The Beaten Path, Montana 2014

Life is breathtakingly beautiful…. 
(photo cred: Stephaine)
So, this past week, I went hiking in some of the most beautiful country I'd ever seen - & it was right in my "backyard" too, in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness! I hiked the Beaten Path - a rugged (but not that difficult) 26 mile hike in the heart of the Beartooth Mountain Range.

EDIT: If you want more photos & better details for "The Beaten Path" - here's my blog post from this year (2015) 

 I started my Monday morning at the Red Lodge Cafe, where I met up with the rest of the gang & ate a leisurely breakfast.  Bud, Ruth, Diane, Steph & myself were then drove over the Beartooth Pass & dropped off by a friend - arriving at trailhead at about 12:15pm, & hiked up hill 6 miles to Russell Lake - the camp site for the night.
Camp at Russel Lake.

Getting pounded with hail!
When we were on mile 3 en route to Russell Lake, we got caught in a storm. It poured rain & hail for a good while… We all had proper rain gear, & stayed dry for the most part. Eventually the storm let up, & turned into a light drizzle. (Which I honestly didn't mind; it kept the mosquitoes away.) The mosquitoes were REALLY bad, but they always are during the summer in the mountains… We set up camp in the rain, & ate a hot supper - thanks to freeze dried Mountain House food, & a mini gas camp stove! I bedded down for the night at around 8pm. It was a long wet & cold night. I stayed plenty warm, snug-as-a-bug inside my mummy bag, but didn't sleep much.

The next morning we were up by 6am - the skies were clear, it was 43 degrees, & the sun was shining! Perfect! We ate a hot breakfast, took down camp, & started hiking at about 8:45am. We hiked slowly, taking lots of breaks & photos of the snowy tundra, along the next 7 gradual uphill miles. The sun shone all day long, & the temperature was in the upper 50s - mid 60s. Along the path we stopped 5 different times to remove our pants legs & hiking boots - to put on water shoes to ford little rivers & streams that crossed the trail. We were able to find good crossing spots; where the water was never more then thigh deep.
Dewey Lake - view from camp, 2nd night. 

We all forded the little rivers/creeks without incident, & stayed pretty dry. The water was cold & fast, & all of us hikers were top-heavy with our backpacks & equipment, so each crossing was a little tedious. The last thing you wanted was a soaking wet backpack. My backpack weighed 36 pounds on the first day - but the 2nd day it weighed bit more, because my 2 person tent (that I shared with Steph) was all wet from the rainfall the night before. Ha! We camped the 2nd night at Dewey Lake -  arriving there at around 4pm.
Walking over one of many snow drifts. 

Dewey Lake was lovely - there were a couple other folks camping there, across the lake. It was nice to see more humans out in the middle of the trail. We broke camp at about 8am on the 3rd day - we hiked 9 miles (mostly downhill) to Elk Lake - making many stops for water, snacks, & photos of the amazing waterfalls, mountain views, roaring rivers, (& yes, there might have been more then a few selflies!) We stopped at Rainbow Lake for about 45 minutes & cooled our hot feet off in the water.
That's me! (photo cred: Steph)

The trail along Fossil Lake, elevation 10,000+ feet.

"Slow down & enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss when going by too fast — you also miss the sense of where you are going and why." -Eddie Cantor 
(Amazed by the beauty of God's creation along the trail!) 

Around 6:30pm, we arrived at Elk Lake. We found the perfect camp spot 200 feet from the lake's shore. That night we had a hot supper & a glass of wine! (Ruth, bless-her-heart had carried a small 500mL carton of Rex-Goliath Saunignon wine in her pack!) We toasted to an amazing hike, thankful we'd made it thus far without incident, & to newfound friends! (Did I mention all of us ((with the exception of Steph & I)) only met each-other the first day of the hike or a week before hand?!) By the end of the hike, we all knew each-other pretty well.

Standing on the edge of Impasse Falls. It's around 300ft tall. 
Elk Lake
After supper, I splashed around in the lake. It felt amazing. Between the layers of bug repellent & sunscreen on my skin & 3 days of hiking, I felt grubby. The water was cold & refreshing. This was our last night in the mountains - The temperature was warm, & the stars bright. I slept well that night. We broke camp after breakfast at about 9:45am, & hiked another 3ish miles, down to where our vehicle was awaiting us. We hiked on the mountain side, following the roaring river down to East Rosebud Lake - the end of the trail! It was like 11:30am - we made it! Civilization! All in all - it could not have been a better hiking experience. We didn't get eaten by grizzly bears or torn apart by wolves, (we did see some wolf poop near the trail) & no one got injured!
Bud, Ruth, Dianne & myself at the end of the trial. (Steph took the pic - thanks girl!)
Throughout the hike, I was constantly amazed by the views - the sheer size of the mountains, the roaring waterfalls, the crystal clear lakes & delicate wildflowers that carpeted the earth's floor.…Don't know how many times I stopped along the path to have "wow" moment, when standing on the edge of a cliff by a waterfall or looking at the mountains.… So much beauty is up there, that no one would normally ever see. But its beauty that God put there for his glory alone. No one has to see it, because He does. I felt very fortunate to be able to share the sights that not many eyes get to see. The old hymn "This Is My Father's World" kept coming to mind as I was hiking. What a beautiful world we have, I feel so blessed to live where I do. I'd do the hike again in a heartbeat (wanna go with me?!) - I truly loved every moment of it.

__Click here to see map of The Beaten Path __

photo cred: Steph


  1. Thanks for such a detailed account! I'm doing the beaten path this August for the first time and can't wait. Your pictures and info have def encouraged me to go for it!

    1. Hey there! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! Really appreciate it! It's a rad hike, and not vert strenuous at all. I hope you have a BLAST on it! By August, most of the snow drifts should be gone, and the creeks down somewhat also. And I will also add, the mosquitoes were only bad the first day, after that - we seemed to be too high for them to bother us. :)

  2. I am going here at the end of July and I am wondering how you got from the airport to the start of the trail then picked up at the end and brought back to the airport?

    1. I'm a local, so I didn't have to get to or from an airport. A couple days before the hike, we dropped an extra car off at the end of the trail, at East Rosebud Lake. There's a parking lot. Then a friend actually dropped me off at the starting side of the trailhead (At the Chief Joseph Campground, on the Cooke City side of the Beartooth Hwy.) - and from there I hiked to the parked car at the end. One option would be to schedule an arranged pickup time - for the last day of the hike, and maybe someone could pick you up or drop you off.

      If you are flying in from Billings or Bozeman to hike this trail — Hopefully you have friends or someone who could pick you up. If you have a rental car, you'd still need someone to take you back to it, once you finished the hike…..

      Sorry, I don't think I'm much help! But I hope you have a wonderful and successful hike!

  3. Transportation is going to be expensive. Suggest a combination of rental car from the Billings airport and the Red Lodge taxi service at (406) 425-3091.

    You may also want to contact 1) Grant Bernard president of the Beartooth Recreational Trails Association in Red Lodge to ask for his thoughts. You can email him at gbtelemark@gmail.com. 2) Silvan Peak backpack/hike shop in Red Lodge (Mike, Pete, Marci) and ask for their suggestions. (406) 446-1770.

    Whatever you do, don't cancel. It's a wonderful trip.

  4. Transportation is going to be expensive. Suggest a combination of rental car at the airport and the Red Lodge Taxi. (406) 425-3091. Also suggest you call our local backpack shop, Silvan Peak (Mike, Marci, Pete) and ask for their suggestions (406) 446-1770.

  5. Richard, thanks so much for the detailed information! Apperciate it!

  6. Hi Grace. I enjoyed coming across this gem. Your pics are stunning. I'm hoping to hike this solo next week, but possibly starting at Rosebud. I'm going to be in Cooke 3 days prior and it just makes sense to start there. Red Lodge Taxi is really the only option for us non-local solo hikers. And yes, it is $$. They want to pick you up at either trailhead early, you leave your car there, then they shuttle you to other trailhead same day. That way they are done with you, and you can hike to your car at your own speed.

    Any thoughts on night time temps 2nd week of Sept at elevation? I'm betting 10's possible and 20's likely. Well, if no major snow is forecast, I'll be going for a 4-5 day trip, fishing and photography.

    Thx again, loved your blog post!

    1. Hi, Kevin! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I would say the temps at night will be low 30s. I would be surprised it if got much colder then that, if the forecast is mostly clear, and there's no chance of any accumulation.

      September 2015, I was camping near Granite Peak, and it got down to 28, and snowed (at 11,000+) feet. In the mountains it's hard to predict the weather, as it can change very rapidly. Always be prepared for pretty extreme temperature changes, just in case. It could easily snow on you - the Beartooth Pass was just closed last week due to kinda heavy snow and icy road conditions... I hope and pray that the weather is perfect and that your fishing/photography trip is a wonderful success!

      I am planning to hike the Beaten Path again in late September or early October, before the pass closes for the season. Should be pleasant cool or mildly warm during the day, and pretty cold at night. Taking my good to 20'f sleeping bag, plus a liner.

      Best of luck to you! Safe hiking!

  7. I see this thread is from more than half a year ago, but I'm looking for some advice.
    I have doing East Rosebud this coming July 2017 with 3 other guys from Iowa. Would it be better to leave our vehicle at Clarks Port and get the taxi to East Rosebud trailhead to hike back to our car? Or would people recommend doing the reverse?

    1. Either way, the hike is amazing. Starting the hike at East Rosebud you'll be hiking uphill more. If you start at Clark's Port you'll do more downhill hiking. (Which, after a while is hard on the knees.) I'd check with the taxi service and see what would be more cost effective. Either way, it takes over an hour to drive from the trailhead to the stopping point.

  8. Hello! Thanks for the very nice report. I live in PA, but am coming to MT in August to do this trail. Looks incredible. Can't wait. Does anyone know if I can hammock camp each night? Are there enough trees in the camping area?. Thanks!

    1. Hey, Dane! You should be able to hammock camp anywhere, except for the highest part of the hike, around Fossil Lake. Get out your trail map, (I'm using the AFALCON Guide, "Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness" map as reference), and look for Bald Knob and Skull Lakes. You will be above the timber line, after hiking around/beside these lakes. Fossil Lake is above the timber line, but there might be a scruffy tree or two. After hiking around Fossil you quickly descend to Dewey Lake, where trees are abundant. There are trees around all other lakes along the trail. Hope you have a safe and fantastic hike!

      I, myself, have only hammock camped once, (on another trail), but I wasn't quite prepared for how much colder it would be compared to tent camping. All that cold night mountain air under the hammock kept me awake most of the night. You stay warm! It can be cold in the Beartooths, even during the summer! Hope you have a good rain fly! :)

    2. Thank you so much for the reply, Grace!!! Your response is exactly what I was hoping to learn. I've slept in my hammock in sub zero temperatures, so I know how to stay warm. However, I just didn't know if I would be below the tree line in order to find trees to hang. Your info is outstanding, thanks! Dane

    3. Grace, I've got another question if you don't mind. Here in the Appalachian region the backpacking stove of choice is an alcohol stove. However, I have concerns with how well it will perform at altitudes on The Beaten Path. Could you comment on that? Thank you!! Dane

    4. I use a jetboil when backpacking. I've never used an alcohol stove. But I do know the vapor pressure of alcohol is lower the higher you go, so I assume it'll burn easier, but burn cooler and probably would take longer to boil water.... you'll want to do a little more research on that one! Sorry I'm no help here! :) Anyone else used an alcohol stove in the Beartooths??

  9. Grace,

    I am glad I stumbled across your journey. A group of us will be heading to the beaten path in August to for a down and back journey (rosebud - cook - rosebud). Sounds crazy right?? We are looking to camp around Nymph / Russel (20 miles) then around Echo the way back (22miles) with a mix of hammocks and tents. What are typical lows during that time, I am finding mid/low 40's. Also concerns with wildlife and food in the evening? Any tips and suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hey, Ian. Sorry for delated response! Summer has been crazy busy.
      Hope your down and back hike goes well. Whew! I'm sure you are seasoned hikers and will do just fine. That's gonna be intense though! The 3 times I've hiked the Beaten Path (in July), the lows were mid/low 40s... I would be more concerned with wildlife on the Cook City side - I have seen large black bear tracks on the trail near Kersey Lake. I've seen elk sign/tracks near Nymph Lake. But I have never *seen* any wildlife. But I always hang my food away from camp. Some hikers I know like the bear canisters.... Hopefully your group is accustomed to hiking at higher altitudes - because last summer my husband (who is extremely active and fit), got some mild altitude sickness when hiking around Fossil Lake. (He also experienced worse altitude sickness when we attempted Granite Peak.) It wasn't horribly bad, but it did slow us down some, and we weren't expecting it. Might be something to keep in mind.... Other then that, I can't think of anything! Sounds like you've researched everything pretty thoroughly! Stay safe and happy hiking!!

    2. One more thought -- there was a LOT of snow in the Beartooths this past winter. There could still be a fair amount of snowpack in the higher places on the trail.

  10. Thiss site was... how do I sayy it? Relevant!!
    Finally I've found something that helped me. Kudos!

  11. Grace, in a little over a week we will be on The Beaten Path. This page has been really helpful. Thanks! One question: is there cell phone service anywhere along the trail? We may want to check in with our wives back in Red Lodge, and also coordinate our pick up time. Can we count on coverage anywhere? Thanks!

    1. Glad you've found this place to be helpful! You're welcome.
      I would NOT count on there being any cell service on the trail. The trail is very isolated and surrounding terrain is mountainous. I use AT&T and have iPhone 5S; it didn't have any service the entire time... You might get some spotty service at East Rosebud Lake, as there are a lot of cabins out there. Verizon has better coverage in Montana; my parent's use Verizon and can get spotty service at West Rosebud Lake. But I honestly don't know about East Rosebud...sorry!

      When I hiked the Beaten Path in 2015, we set up a pick up time beforehand, guessing when we'd be finished hiking. We finished the hike an hour early, so we just sat around and waited for our ride to come; it worked out pretty well.

      Enjoy your time in Montana! Hope you guys have a great time hiking!

  12. Hi Gracie,

    We are leaving in a few days for Montana. I hope this goes through in time.

    Here in the Appalachian mountain range I backpack in trail runners. Do you recommend hiking boots on The Beaten Path, or do you think trail runners will do the job this time of year? I'd rather leave my heavy boots behind, but would really appreciate your input.



    1. When I hike this trail, I wear a light weight hiking boot, but I have a friend who prefers to wear tail runners... I guess its up to your personal preference! I doubt there will be much snow, if any, this late in the year... So you'll probably be fine with your trail runners! On a side note, I was born and raised in Southwestern VA, in the heart of the Appalachian mountains.

      Hope you have a great hike!