way to see the essence of the unique Beartooth high lakes country. This is one of those pesky shuttle trails that requires arranging transportation in advance. Leave a vehicle at the Beartooth Lake Trailhead, or arrange with another party to start at Beartooth Lake and meet at Claw Lake or Beauty Lake for lunch so you can trade keys. You can also leave a bicycle at Beartooth Lake and elect somebody to ride it back to your vehicle at the Island Lake Trailhead (only about 4 miles).
Cooke City, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.5
A fairly short, easy, uncrowded loop with multiple side trip possibilities, proof that you can have a wonderful backpacking adventure without having designated wilderness. This could be a day hike, but because there is so much to see along the way, it’s better suited for an easy—or perhaps a first—backpacking trip. The route is mostly flat and scenic, mostly above timberline, with no steep climbs except a short calf- stretcher at the end of the hike—and no hazards, unless you go to Deep Lake. The trail is well defined all the way with good signage, a plethora of good campsites, and lots of lakes and streams filled with little brookies that love to get caught by kids.
Red Lodge, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 10.75
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A nice day hike suitable for children and families.
Cooke City, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.8
An easy day hike, overnighter, or base camp with a remarkable number of lakes to enjoy on such a short hike. This is not only a great day hike, but also a perfect choice for that first backpacking experience with family or children. The trail gains only 175 feet in elevation over 3.5 miles, but just because it’s fl at doesn’t mean it’s lacking in scenery. To the contrary, this is one of the most scenic routes in the Beartooths. From the trailhead the trail closely follows the west shore of Island Lake for most of the first mile, then leads less than a quarter mile to Night Lake, once again following the west shore.
Cooke City, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
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Probably best for a long day hike, but could be a fairly difficult overnighter into an unusually large, gorgeous mountain meadow. The well- maintained trail closely follows the West Fork Stillwater River most of the way, hugging the north and west bank. Those who want to experience a remote and beautiful mountain without making it a weeklong trip should try an overnighter into Breakneck Park Meadows. The hike in and out can be done in a day, but at 16 miles, it’s a long haul.
Absarokee, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 16
A very long day hike or strenuous overnighter to a remote, uncrowded mountain lake, one of the nicest places in the entire Wilderness Preservation System that hardly anybody sees. Like trails to Silver Lake and Great Falls Creek Lakes, this route is long for a day hike or an overnighter. Only well-conditioned backpackers could make it into Bridge Lake in one day; on the other hand, it’s a tad short for two days. The upshot? Not many hikers go to Bridge Lake, so you’ll probably have it to yourself. The trail starts out with a serious upgrade for about 2.5 miles. Then it levels out for about 5 miles until you start the last steep pitch up to the lake.
Big Timber, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 20
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This is an easy day trip to a small in-stream lake. From the trailhead immediately cross a bridge over the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, turn right (west), and head upstream along the Lake Fork. The trail stays close to the stream all the way and is easy to follow, well maintained, hazard-free, and usually dry. Plus, there are no steep hills, and the trail stays on the south side of the stream the entire way to Broadwater Lake, so no stream crossings. All of these advantages make this trip near-perfect for an easy day hike with children. Perhaps the best part of the trip into Broadwater Lake is constantly being near a clean, natural mountain stream. Hikers can stop at dozens of places and just sit back against a tree, relax, and soak in the sound of the rushing water.
Red Lodge, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
A moderate day hike or easy overnighter, this is a good choice for that first backpacking trip. Most trips of this length are shuttle or out-and-back trails, but this is a rare loop route. Perhaps the most troublesome spot on the entire trip is the stream crossing right at the trailhead. Earlier in the season, in June and July, this stream carries lots of water, so be careful. Even though children might have some difficulty crossing this stream, the rest of the trip is quite safe. There are five more stream crossings, but none hazardous, and it’s usually possible to cross on rocks to keep your feet dry. Less than a quarter mile from the trailhead, watch for the junction with Trail 621 to Beauty Lake. To do this trip clockwise, turn left to stay on Trail 619 and head for Beartooth Butte. The return route of this loop comes down Trail 621 to this junction on the final leg to the trailhead.
Cooke City, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.3
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A weeklong backpacking vacation over magnificent Columbine Pass and into a gorgeous, lake-dotted plateau with a myriad of side trip opportunities; nicely suited to backpackers who like to set up a base camp. Hikers can choose from a variety of options for hiking into the Lake Plateau, but this route is special because there aren’t many opportunities like this one to see so much wild country without working out a burdensome shuttle or retracing your steps for half of the trip.
Big Timber, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 34.3
A long loop to several large wilderness lakes best suited for a three- or four-night backpack.This hike used to start at the recently abandoned Muddy Creek Trailhead. You can still go to Lower Granite Lake from the old Muddy Creek Trailhead and make this route a bit easier (although not shorter), but be prepared to have very wet feet when you reach Granite Lake. The abandoned trailhead isn’t signed, but with a little research (or an old map), you can find it. The first mile or so of the trail to the first junction (turn left here) drops steeply, and then keeps dropping, but not quite as steeply. Only 0.5 mile later you come to the Muddy Creek Cutoff Trail, which very precipitously drops into Muddy Creek.
Cooke City, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 23.7
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A two- or three-night, late summer shuttle trip to a string of large, forested lakes.
Cooke City, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 12.6
Note: After the dramatic 2008 Cascade Fire, the Forest Service moved the Senia Creek Trailhead to the end of West Fork Road. Previously the trail started at a small trailhead on the north side of West Fork Road about a mile before the end of the road. A long day trip or overnighter into a remote, seldom-visited mountain lake. Before heading up the trail to Crow Lake, make sure your water bottles are full. It’s a long, steep 4 miles until they can be refilled. The first part of this trail is a grind, but after catching your breath, you’ll find the scenic vistas from this high-altitude plateau a fitting reward.
Red Lodge, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 17
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A seldom-used trail suitable for day trips or an overnight stay.
Cooke City, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
An easy day hike or overnighter along a beautiful stream with good fishing.
Big Timber, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
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A long, hard day hike or overnighter with a stunning view of Mount Cowen, an incredible mass of rock and the highest point in the Absaroka Range. The rugged north Absaroka Range forms the eastern horizon of the Paradise Valley south of Livingston along the Yellowstone River. Of all these formidable peaks, 11,206-foot Mount Cowen is the highest. If you plan a late June or early July trip, check with the Forest Service about snow conditions before trying it.
Livingston, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 16
A fairly easy day trip and possible candidate for an easy overnighter. This route covers the first 3 miles of the popular trans-Bear tooth trail from the East Rosebud Trailhead to the Clarks Fork Trailhead, referred to in this book as The Beaten Path (Hike 19). The trail goes through deep, unburned forest all the way to Elk Lake, and is well maintained and well traveled. Expect to see lots of people. From the trail there are several great views of 10,979-foot Shepard Mountain to the west and East Rosebud Creek as it tumbles down from the Beartooth Plateau.
Columbus, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
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Fox Lake is the first of a long chain of lakes called Crazy Lakes, and it’s a good choice for a moderate overnight trip. To get to Fox Lake, take Trail 3 from the Clarks Fork Trailhead. The trail passes through mostly unburned forest (except for a section by Kersey Lake) for 2.6 miles, climbing gradually as it heads toward the high plateau. Be careful not to take the right-hand turns to Rock Island Lake or Crazy Lakes. Then turn left onto Trail 567 to Russell Creek, and in 1 mile look for a trail heading right (southeast) to Fox Lake. The turn onto the Fox Lake trail leads to a steep descent, about a half mile, to the lake. Fox Lake is large and striking. Explorers can follow the shoreline around to the right (west) but not to the left, where steep cliff s jut up from the lake. Farley Creek also tumbles into Fox Lake just to the east of Russell Creek. These two streams merge in Fox Lake and leave the lake as Crazy Creek.
Cooke City, MT - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 8
A steep but short day trip to a high-elevation lake within sight of the Beartooth Highway.
Red Lodge, MT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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