Day Hikes in The Beartooth Mountains
by Robert Stone (The Globe Pequot Press)
© 2012 Robert Stone/The Globe Pequot Press. All Rights Reserved.
THis should be a MUST SEE for any MT resident or visitor! I can't believe I waited to do this hike after living here for 4 years! Go TODAY and take anyone you wish to share an amazing adventure with!
Truly spectacular and easy enough that even the relatively out-of-shape hiker or weekend warrior can make it to the lake. It does get a bit tough in the form of a bouldered climb for the last 3/4 to 1/2 mile, but if you take your time you will make it and be richly rewarded. The view when you break over the top and the lake opens up before you is just incredible. If that's not enough for you or you'd like a lot more exercise, head on down to the lake and follow the trail another 1/4 mile or so until you see the sign for Phantom Creek Trail 17 heading up to your left (south). This will take you to Froze-to-Death Plateau below Granite peak (highest point in MT) and, if you've arranged a ride or shuttle, you can go right on through to the E. Rosebud trailhead. The views of Mystic Lake from high up on the Phantom Creek trail are truly mind-blowing, top-of-the-world kind of stuff.
I did this hike with my bro in early Sept 07. Was an awesome hike that would have been pretty easy were it not for the weather. We drove in the night before and camped at the nearby campground on the lake. Trail entrance is behind the houses that I guess are for the for the power station staff. The trail follows the creek for part of the way and is smooth and pretty flat. Trail then starts climbing toward the dam and is moderate climb and mostly rock covered. We departed in the am despite the overcast sky. The weather service had advised sunny and mid 60s by afternoon so we thought it would work out perfect to arrive at the lake as the weather cleared. As you can see from the pictures posted, the weather got worse - not better. Despite the snow, we really enjoyed the hike and the valley scenery up to the cloud line was great. I like late season hiking and the snow on the trees was truly picture perfect. I would really recommend this hike – we only saw 1 other set of backpackers returning from a longer excursion. We had the trail to ourselves! Please note: the last 1/3 of the trail is all rock. It’s not difficult and would have been ok except in the rain/snow it is very slick so be careful in these conditions. Also, when we got into the cloud cover just before the Dam, the visibility dropped to maybe 20 feet. I have a Garmin handheld, so we knew exactly where the lake was. But without GPS we would have had to turn back because the trail is narrow and you could easily walk off the edge around the Dam area in low/no visibility. I only mention this because while we have done many alpine hikes and some in less than ideal conditions, this hike just reminded us how people can get hurt / lost quickly in deteriorating conditions on otherwise low/moderate difficulty trails.
We took along our 3 year-old and 6 year-old and found that last 3/4 mile to be a challenge with them. We probably won't hike it again until they are 4+ years older. The Mystic Lake itself was quite beautiful with a lot of off trail campsites along the way. We camped there for two nights with a day trip to Island Lake which was an easy hike for them. -- Craig
Absolutely gorgeous example of the Beartooth-Absaroka's. We went in the spring when there was snow and ice covering the trail, but we took it slowly and made it over the ridge to the lake. Breathtaking.
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