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TerraTopo Hiking Map
- of -
Hiking Map
The B
eaten Path 
Hiking Trail Routes

East Rosebud Wild and Scenic River, West Rosebud Creek, Mystic Lake 
Island Lake, Silver Lake, Crazy LakeFroze-to-Death Plateau and granite peak
Avalanche Lake, Aero Lakes, Kersey Lake, Otter Lake, Lake Elaine, Jordan Lake, Aero, 
Fossil Lake, Rock Island Lake, Widewater Lake, Fox Lake, Otter Lake, Lake of the Winds, Lake of the Clouds, Princess Lake, Martin Lake, Alice lake, Boot lake, Farley lake, Crazy lake, Green lake, Granite lake, Castle lake, Summersville lake, Crystal lake, Flat Rock lake, Theil lake, North Hidden lake, Marmot lake, Maryott lake, Varve lake, Navajo lake, Turgulse Lake, Lowary Lake, Salix Lake, Snowball Lakes, Upper Arch Lake, Brent Lake, Mystic Lake hydro
electric dam,  Custer gallatin, National Forest Trails, Trail Heads, Fish Information and species from Montana Fish and Wildlife, Custer Gallatin National Forest Trailhead Numbers
Lake Elevations, Contours, Shaded Relief Map

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (Montana)

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"...I Love This Map!  Even better than Trails Illustrated" from Doug W. in Indiana

"...This map was exactly what I was looking for.  Great guide on the backside.  The Beaten Path was an awesome hike!   We got engaged! "  Jean G. Cornish,  Maine

"...Thanks for the map.  It was even BETTER than I expected..." Gary L., Great Falls, Montana 

" Hey that's a  wonderful map.  I like the field guide on the back.  Cool!"  from Mark S. in Chicago Illinois

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"...thanks for the great maps.  We saw three pikas.  First time ever. Are  you in Bozeman?" from Mike D. New York, New York.

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"You guys did an amazing job on this map.  The nicest hiking map I've seen - really !"  From Bill M. Yankton, SD.

"AWARD WINNING MAP!  FIRST PLACE AWARD- Best Map in Show : Intermountain GIS Conference  !"  Brenda Billings, Montana.

"I cannot thank you enough for your map.  I did not know what to expect.  It is perfect.  My wife and I are hiking the Beaten Path Trail this August.  Your map really nice.  Thanks for sending two"! - Jim and Sally H.  Sandpoint, Idaho

"I just got your map. Thanks for sending it out so fast.   I really like the fishing or fish-stock info on the map.  Nice work. ".  - Cal in San Francisco, California. 

"I hiked this back in 1991 before that big fire near Alpine.  It is cool to know the trail is still there.  I just got the map.  I really thank you for your amazing detailed and beautiful work on this map.  Thanks."  Michael and Cindy - Rapid City, SD 

DESCRIPTION OF THE MAP  : The TerraTopo printed map (ISBN 0-9713501-0-8) covers a portion of the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness, including Mystic lake, Island Lake, Granite Peak and the well-known 'Beaten Path' trail between Cooke City, Montana and Alpine (East Rosebud).  The map also reveals the regions surrounding Granite Peak, East and West Rosebud, Mystic Lake, and Alpine.  The map is folded on waterproof, tear-resistant paper and has an approximate dimension of 24 inches wide by 32 inches tall.  The map is folded with a size of approximately 4 inches x 6 1/2 inches.  The fold size is small enough to fit in your backpack. 

MYSTIC LAKE, ISLAND LAKE and SILVER LAKE: To reach the trailhead, take the Columbus exit from Interstate 90, and take Montana Highway 78 through Absaroka and turn west (right) toward Fishtail (approximately 17 miles from Columbus). From Fishtail, drive west and south for 1 mile and turn south (left) on West Rosebud Road. Follow this paved road for 6.3 miles until reaching a fork in the road and a large brown Forest Service sign. The sign will indicate West Rosebud Lake Road #2072. Turn left here and follow the dirt road for 14.4 miles until reaching the trailhead.


Hiking to Mystic lake (from West Rosebud) provides the unique opportunity to see a hydroelectric dam in action.  The power-generation facility is located near the trailhead.  Island lake offers a getaway from the summer crowds that linger near Mystic lake though the trail to Island Lake is one of the busiest trails in the Beartooths.    Expect lots of crowds especially on weekends.

From the trailhead and parking area, hike past the Mystic Lake hydroelectric plant.  Cross the bridge that crosses the piping conduit for the power plant and continue uphill.  The trail continues to climb through Lodgepole Pine forests.  The trail takes you over a bridge crossing the West Rosebud Creek, and leads you through more Lodgepole Pine stands, spotted with Aspen trees.   Next, the trail ascends through an impressive boulder field, with boulders the size of large trucks.  This boulder field is approximately a mile long and contains a good number of switchbacks.   Looking west, you can also see the pipeline structure that is used as a conduit to move water from Mystic lake down to the hydroelectric plant.  Crest the top of the trail and you are greeted with a beautiful overlooks of Mystic Lake.  During a "normal" year with average precipitation, Mystic Lake is the deepest lake in the Beartooths, at more than 300 feet.  In years of drought, the lake is much less impressive.  Mystic lake is considered the largest lake in the Beartooths, at over 2 miles long (during a "normal" year with average precipitation).   In drought years you can virtually walk across the lake, not far from Island lake.  The trail wraps around the lake for an additional three miles once you are down at the lake level.  Numerous camping sites are situated along the lake's shore.


The West Rosebud Trail (the same trail that leads to Mystic Lake and Island Lake) is the same trail that leads to Huckleberry Lake, Avalanche Lake and the base of Granite Peak, Montana's highest mountain peak.  To reach the Froze-to-Death Plateau, try this:  Once at the Mystic lake dam overlook, descend down to Mystic Lake and continue hiking for a half mile along the lakes south shore until reaching an intersection for the Phantom Creek Trail #17 branching to the left (south). The sign at this intersection is hard to spot.  Turn left and follow this trail up through the switchbacks until reaching a huge cairn above treeline. Just past the cairn, leave the trail to the south and head uphill to the plateau. On the plateau, you will see cairns in the distance heading southwest. 


To reach Huckleberry Lake, Avalanche Lake and the base of Granite Peak, try this:  Continue along the trail on the south side of Mystic Lake.  After hiking 2.5 miles from the Mystic Lake Dam, you'll be approaching the west-end of the lake.  There is a small wooden bridge that crosses Huckleberry Creek (if the bridge was damaged or washed away from spring runoff look for signs or rock carnes).  Turn left after crossing this bridge and head south along the trail.  The trail up Huckleberry Creek starts immediately.  Look for rock carnes to help you stay on the trail.  After the first half-mile of hiking, the trail crosses a large boulder field near Huckleberry lake (elevation 8380).  The trail follows an easy grade for the next 1.5 miles, just to the north of Princess Lake (elevation 9,172). 


There are two primary routes from Princess lake to Avalanche Lake.   Both routes are relatively easy to find and route.  Continue south to either Snowball Lakes or Cold (Goat) Lake, both of which should lead you to Avalanche Lake (elevation 9750).   A direct route follows a cascading stream which is an inlet at the southeastern end of Princess lake.  Some scrambling and a route up a gully is required near Cold lake (Goat lake).  From Cold lake it is a fairly easy climb to the north end of Avalanche lake.  

The second route to Avalanche lake follows a trail up the ridge southwest of Princess lake to the lower region of Snowball lake.  Here too, a scramble involving talus and scree is required.  The rock walls and tall rick spires are striking.  Granite peak is clearly visible from Avalanche lake. 


Along with the Stillwater Trail, East Rosebud Trail (“The Beaten Path”) is one of two trans-Beartooth Mountain routes.  The Beaten Path 26-mile hiking trail leads through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness of Montana and celebrates the East Rosebud Creek, Russell Creek and all the scenic beauty in between.  Along the trail, there are numerous waterfalls, alpine lakes, wildlife, alpine streams, wild trout, snow-covered terraces and beautiful vistas. The trail's defacto name is the 'Beaten Path'.  The trail's official name is the East Rosebud Trail.  The East Rosebud trail and many other trails are shown on the TerraTopo map.

TRAIL #3 or TRAIL #15 ?

Years ago, Custer National Forest and Gallatin National Forest were considered separate entities.  In 2014- The Custer and Gallatin National Forests combined to form the Custer Gallatin National Forest (NF). The forest now covers land from Bozeman, MT to Camp Crook, South Dakota.  Before the two NFs combined, each of the two National Forests used their own unique trail number designation for the "Beaten Path".  USFS Trail #3 begins at the Clarks Fork trailhead and continues to Fossil Lake.  USFS trail #15 begins at East Rosebud trailhead and continues to Fossil Lake.  At the "old" delineation between Custer and Gallatin NF is where the two trails meet.

The mountains have the power to release us from everyday life.  They provide a transformation from fear to love, by giving us permission to be romantic, cheerful, and open to the rugged beauty of wilderness.    Along the Beaten Path, we hike past dangerous waterfalls, cliffs, menacing mountains, all of which help us reach and touch the big sky.  The Beaten Path trail helps us

articulate the mountains, including Granite Peak, the highest peak in Montana.  In the shadows of the beautiful and rugged peaks, we grasp the meaning of the sublime, while being immersed in a landscape of incomprehensible enormity.  These powerful places
helps us feel most alive.  Without wilderness, life is dull and simple.  This hike helps us reconnect with and honor nature by letting us be awed by the mountains.  For so much of history, we dominated the natural world.   The landscape along the Beaten Path helps us validate and reconsider our relationship with nature.  To be in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is to be in the sublime.  Here are a few reasons you should do this hike:


  • The trail will provide us with an escape from the buzz and noise of our modern, developed world.  Reconnect with nature by going for a hike.  An adventure with purpose.  There is a massive diversity and array of scenery, including wildlife, wildflowers, waterfalls, evergreen forests, lakes and geology.  Many hikers ramble about the trail's beautiful scenery, many of which claim it was the best trail they have ever hiked and that they would do it again.

  • ​The 26-miles point-to-point trail, allows you to push your body and mind to a new level of acceptance.  If we can do this hike, what else can we do?   The best time to visit is July through September

  • There is adequate camping locations along the trail.  If we are used to camping in designated sites, this hike will help us shake that notion.  In the wilderness, we try to leave no trace.  Find a camping site that is new and fresh.

  • The hike passes next to 20+ lakes.  Take time to observe the trout swimming in the clear waters, or cast a line and inspect the incredible colors that emanate from the trout's skin.  The route is great for trout fishing in the numerous lakes and streams

  • The trail is well-marked, easy to follow, and well-maintained.  If we have allocated extra time for this trek, get off the trail and explore new locations "off the beaten path".   There are plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten path and extend your trip

  • The East Rosebud and Clarks Fork trailheads are not too far from civilization.   Cooke City offers restaurants, motels and a small general store.  There are campgrounds in the general vicinity of (Clarks Fork) Cooke City, giving us an extra opportunity to prepare for our trip or unwind afterward.  Absarokee and Roscoe (near East Rosebud) provide small stores and restaurants.


The Beaten Path, also known as the East Rosebud Trail is a popular trans-Beartooth route.  The total distance along the path is approximately 26 miles and is not considered overly dangerous or technically difficult.  A few of the switchbacks may be a little rough, especially with a heavy pack on your back.  The entire trail is well-maintained.  During the spring, expect snow and ice on the trail along with a few windblown trees across.  Bridges could be washed out due to high water flow through narrow canyons.  The Beaten Path  trail offers a wide range of vistas and sites, including waterfalls, aqua-green lakes and beautiful flora.  To enjoy the sites and views, many hikers spend at least five days and four nights on the trail, which averages out to a little over 5 miles of hiking per day.   If you plan on fishing the high country lakes, plan to spend a week or more. 


The Beaten Path is considered a thru-hike.  Begin either from the East Rosebud trail near near Roscoe or Absarokee, Montana or from the Clarks Fork Trailhead east of Cooke City, Montana.  Plan to do a  "key-swap" with a friend or relative,  or shuttle a car from one trailhead to the other.  The shuttle involves driving the Beartooth Highway, through Red Lodge, Montana.  Beginning the Beaten Path hike at the East Rosebud trailhead has a smaller climb.  Beginning the hike at the East Rosebud trailhead route has a bigger climb. 

East Rosebud Trail (# 15) is 16 miles long. The East Rosebud Trail is also known as “The Beaten Path”.  The trail begins at the southern end of East Rosebud Road (Forest Road 2177) and climbs steadily for 16 miles to Fossil Lake.  The trail continues on the Russell Creek Trail (Gardiner Ranger District) for another 10 miles to the Clarks Fork Trailhead. One of the most scenic trails in the Beartooths, this trail has a multitude of trout filled lakes, waterfalls, and cascading streams. Elevation change: 3400 feet. The trail is open for the following uses: hiking, horseback riding.  ***Please be aware that travelling in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness comes with additional regulations.  Please know what is expected of visitors before entering the wilderness.

***No campfires are allowed from Twin Outlets Lake to Fossil Lake.  No motorized vehicles in the Wilderness.  Fireworks are illegal on all Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks sites, including Fishing Access Sites, Wildlife Management Aras and other sites. Anyone using fireworks on FWP lands may be charged with a misdemeanor that can result in a fine up to $500.  See the complete listing of regulations here:  Wilderness Restrictions

What to Bring When Hiking in the Wilderness

Hiking in the wilderness can be a rewarding experience, but it's important to be prepared. Here are some essential items to pack for your next hike:

  • Water: You'll need to stay hydrated, so bring plenty of water with you. A good rule of thumb is to pack one gallon of water per person per day.

  • Food: Pack enough food to last for the duration of your hike, plus a little extra in case of emergencies.

  • First-aid kit: This should include bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, and other basic first-aid supplies.

  • Map and compass: Even if you're hiking on a well-marked trail, it's always a good idea to have a map and compass with you in case you get lost.

  • Flashlight or headlamp: It's important to have a way to see in the dark, in case you have to hike back to your car after dark.

  • Fire starter: This could be a lighter, matches, or a flint and steel. You'll need it to start a fire for cooking, warmth, or signaling for help.

  • Shelter: If you're planning on spending the night in the wilderness, you'll need a shelter to protect you from the elements. This could be a tent, a tarp, or even just a sleeping bag under the stars.

  • Sun protection: Don't forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays.

  • Rain gear: If you're hiking in the rain, you'll need to stay dry. Pack a rain jacket, pants, and boots.

  • Bug repellent: Mosquitoes and other biting insects can be a nuisance, so pack some bug repellent to keep them away.

  • Other items: There are a number of other items that you may want to pack, depending on the length and difficulty of your hike. These could include a sleeping pad, a backpack, a hiking pole, a whistle, and a multi-tool.

It's also important to let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back. This way, if you don't return on time, they can send help.  By packing the essentials, you can be sure to have a safe and enjoyable hike in the wilderness.



Elk Lake

Rimrock Lake 

Rainbow Lake

Lake at Falls

Big Park Lake

Duggan Lake

Twin Outlets Lake

Dewey Lake

Fossil Lake

Windy Lake

Skull Lake

Bald Knob Lake

Ouzel Lake 

Russell Lake

Kersey Lake 

Clarks Fork Trailhead

3.5 miles

6.0 miles

8.0 miles

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10.0 miles

12.5 miles

12.8 miles

14.0 miles

16.0 miles

17.1 miles

17.8 miles

18.4 miles

18.8 miles

19.9 miles

24.6 miles

26.0 miles

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Directions to East Rosebud Trailhead:
Drive north on US Hwy 212 for 2.1 miles. Turn left (west) onto MT-78 and drive 19.7 miles. Turn left (south) onto Roscoe Rd. Drive 2.3 miles, cross the bridge and turn right (south) onto East Rosebud Rd. Drive 10.6 miles (along the bumby and dusty road) and until you dead-end at the trailhead. There is parking and room for horse trailers. There is a vault toilet at trailhead.  No garbage cans.  Pack it in, Pack it Out. 

Directions to Clarks Fork Trailhead:
If you are driving through Yellowstone National Park, exit the park near Silver Gate and drive through Cooke City.  If the general store is open, grab a snack or extra supplies for your hike.  Continue east for 3.1 miles to the Clarks Fork Picnic Area and Trailhead.  Turn left and park.  If you are driving from the north (Billings, MT and Red Lodge, MT), drive south on US Hwy 212 towards Cooke City for 59.3 miles. Turn right into the trailhead (follow signs).


Start your hike at either the Clark's Fork Trailhead (8035 feet above sea level) or at the East Rosebud Trailhead (6,208 feet above sea level).  Have someone drop you and your party off at the trailhead, and make arrangements to have a vehicle waiting for you at the end of the trail.  Another option is to arrange your hike with friends or relatives.  Split your group in two parties.  The first party could start at the Clark's Fork trailhead, and the other at the East Rosebud trailhead.  You can meet half way along the trail, swap keys and drive each other's vehicle.   

Map, At-a-Glance, 26 miles, beating path, beaten path, west rosebud, camping, map, all trails map, beartooth, publishing, map, trails, rivers, streams, fishing, troug, map,  Traverses Cooke Roscoe, MT) Timeline: Can be done in one day, would recommend 2-4 days to really enjoy it Terrain: Alpine lakes and meadows, woods, canyon Difficulty: Well-maintained and moderate, with some challenging sections


Let's assume you begin your trip at the East Rosebud Trailhead (Trail #15).  If you camp at the East Rosebud campground, plan to get up early and be on the trail as early as possible.  There's a good chance you'll see wildlife as they take care of their early-morning business.  We've seen numerous black bear just off to the left after passing the inlet of the lake.  Getting an early start, you'll also beat the crowds.  The trail begins near an allotment of summer / vacation homes on the east side of East Rosebud Lake.  The homes are on forest service land and have a long-term lease term.  The trail is routed along the eastern edge of East Rosebud Lake before passing through open terrain.  A large fire swept through this area in 2006 burning thousands of acres of forest and you'll see evidence of the fire as you traverse the well-cared for trail.  The first section of the route barely climbs at all, and the trail is smooth, wide and easy to follow. Continue to Elk Lake which is a clear and shallow lake.  Camping opportunities are limited at Elk Lake and forest service regulations state that all camps must be 300 feet from any lake or 100 feet from any stream.

Hiking from Elk Lake to Rimrock Lake, is a steady climb, eased with numerous switchbacks.  You'll be surrounded by jagged peaks and rough canyon walls.    Rimrock Lake is the second lake along the Beaten Path.  At Rimrock, you've made it six miles from the trailhead.  To access the lake, you'll need to scramble down granite screen and talus as the trail routes above the lake.  Avalanches occur in this area during seasons of heavy snow.  Avalanches are a powerful force of nature and can mow down large trees - and place them right on the trail - making the hiking more difficult. 

Continue the upward climb to Rainbow Lake (7,800 feet), a beautiful aquamarine-greenish-blue lake that is a popular destination for backpackers.  This is a good place to camp for the first night.  Relax, explore the lake shore, look for black currants (to eat) along the lake's shore, cast a line and lighten your load by eating some of your heavy foods loads.  If the sites are full, and there are lots of people staying the night, push onward.


The trail keeps you above Lake at Falls.  If you have time, take off  your heavy backpack and hike down the talus and scree to get a better view of the numerous, braided waterfalls coming down the steep mountainside from Martin Lake. Fishing can be really good here, especially after a rain storm.  The steep slopes and rocky talus does not lend itself well to camping.  Continue on to Big Park Lake where you will find less rocky terrain and more forested landscapes.

As you hike away from Big Park Lake, you'll be in a forested area with many open areas.  If you are looking for wild food to consume, this area can be ripe with wild berries and wild mushrooms (August and September).


Duggan Lake is a good resting spot and a great place to soak your feet in cold water.  Duggan is a small lake nestled at the bottom of a massive rock basin.  You'll get good views of Impasse Falls here.   If you are hiking in July, you may observe a lot of water flowing over the falls.  Continue to follow the trail and you'll find yourself near the head of Impasse Falls.   There are only a few flat, open areas in this section for camping due to large granite boulders and rocky terrain.   Continue on past Twin Outlets Lake, Mount Dewey and the large Dewey Lake.   Crest the high-mountain plateau and you'll see Fossil Lake.  If you’re planning to overnight it around Fossil Lake, note that no campfires are allowed here.  Fossil Lake is enormous and beautiful and is home to a good population of cutthroat trout.


After leaving the high plateau, begin the descent to the Clarks Fork Trailhead.  You'll  hike along Skull Lake and then the larger Bald Knob Lake and Ousel Lake.   After Ousel Lake you'll find yourself on a series of switchbacks that lead you towards Russell Lake. Russell Lake is surrounded by forest and downed pine trees.  

Work your way down slope through the impressive narrow canyon.   After crossing the boardwalk you'll hike uphill to Kersey Lake. The trail does not get you close to the lake's shore.  Plan to hike over many deadfall trees if you wish to hike to the lake.  Keep a look out for moose and wolves.  Kersey lake is home to a very colorful group of Brook trout.  After passing Russell Lake, you may find that the traill is rather muddy, especially in July or after a rainstorm.  Outfitters use a secondary trail for horses.  During July and August, mosquitoes and flies can be a huge nuisance near Russell lake.  Be prepared.  At this location, you are not far from the Clark's Fork Trailhead.  Be strong, and enjoy the remainder of the forested trail.  If you have a dog with you, be especially careful crossing the narrow bridge (that crosses a deep and narrow canyon) near the Clark's Fork Trailhead.   Note:  The Chief Joseph Campground was removed in 2019 due to limited camp sites, and bear activity at the campground.  If you have camped there in previous years, look for another campground instead.  Drive to Cooke City and stay the night at a motel or get some food and head home.


The Beaten Path is one Montana’s premier backpacking routes through the rugged Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.  Thousands of people hike it each year.  The hike is literally called the Beaten Path, and you may see other people on the trail, especially during July and August.   We all share the outdoors and we're better at protecting it together.  As you hike this well-travelled trail, consider the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.


The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. Although Leave No Trace has its roots in backcountry settings, the Principles have been adapted so that they can be applied anywhere — from remote wilderness areas, to local parks and even in your own backyard. They also apply to almost every recreational activity. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information for minimizing impacts.  The Seven Principles are well established and widely known, but they are not static. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics continually examines, evaluates and reshapes the Principles. The Center’s Education Department conducts research — including publishing scholarly articles in independent journals — to ensure that the Principles are up to date with the latest insights from biologists, land managers and other leaders in outdoor education.  The seven Leave No Trace Principles are listed here:


  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  4. Leave What You Find

  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  6. Respect Wildlife

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors


Located near Yellowstone National park, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness was created on March 27th, 1975 in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964.  This wilderness area was named for two mountain ranges:  The Beartooth area occupies the eastern part of the wilderness, and the Absaroka area makes up the western part of the wilderness.  This entire wilderness of almost 950,000 acres lies within the extensive Custer Gallatin National Forest.  Clear streams, hundreds of lakes, glaciers, hundreds of miles of hiking trails and a plethora of healthy trout and other wildlife combine to make this wilderness one of America's most outstanding places.  The trail system is excellent, although having a good map is essential.  This vast area contain numerous peaks above the 12,000 foot level.   The Crow Indians called themselves Absarokas, hence the name of the mountain range that, along with Beartooth, characterizes this Wilderness.    The Absaroka Mountains are dominated by stratified volcanic rock formations which have been eroded by glaciers and rivers.  The Absarokas are home to a variety of wild animals including the grizzly bear.  The peaks in the Absarokas are not as high as those in the Beartooths and are very beautiful.  The Absarokas can be characterized by metamorphic and volcanic rocks,  valleys with lodgepole pine undergrowth,  willows, and rugged peaks. The Absarokas includes awesome mountain peaks east of the Paradise Valley between Livingston and Gardiner.    The Absarokas, unlike Beartooth, have ample vegetative cover, including dense forests and broad mountain meadows crossed by meandering streams.


Hiking along the Beaten Path, you'll pass over 20 Alpine Lakes.  The lakes range in size and depth.  Rainbow lake for example is 180 feet deep and about 58 acres in size.  Duggan Lake, located below the beautiful Impasse water fall is only 4.4 acres in size and about 10 feet deep.  The lake fisheries in the Beartooths generally fall into two categories:  Stocked and self-sustaining.  Trout, such as the Golden Trout, have been introduced in some of the high-country alpine lakes.  Lakes without spawning potential are planted regularly to sustain a fishery.  Self-sustaining lakes have enough spawning habitat to allow fish to reproduce.   Fish species that exist in the high country lakes include Yellowstone cutthroat trout, Brook trout/char, Arctic grayling, Golden trout, Brown trout, Lake trout, Rainbow trout and a few Hybrids ("cutbows", golden-rainbow, etc).  


Alice Lake

Big Park Lake

Billy Lake

Boot Lake

Bowback Lake

Brent Lake

Cairn Lake

Cassidy Lake

Crow Lake

Dewey Lake

Duggan Lake

East Rosebud Lake

Echo Lake

Elk Lakes

Fossil Lake

Froze-to Death Lake

Lake at Falls

Little Scat Lake

Lost Lake

Lower Arch Lake

Lower Granite Creek Lake

Martin Lake

Medicine Lake

Oly Lake

Phantom Lake

Rainbow Lake

Rimrock Lake

Rosebud Lake

Scat Lake

Shadow Lake

Slough Lake

Snow Lakes

Snowbank Lake

Summit Lake

Sylvan Lake

Turgulse Lake

Twin Outlet Lake

Unnamed Lake

Upper Arch Lake

Upper Granite Creek Lake


Afterbay Pool of Mystic Lake

Arrapooash Lake

Avalanche Lake

Big Foot Lake

Cold Lake

Crater Lake

Emerald Lake

Endica Lake

Ewe Lake

Grasshopper Lake

Heart Lake

Huckleberry Lake

Island Lake

Island Lake

Kid Lake

LaVelle Lake

Lily Pad Lake

Little Face Lake

Little Lavelle Lake

Lost Lake

Lower Storm Lake

Middle Storm Lake

Mystic Lake

Princess Lake

Ram Lake

Reeves Lake

Silver Lake

Snowball Lakes

Star Lake

Twin Lake

Unnamed Lakes

Upper Storm Lake

West Fishtail Lake

West Rosebud Lake

Wolf Lake


Bowback Lake

Dude Lake

Emerald Lake

Frosty Lake

Frozen Lakes

Glacier Lake

Greenough Lakes

Hell Roaring Lakes

Highline Trail Lake

Kookoo Lake

Lake Gertrude

Little Glacier Lake

Little Mary Lake

Lower Bain Lake

Mirror Lake

Moon Lake

Mountain Goat Lake

Mountain Sheep Lake

Omega Lake

Quaint Lake

Senal Lake

Shelf Lake

Ship Lake

Silt Lake

Silver Run Lakes

Sliderock Lake

Sundance Lake

Triangle Lake

Triangle Lake

Unnamed Lakes

Upper Basin Lake

Wild Bill Lake


Some of the waters are designated as catch-and-release for one or more species of fish and this requires that those fish be immediately released alive. The use of proper handling techniques will help improve the chance of survival for a released fish:

•    Use barbless hooks or pinch down the barbs with pliers or hemostats to make releasing the fish easier.
•    Land the fish as quickly as possible. A long fight can cause exhaustion and greatly stress the fish.
•    Handle the fish as little as possible.
•    Keep the fish in the water as much as possible.
•    When removing the hook handle the fish gently – do not squeeze the fish or put your fingers in its gills.
•    Release the fish in slow water close to where it was caught.



You can help to take care of our lakes, rivers, and other waterways so that others may enjoy these areas for years to come by practicing some of the following actions: 

•    Don't Litter. Take along a trash bag or other receptacle for collecting your trash so that you can deposit it in the proper trash receptacle. Use proper dumping stations instead of tossing refuse into the water. 
•    Make sure that you use the correct type of bait and fishing gear permitted in that area. There may also be limits on the number, size, and kind of fish that you can keep. Check with your destination ahead of time to see what the local regulations allow. If you use a boat or watercraft when fishing, check to see what kinds of watercraft are allowed at the body of water where you are going to fish. 
•    Pay attention to local procedures and cautions for cleaning your watercraft and gear after you leave the water so that you don't encourage the spread of non-native species to the next body of water you visit.   
•    Don't fish in areas where it is not permitted. These areas have been declared "off limits" to fishing to protect wildlife, vegetation, or for your safety. 



On August 2, 2018, the East Rosebud Wild and Scenic River was designated.  The East Rosebud Wild and Scenic River extends from its source in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness downstream to East Rosebud Lake, including the stream reach between Twin Outlets Lake and Fossil Lake, and from immediately below, but not including, the outlet of East Rosebud Lake downstream to the Custer Gallatin National Forest boundary.  The Classification/Mileage includes 13.0 miles in the wilderness which is designated as "Wild";  7.0 miles were designated outside the wilderness and is designated as "Recreational".  The total designation is 20.0 miles.   The Act, which permanently protects 20.0 miles of the creek from all new dams, diversions and other threats and established Montana’s first new Wild and Scenic River since 1976 and the state’s fifth overall.  Montana currently has four Wild and Scenic Rivers – a 150-mile reach of the Upper Missouri and the North Fork, South Fork, and Middle Fork of the Flathead River.  All four of Montana’s Wild and Scenic Rivers were designated in 1976.   Clean drinking water is an incredibly important consideration for any trip into the backcountry. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing a stomach parasite (it’s awful), then you already know how critical clean drinking water is. 

Originating high on the Beartooth Plateau from its headwaters at Fossil Lake, East Rosebud Creek flows through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to East Rosebud Lake. The designation picks up again at the lake’s outlet, continuing on another seven miles to the Custer Gallatin National Forest boundary. Although the wild and scenic river designation ends at the lake’s upper reaches, the creek eventually flows to Montana’s high prairie, where it joins the Yellowstone River.  The valley’s rugged beauty alone is worthy of designation, but East Rosebud Creek is also known for its recreational opportunities, geologic treasures, outstanding fishery, bountiful wildlife and rich history.


The valley is home to nesting eagles, mountain goats, American Pika, long-and-short tailed weasels, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bears, moose, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain lions, foxes, whitetail and mule deer, wolves and rare, elusive wolverines. Crystal clear waters support brown, rainbow and brook trout, as well as native mountain whitefish and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.   The creek has drawn people for thousands of years. Evidence of Native Americans' long use of the area can be seen from the arrowheads, stone tools, fire rings and other artifacts found there—but please respect its history and leave these artifacts for others to enjoy. Today, hikers visit via the well-known and aptly named Beaten Path backpacking route, but this is just one of several opportunities to experience the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

East Rosebud Creek is cherished by the people of the world for its clean water, spectacular natural setting, and outstanding recreational 
opportunities.  Recreational activities include fishing, camping, paddling, berry picking, hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife watching.  The designation of select public land segments of East Rosebud Creek under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) recognize the importance of maintaining the values of the Creek while preserving public access, respecting private property rights, allowing appropriate maintenance of existing infrastructure, and allowing historical uses of the Creek to continue.


East Rosebud creek flows through a remarkable expanse of granite cliffs, talus slopes, glacially scoured valleys, wildflower-strewn meadows and other alpine scenery.  This creek funnels snow melt through a string small rapids and spectacular cascades, including as Impasse Falls. In the fall, aspen leaves reflect bright autumn colors punctuated with deep red and maroon colors from fleeting perennial plants including raspberry,  Douglasia (Douglasia montana), Alpine forget-me-not (Mertensia alpine), Artic gentian (Gentiana algida), Alpine avens (Geum rossii), Parry’s lousewort (Pedicularis parryi), Sky pilot (Polemonium viscosum), American bistort (Polygonum bistortoides), Snow buttercup (Ranunculus eschscholtzii), Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum), Moss campion (Silene acaulis), and Fuscate groundsel (Senecio fuscatus).

To discover the natural beauty and astounding magic of Montana and the Beartooth Mountains, hike the full “The Beaten Path.”  This trail traverses dramatic canyons, rock spires, rocky talus home to the American Pika, crystal-clear lakes home to some of the most colorful trout in the world, dramatic canyons, waterfalls and wildlife.  It’s a 25-mile backcountry hike and at the heart of it all is East Rosebud Creek.   The Beaten Path is the path's defacto name;  Its formal name is East Rosebud Trail. Originating near Roscoe, Montana, a section of the hike follows the East Rosebud Valley, scored from the creek’s cascading creek and waterfalls as this clear and powerful water force descends from the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness beginning at Fossil Lake.  As this fast-flowing water leaves the mountains, East Rosebud Creek flows through East Rosebud Lake and then enters a glacially carved valley and then forms a union with the Stillwater River, a tributary of the Yellowstone.


Mountain  Views


Wildlife is abundant in many parts of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.  Mule deer, moose, elk, American pikas, porcupine, long and short-tailed weasels, pine martens, yellow-bellied marmots, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and bears (both black bears and grizzly bears) reside in some of the forested valleys and canyons.   On barren ridges and at higher elevations, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and the a more rugged population of American pikas and yellow-bellied marmots, somehow have figured out a way to thrive up this high.  Pikas for example, collect vegetation during a short growing season, and spend the winter in the spaces between rock structures.  These spaces are known as voids or interstices.  The American Pika does not hibernate.  Yellow-bellied marmots also spend the winter between rock structures, though they hibernate.    Across the range, High Country Bumble Bees can be observed from April to September,  including queens, workers and males.  During the spring, summer and early fall, you may catch a glimpse of the Water Pipit, Mountain Bluebirds, Horned Lark, White-crowned Sparrow, Black Rosy Finch, and Robins.   Apparently there have been sightings of the Golden Eagle, Common Raven, Prairie Falcon, Rock Wren, and Lincoln's Sparrow during the summer.  Many other animals call the Beartooth Mountains home.  Give all of them space and let them enjoy their home.


Water is plentiful in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.  Liquid water can be found in lakes and streams.  Frozen water in the form of ice and snow can be melted using heat.  Unless water is boiled for 3+ minutes, be sure to filter water before drinking it.    Using a water filter or purifier removes dangerous bacteria like E. coli, giardia and cryptosporidium, which can make people seriously ill.  Boiling water for 3+ minutes can kill dangerous bacteria, protozoa, and even viruses  (like norovirus), but boiling requires a lot of stove fuel or a campfire.  Water treatment is important to prevent you from getting sick. Not all water sources are unsafe, but even the most clear, pristine-looking stream or lake can contain dangerous bacteria like E. coli, giardia and cryptosporidium.  If wildlife or humans reach an area, so can contaminants transmitted via their fecal matter.  As more and more humans hike the Beaten Path and explore this wild and beautiful trail, potential contamination levels rise.  Don't play intestinal roulette when there are so many options for treating your water.  Options include boiling with heat, ultraviolet treatment, filtering, and chemicals (such as iodine and chlorine).  If boiling water is not possible, a combination of filtration and chemical disinfection is the most effective pathogen reduction method in drinking water for backcountry or travel use.

Dan Pendergraph, a researcher at the University of Montana, hiked to 21 lakes in the Beartooth Mountains looking for indications of human feces that had contaminated the waters.  The lakes he sampled included the Froze to Death Plateau near Granite Peak, the state’s highest mountain at 12,807 feet. He also visited lakes along the Beaten Path, a trail up the East Rosebud Creek drainage, and the Lake Fork Rock Creek drainage.  Out of the 21 lakes and two snowmelt sites, both on Froze to Death Plateau, water samples from 11 tested positive for E. coli contamination. The bacteria is commonly found in the gut of humans and animals where it helps with digestion.  Once outside the gut, though, the bacteria can be nasty. According to the Forest Service the “bacteria and viruses found in human feces are known to cause hepatitis, salmonella, giardia and other gastrointestinal diseases.”  After the 11 E. coli positive hits, Pendergraph and his assistant hiked back to most of those waters and four new waters that might be contaminated to take samples to determine what might be the cause: human or animal. Out of the tests, seven of 15 were positive for human contamination.


Determine how much food and water to pack based on how long and how strenuous the hike is and then pack a little bit extra.  If you bring a water filter, you can significantly reduce the amount of water you carry on the hike.  Whether you're doing a quick overnight trip or backpacking for multiple days, you'll want food that will help rebuild muscle, nourish and strengthen your body.  The food should taste good too.  Keep in mind that an "average-sized" woman or man apparently has enough fat on their body to survive for an average of 50 days without any food.  Even without food, the human body absolutely does need water to survive.  In other words, if a bear takes all of your food, theoretically, you can live off your fat reserves for an average of 50 days or until you reach one of the trailhead.


If a bear or nasty hiker steals your food, you might be able to find edible food along the trail.  Some berries are delicious and nutritious, others bitter and deadly.  Edible berries of the wild include Serviceberry (also known and Juneberry or Saskatoon), Wild Strawberry, Mountain Huckleberry, American Raspberry, Chokecherry, Grouseberry, Gooseberry, Black Currant, Thimble Berry, and Kinnikinnick / Bearberry.   All pine needles are edible, and younger needles tend to have a milder flavor that works better for cooking.  A diverse array of fungi grows below and above treeline. Some of the fungi is edible, some is not.  Two edible mushrooms we have found in mid-August along the Beaten Path include King Bolete and the Chanterelle.   Mushrooms can be found tucked under willows, in meadows and grasslands, and in mosses.  Apparently a survey of alpine mushrooms on the Beartooth Plateau has revealed over two hundred species of mushroom-producing fungi (Source Dr. Cathy Cripps, Montana State University.  Her decades-long ecological and taxonomic work has revealed the diversity of mushrooms on the Beartooth Plateau. She is lead author of “The Essential Guide to Rocky Mountain Mushrooms by Habitat”, editor of “Fungi in Forest Ecosystems” and “Arctic and Alpine Mycology 8”, and author of numerous scientific papers.)  


Both Black bears and Grizzly bears have lived in the Absaroka-Beartooths for a very long time.  If we hike the Beaten Path, you are visiting their home.  Bear attacks are unusual, and by being respectful and prepared, you’ll reduce the likelihood of an unpleasant encounter. Remember that when we’re in the backcountry, we are visitors in the bear’s home. We should respect their space like a good guest and aspire to give up the notion that humans are the dominant species. If we’re prepared and alert in bear country, we can continue to safely enjoy the wild places where these creatures live and rule.  Here are some things to remember when hiking in black bear and grizzly country:

1. Carry two (2)+ Canisters of Bear Spray and Keep at least one (1) Bear Spray Canister Handy.
Always carry bear spray, and make sure it’s accessible. Don’t keep it in your backpack - a charging bear won’t wait for you to find it. Make sure that the expiration date has not passed. Bear spray is a more effective bear deterrent than a firearm, so carry it at all times when you’re in bear county. Bear spray is a deterrent made of red pepper oil (oleoresin of capsaicin). It inflames the eyes and upper
respiratory system. If used properly, it can effectively deter an aggressive bear.  Treat bear spray like a firearm.  Contents are under
pressure.   When purchasing Bear Spray, look for canisters marked “Bear Spray” or “Bear Deterrent” with an EPA registration, 1-2% capsaicin and capsaicinoids, and a 25-foot (8 m) or more range.  Leave your rifle or pistol at home.  

2. Know how to use Bear Spray and Practice with it to be Proficient.
If you see a bear, don’t run. Try to stay calm.  In many cases, the bear will run away from you.  Make yourself look as large as possible, and don’t make eye contact with the bear, which can be interpreted as aggressive behavior.  Some people have escaped bears by climbing trees, while others have been pulled out of trees by bears. Generally, climbing isn’t recommended. Climbing a tree takes time, which you probably won’t have, and bears can climb better than you can.  In the unfortunate event that it does charge, stand your ground and don’t spray your bear spray until the bear is within 20 feet of you. Spray toward its feet, moving the can back and forth. The spray will float upward, forming an nasty-smelling wall between you and the bear. When the bear inhales this highly concentrated pepper spray, the bear will be often reverse course.  WHEN CAMPING, keep bear spray accessible at night.

3.  Be Alert.     See the bear before you surprise it. Watch for fresh tracks, scat, and feeding sites including signs of digging, rolled rocks, torn up logs, ripped open ant hills.  Do not wear headphones and cautiously approach any blind corners in the trail while making noise (such as singing "Hey Bear").

4. Travel in Groups
This is a simple and effective way to avoid bear attacks.  Apparently, bears are far less likely to attack a group of three or more. Making  noise when hiking, especially when the visibility is not good, you’re hiking into the wind, or when natural sounds like water might cover your approach. Talking or singing are more effective than bear bells. Remember, bears generally want to avoid you, and will do so if you give them the chance. I have often wondered how many bears have heard me coming and melted into the brush as I passed by. 

5.  Be Extra Vigilant when Camping in Bear Country
Do not feed bears or other wildlife and keep a clean campsite.  Do not store food or any scented items in a tent, including clothing with food residues.   Before your hike, contact the local Forest Service office to learn about special requirements or guidelines for properly storing food while camping in the area.   Do not leave food unattended at a campsite and do not store garbage at camp site.  Instead, use bear-resistant food lockers and clean utensils and food prep area thoroughly after cooking.   At an undeveloped camping location, cook and store food away from sleeping area.

6.  Don’t let fear of bears keep you from experiencing the backcountry.


Keep in mind, three things when selecting your hiking clothing and sleeping bag.  Insulation,  Ventilation,  Protection.   As we hike through the wilderness, we expect a lot from our clothing. It has to insulate us from the cold, vent and breathe well, dry quickly, and protect us from rain, snow, wind, and intense sun. We need to be able to deal with a variety of changing conditions under variable temperature ranges that fluctuate with aerobic activity.

Safety & Comfort:  Having adequate clothing to protect and insulate you is really important for your safety in the backcountry. Being caught in a remote place with too little can get you into a dangerous situation. But there’s no need to live in fear; know your limits, prepare properly, and go with confidence, knowing that the combination of your shelter, sleeping system, clothing, and skills can get you through whatever nature throws at you. 

Don’t Overpack; Streamline:  it’s very common for hikers to overpack, making backpacks unnecessarily heavy and bulky. That’s why it really pays to dial in an efficient set of clothes that perform as a system and can be easily be adjusted to meet changing conditions. Keeping your clothing system minimal and lightweight will increase your overall comfort by reducing the load strain on your body.

Mix and Match: Keep it simple!  It is okay to wear the same basic, interchangeable clothing daily, and then supplementing them for special conditions or for different seasons. Everything the hiker wears or carries should be versatile, fit properly for layering, and match reasonably well for fashion purposes.


Layering: Plan to select clothing that can be layered and worn all at once for maximum warmth or paired down for utmost breathability. Tops, bottoms, hats, jackets, and even gloves should be complementary and work together harmoniously to create an outfit to suit your needs in the given conditions.

Embrace the Dirt and Smell: Some pieces of your clothing system will be worn for the entirety of the trip, so it’s likely they’ll accumulate some dirt and smells along the way. But being dirty and a little stinky are part of the backpacking game, so embrace it and look forward to a luxurious shower at the end of your trip! To keep weight to a minimum, leave out duplicate items for the sake of cleanliness unless they’re truly necessary.  Carry multiples of socks and underwear, which we rinse, dry, and cycle between for the duration of our hikes.


While horses are allowed on East Rosebud Trail, this is not the most horse-friendly trail. This trail typically has a lot of hiking traffic and limited space for horses at camp.  Contact the Forest Service for more information.

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The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is the perfect place to go for a backpacking trip. Wildflowers cover the landscape in the summer, mountain peaks kiss the big sky and pristine forests provide cover for curious wildlife. But if you’re new to hiking in the Wilderness, you may be surprised by the terrain’s unique demands.  As any experienced backpacker will tell you, the last thing you want to do is wander into the gorgeous Montana wilderness unprepared.   Packing the “Essentials” whenever you step into the backcountry, even on day hikes, is a good habit. True, on a routine trip you may use only a few of them or none at all.  Carrying these items in your Backpack could be essential to your survival.

1.  Navigation: Map and Compass.

2.  Navigation Plus: Altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger.
3. Light: Headlamp, extra batteries, candles.

4.  Emergency Shelter Cover:  Rain jacket, a light-weight tarp  (light emergency bivy) for creating a shelter, and emergency blanket.
5. Fire and Heat: Matches, lighter, dry (fire starter) tinder,  stove, flares.

6. Extra water: Beyond the minimum expectation.

7. Sun protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen and sun-safe clothing (such as UPF 50+ clothing and accessories).
8. First aid:  Basic kit including care for cuts or wounds, insect repellent, hydrocortisone cream, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes.
9.  Tools:  Knife, gear repair kit including patches, needle and thread.

10. Animal Deterrent:  Pepper Spray or Bear Spray. 

11.  Extra food or Emergency Food:  These should be delicious and nutrient-dense meals that are lightweight and easy to carry.

12.  Extra clothes:  Lightweight pants, lightweight shirt, gloves, head cover (in case you fall into the water?)

13.  Ice Traction: Crampons for ice and snow or ice cleats.  Kahtoola MicroSpikes provide a cost-effective traction system.

14.  Food Storage:  Bear Bag, Odor-resistant container and Rope for storing food overnight.

15. Guidebooks, Pen and Paper: for Edible Plants, mushrooms, berries and fruit. Pen and Paper for (emergency) notes.

16. Shelter: Backpacking Tent.

17.  Sleeping System: Sleeping Pad and Sleeping Bag.

18. Hiking Safety System: Trekking Poles.

19.  Water Treatment: Water Filtration System, Chlorine Dioxide Drops and Pills, UV Light Water Purifier

20.  Containers: Camping Mug that can also be used for boiling water (with a camp stove or fire).


Mindful of our “increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization,” Congress passed the 1964 Wilderness Act in order to preserve and protect certain lands “in their natural condition” and thus “secure for present and future generations the benefits of wilderness.” 11 U.S.C. § 1131(a). The Act recognized the value of preserving “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Id. at § 1131(c). Congress therefore directed that designated wilderness areas “shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness.” Id. at 1131(a).

The Wilderness Act designated 9.1 million acres as wilderness and laid out a “long-term study process for additional designations.” Id. The additional designation process begins when federal agencies study lands already under their jurisdiction and identify potential wilderness areas. The President then makes a recommendation to Congress on additional wilderness designations, in response to which Congress can designate the identified lands as wilderness, release the lands from wilderness designation, or take no action on the recommendation. 16 U.S.C. §1132. Once designated, the areas must be managed to preserve their wilderness character. As the Wilderness Act provides:

Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, fireworks, motorized equipment, or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such areas.




The weather in the Absaroka-Beartooths wilderness is variable.  The weather can be hot and sunny one minute, sprinkling rain the next, windy and snowing the next. The weather and your ability to deal with it are important.  Always carry protection against rain, snow and cold wind.  If you don't, you could suffer from hypothermia.   When hiking in this region, you can expect anything from the weather at any time. Obtaining forecasts may help determine what gear to take, especially during early and late season trips. More importantly, weather information can give invaluable insights into creek flows, snow pack, winds, and approaching storms. Plan ahead and talk to local folks.   You don't want to get caught in a lightning storm or get blown off a mountain summit.  Here is a basic overview of general conditions during the spring and summer months. 


On partly cloudy or sunny days, temperatures can reach 30-60 degrees Fahrenheit.  Temperatures during clear nights can range from 5-30 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rain and snow are common, and it can snow at any time.  The wind can be gusty and strong, especially on high passes.  Snow still exists on trails and passes, and spring runoff may cause creeks to be at high levels.


If the days are sunny, temperatures can range between 30-75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Nights can still be cool to cold.  Open, grassy areas may still be soggy and wet, and trails may be wet and mucky.  Streams are at their highest levels.  Adequate sunlight allows mountain flowers to bloom and flourish.


Most days are sunny with occasional afternoon storms.  Storms can bring rain, gusty winds and lightning, and possibly snow showers.  Evenings are cool especially after the sun disappears behind the mountains.  On clear nights, temperatures can range from 20-40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most trails are dry, assuming it hasn't rained the day(s) before.  Some plants have ripened berries, and mushrooms can be found.


This can be an enjoyable time of the year when the weather is fair.  When the sun is casting rays, the daytime temperatures can reach 80 degrees.  Daytime temperatures are often comfortable, humidity is low, and evenings are cool.  In late September, expect cooler temperatures, especially at night.  Snow and cold weather are possible during this time. Stream levels are low unless there has been significant rainfall.


On sunny days, temperatures can range from 30-60 degrees.  Evenings are cool; temperatures can get down close to zero (0) degrees Fahrenheit.  Heavy snowfalls are common along with strong, relentless winds.

Use extreme caution near water.  Swift, cold streams, moss-covered rocks, deep lakes and slippery logs are dangerous. Avoid wading in or fording swift streams. Never walk, play, or climb on slippery rocks and logs, especially around waterfalls.  If you fall into a cold lake or stream, try to dry off and warm your body as soon as possible, as hypothermia can set in quickly.  Hypothermia can also occur if you get drenched by rain or snow and cold weather.  Be prepared for sudden weather changes. Use rain gear before you become wet. If your clothes do become wet replace them with dry ones. Layer with synthetic or wool clothing as a base layer. Minimize wind exposure. Eat high-energy foods often.   Snowfields can present serious hazards. Snow bridges may conceal deep crevasses or hidden cavities under snowfields. These bridges may collapse under the weight of an unsuspecting hiker. Use extreme caution when crossing steep snowfields on trails and in the backcountry.


Do not count on having cell service if you need help.  Help may be hours or days away. Prepare to care for yourself.  Tell someone where you plan to hike, when you'll be back, what route you're taking, where your car is parked, the license plate number of your vehicle, and what you'll be wearing. This information helps responders in the event of an emergency.  In the backcountry, little mistakes can quickly become big emergencies. Stay safe and be prepared.  Do not let members of your group get ahead or behind. Separated parties count for more than 75% of search and rescue incidents.  Call the Forest Service, ranger station, or check the website for trail and weather conditions before you go.  Familiarize yourself with hazards so you will have fun and stay safe.


Yes, there are mosquitoes and wood ticks in Montana!  In fact, during July and August, there are places along the Beaten Path where the mosquito population could be classed as supreme.   And wood ticks are also lurking looking for blood.  Mosquitoes and biting flies are without a doubt are two of the least favorite insects.   Anywhere there is standing water or ponds is where they like to breed.  Be more observant of times they are most active like dawn and dusk.  When camping, finding a camping spot where there is a light breeze is often helpful. They also seem to like the shade so having direct sun exposure can be a good thing.  The mosquito population, on a wet year, can be high near Clarks Fork trailhead. But don't assume that they are always bad or that they are bad everywhere.   One of the best ways to deal with these pesky creatures is to use a repellent with DEET.  DEET is the clear winner for effective chemical repellents but it is not very environmentally friendly and has been labeled as a possible Carcinogen.  At least 30%, but I say the stronger the better. As with any chemical, DEET has lots of people who refuse to use it so do your own research.

The season of the biting flies is between late June and August. These pesky flying blood suckers include horse flies, deer flies and black flies. They all feed on the blood of mammals, including humans.  Outdoor activities can become intolerable, even the simple act of washing your feet in a stream after a long day's hike.  Diseases spread by fly bites are much less common than those spread by mosquitos—including West Nile in this area— but the bites of these flies can cause allergic reactions that often need medical attention.  Black flies are stealthy, and persistent. When they land on our arm or the back of our neck, the first thing they do is gently stretch the skin, and then insert their mouthparts to disrupt the tiny blood vessels so they can begin feeding. These flies are part of the family Simuliidae. Like mosquitos, only the female bites to acquire a blood meal; the males feed on the nectar of flowers. To prevent the blood from clotting, there are anticoagulants in their saliva. The saliva also has an anesthetic property so that you won’t feel the pain of the bite or the fly on your skin. 

In recent years, cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia have increased in Montana. The most common tick borne illness acquired in Montana is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, with an average of six cases reported each year. The tick that causes Lyme disease, Ixodes scapularis, has not been found in Montana.  There are many species of ticks capable of transmitting a variety of bacterial, viral, and parasitic illnesses to humans and other mammals. You can reduce your risk of being infected with a tick-borne illness by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing to prevent ticks from making you blood their next meal. Remember to check yourself, other members in your hiking group for ticks after recreating outdoors.  If you hike with a dog, be absolutely certain to check the dog's entire body for ticks, especially near the ears and nose as the ticks move towards the head of the dog for easy blood-sucking spots.  Dogs can bring ticks into your tent.  Early recognition and treatment of tick-borne infections significantly decreases the risk of serious complications (source:  Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services).

Cooke City, MT

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Dear Hiker,

I hope this letter finds you well. I'm writing to you today to talk about the joys and challenges of hiking the beaten path in the Beartooth Range.

The Beartooth Range is a beautiful and rugged mountain range located in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and Wyoming. The range is home to a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy day hikes to challenging multi-day treks.

If you are hiking the "Beaten Path", be sure to purchase the TerraTopo Hiking Map.

One of the joys of hiking the beaten path in the Beartooth Range is the solitude. The trails are less crowded than those in other popular mountain ranges, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness.

Another joy of hiking the beaten path is the scenery. The Beartooth Range is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world, with towering peaks, pristine lakes, and lush forests.

Of course, there are also challenges to hiking the beaten path in the Beartooth Range. The trails can be challenging, and the weather can be unpredictable. But the rewards of hiking these trails are well worth the challenges.

If you're looking for a challenging and rewarding hiking experience, I encourage you to hike the beaten path in the Beartooth Range. You won't be disappointed.


Your Friend

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