Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Beaten Path - Beartooths Montana

Where: Beartooth-Absoraka State Park Montana
When:  Aug 22-25, 2010
Who: Justin and Leonard
Description: "The Beaten Path" 26 mile backpacking route from Cooke City to East Rosebud Lake near Red Lodge Montana. 4 days, incredible views, great backpacking, and good fishing.

The "Beaten Path" route through the Beartooths has been on my List for a couple years. It is described in several trip reports and guide books as the most scenic 26 miles in a park with a 700+ mile trail system. Our plan initially was to borrow 2 cars from family living in Billings, drop one off at the Clark Fork Trailhead near Cooke City and then drive the other back to East Rose Bud near Red Lodge. Once in Billings I was able to coherce my great brother Nate into dropping us off and picking us up...Thanks Nate!!!! Definitely saved us from getting a seriously late start and many hours of driving!!!

Justin's new Garmin recorded our route...27.3 miles from Trail head to Trail head...definitely would be more work beginning from East Rosebud.

Justin also brought the "Spot Locater" with would upload our location and status regularly and send and "we are doing great" message each night as we stopped to camp. Our wives were happy to see we were doing ok each day and the kiddo's could track our progress before and after school...very schweet!

We began our Beaten Path route from the Cooke City side. It involved about 2000 less feet of elevation gain and put us a couple hours closer to our Billings...our destination for Wednesday night. Most guides recommend 5-10 days for this route...not because of the difficulty but the incredible views keep a 3 mph hiker to about a 1 mph average. Justin and I found this to be true very quickly.

Sunday 3:30pm - starting out from Clarks Fork Trail head (Trekking poles, Packs, Fly Rods...ready to roll.)

Crossing Meadow on Day 1 - 6 miles to Russel Lake.

1st of many small waterfalls.

Made it to Russel Lake - Gorgeous place to camp and do a little fishing.

 Campsite at Russel Lake - Got some rain and made it down to 32 degrees...pretty chilly for late August!

Justin's first fish on a fly rod...just as I am taking the picture the fish flips and he almost loses it...

ahhh...there it is. Monster trout...

Well...the trout were many at Russel lake...just not large :) This one was tasty.

Heading over the Beartooth plateau campsite will be Twin Outlets Lake.

Justin classic's...3 of many photo's he took on this route with his iPhone. I believe these are Skull Lake and Bald Nob...they are running together now that it has been a few days.

Trout are a little bigger up here are Fossil Lake. We are at a little over 10,000 is great but a storm ran us out. We would have like to fish here for several hours.

Dewey Lake - just down from Fossil on our way to Twin Outlets Lake. We considered staying here for the night but at the higher lakes there is a fire restriction.

It seemed that there was a waterfall or gorgeous stream at every turn...on a 26 mile route, there were many many "photo opportunities."

Was nice to get cleaned up at Twin Outlets lake...but, snow and glacier fed lake means...phreaking cold! It could be compared to a full body brain freeze...possibly multiplied significantly.

Day 3: Hiking towards Rainbow Lake and Impass falls.

Day 3 - Hiking down to Rainbow Lake - Above are the beginnings of Impass Falls

Impass Falls - Not sure how high...would guess a couple hundred feet.

Rainbow Lake - This is the actual lake color...was an amazing blue green!

Getting in some more fly fishing. The trout loved hoppers...even caught a small Golden!

Day 4 - Hiking out to East Rose Bud Lake. This is Rim of the most incredible views so far!

Managed to talk a Forest Service bridge inspector to take our picture on the way out...Thanks Buddy!

Nearing Elk Lake in the East Rosebud canyon. The 1st several miles of this area was burned 10 or so years ago...still beautiful...especially coming from the Phoenix!

Definitely the most gorgeous backpacking trip I have spent anywhere! I think the sign may be propping us up a bit...but it was sure great!

Did not spend enough time picking berries...but August is the time to be in the Beartooths. Wild raspberries and huckleberries were everywhere.

East Rosebud Trail Head

So Justin and I had finished our camel backs, had not access to the "private lake" and had several hours to wait for our ride to come get us. Lucky for us we stumbled on this little store...closed but had everything we needed!!! A phone for local calls, wifi, and a pepsi machine!!!! Justin had five 1 dollar bills...these Dr. Peppers are worth the 1500 miles if you can make me!

The wait got a little warm and Justin and I were a lot ripe...decided to head down to the stream and get cooled off. Definitely not as cold as the upper lakes...but brisk baby

Headed back to the store to get comfy and wait it out for our ride. This chipmunk was pretty conditioned to people. Justin fed it some sunflower seeds and it instantly became our best friend...

It was pretty my book with me for a bit. It did get old after a while though...he started trying to chew holes through our pants pockets to get more seeds...

Mountain House chicken and rice have nothing on the 1/2 lb Grizzly Burger at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe! A definite place not to miss coming out of the mountains!

For 90% of the great Beartooth experience...have a Dr. Pepper in Alpine from the Pepsi machine near East Rosebud lake, swim in the stream near the lake, and stop at the Grizzly Bar for the best Burger you have ever had...not sure if it would all be the same though without 4-7 days on the trail :)

26 miles of gorgeous trail...definitely the most scenic backpacking trip I have done. The trail was in excellent condition and the "beaten path" does not describe it well. We saw maybe 3 groups on the first day, 1 on the second and third day, and a few on the way out. It did not seem crowded whatsoever. I will do this route again in the future and take more time...there are many opportunities to get off the beaten path...or even just relax and fish for an entire day. Definitely an adventure to be on anyone's life list!


  1. great trip report babe! i love reading about your adventures! I plan on joining you for the next backpacking trip here in the beartooths! i love you and glad you had a wonderful time! But we love having you home :)

  2. You mean you didn't climb some trecherous route in the dark?! Now where's the fun in that? lol

    Those are some fantastic views. If you're going to go even slower next time, I want an invite!

  3. AMAZING pictures, I definitely want to go there someday. We just watched an awesome show on the national geographic channel about the apalatian trail, its 2000 miles long and 6 months to hike it. very inspiring. I thought of you when I was watching it.

  4. Looking forward to this hike. Summer 2011 here we come.

  5. A friend and I hiked this trail the first week of Sept 2011 (last year). We started at Rosebud and you are correct sir, the elevation gain is a good workout to say the least. We had 5 days but didn't do the whole thing. We made it as far as Dewey but didn't have a car waiting on the other end. Actually ended up being 34 miles. We are doing the whole thing this year with a 4-5 friends, Cooke City to Rosebud this time. Great post and pics/vids.

  6. I will be going there the first week of August this year. Can't wait. You're report matches many I've read about amazing scenery and beauty. Thanks for the pics and report.

  7. My husband and I have been wanting to do this hike for some time now. Thanks for all the pics! I am even more excited for our hike this year!

  8. Nice recap. I hiked The Beaten Path in September 2011 and loved seeing your photos that reminded me of the four amazing days out in the middle of paradise. My backpacking partner and I ate at the Grizzly in Roscoe, too. That beer and burger tasted amazing after four days on the trail. Thanks for sharing this! Your photos are excellent.

  9. Hi, I am doing this hike next week with family.
    Your packs look super light. Any suggestions on how to keep my weight down.
    I am trying, but the colder nights seem to add more weight.
    Awesome Blog spot by the way! Hope to be taking some of these pics myself next week. Also love the chipmunk;-)
    Aloha from Maui,HI

  10. Sounds like you will have a great hike This is one of the best I have done. Hopefully the snow will all have melted off and the trails will be all clear. As for weight, a down sleeping bag with a liner, limited clothes, and hike with 1/2 of the water you normally would...their are many streams and lakes along this trail. Have a great time...please let me know how it went...I will be back out there in a few weeks. Good Luck!

  11. Lovely pictures! we hiked this several times back in the70s and would like to get back this summer. We are mostly AT hikers new but we miss real mountains! Can you comment on the stream crossings? In 2013 we hiked from East Rosebud up to Rimrock and we impressed by the new bridge and trail through the rock slide area. In the 70s the stream crossings were rustic- rocks or random logs. Are there bridges over the larger streams now? Are there trails through the rock slide areas? I would be more comfortable with the trip now if there were! It didn't matter back then but I am older....

    1. Carole-
      The USFS takes great care of this trail now. There are nice footbridges on the path. I assume you are doing the trip in August? If you go earlier you can hit down timber on the East Rosebud side. I always go up middle of June to Rainbow and last year (2014) there was an avalanche and lots of down timber. However, the USFS set up camp in middle of July and cleaned it up and made the path excellent once again. Be ready for mosquitoes. Rainbow and Lake at Falls were the worst I have ever seen them up there. I had a head net, convertible pants on, long sleeve and 100% deet (99.8%) on my clothes and I was still covered. It was so bad we tried to smoke them out of our camp sites and that didn't work. Be prepared for that.

  12. The Golden you caught at Rainbow lake is actually a Cutthroat X Golden cross that came from Lake at Falls above Rainbow.

  13. Are there any permits needed for this trail for non-residents of Montana?

  14. Are there any permits needed for this trail for non-residents of Montana?

  15. Thanks for sharing your Beaten Path trip. My best buddy and I will be doing that backpack trip in 2018. Your comments regarding August have helped me narrow down WHEN to go. :-)