Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hiking from the Scenic Beartooth Highway

Walking through the RV park in Desert Hot Springs last fall we happened to stop to chat with a couple who hailed from Red Lodge, MT before they hit the road. When they learned we loved to hike and would be going to Montana in the coming summer, they enthusiastically described their small home town and the wealth of trails surrounding it. A little bit of research later and we knew Red Lodge would be a perfect stop during our summer travels...gotta love those chance meetings on the road!

Nestled up against the Beartooth Mountains and positioned at the north east end of the Beartooth Highway, Red Lodge is perfectly situated for maximum outdoor activities...exactly our kind of place. For our first outing in the area we chose to drive a portion of the famous highway.

The 68 mile long Beartooth Highway winds its way along the Beartooth-Absaroka Wilderness, climbing thousands of feet to its high point of 10,947, offering up views of 12,000 foot peaks, numerous glacial lakes and alpine tundra plateaus, all between Red Lodge and the north east entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

We only drove about half of this scenic beauty but we were WOWed by every single mile! Smoke haze dimmed the view a bit but could not suppress our wonder and amazement of another of our country's incredible mountain ranges.

We saw lots of marmots on this day...we just love these photogenic critters!

Near the high point of the Beartooth Highway tiered lakes dropped away into deep canyons while snow dotted mountains stretched away as far as the eye could see (through the smoke haze).

Much of the near view at the top of the east portion of the highway is of tundra covered plateaus

The long sliver of Gardiner Lake is a popular trailhead into the Beartooth Mountains.

The Beartooth Highway snakes its way into the wilderness.
Our stopping point on this day will be the second lake pictured above.

A pullout alongside Long Lake gives access to the Hauser Lake trailhead, our hike for the day. This trailhead is one of three access points to the Beartooth Loop National Recreation Trail, a hike which would be a minimum of 12 miles including the access trail (I found plenty of conflicting information about this trail and its access points).

We chose to hike about seven miles out and back, and what a beautiful seven miles it was! Gentle rolling hills starting at about 9,500 feet elevation led us to three lakes (Hauser, Losekamp and Stockade) with views of pointy peaks, across meadows dotted with kettle ponds, alongside babbling streams with sweet waterfalls. We were on constant lookout for moose, elk and bears (this is grizzly country), though we did not see any large mammals on this day. Bear spray is a necessity in this country.

We parked overlooking pretty Long Lake. 

Less than a mile from the road is pretty Hauser Lake.

And another cute marmot sighting!

Crossing a late summer golden meadow.

Losekamp Lake.

The stream between Losekamp and Stockade Lakes was extremely picturesque. 

We could not get enough of this lovely stream...every angle was pleasing.

Stockade Lake.

The same stream as it drops into Stockade Lake.

As we made our way back to the trailhead the clouds were building.

Even under grey skies the meadows and kettle ponds are enchanting.

And we finish our hike with one last sighting of the mammal of the day!

As you can see unsurpassed beauty awaits you on the Beartooth Highway...and we only drove half of it!


  1. Wow. Would love to do some hiking there.

  2. Love, Love this road!!! Thanks for sharing all the amazing views. The lake are so pretty without ice. That marmot in the beginning with the orange lichen in a great shot:) So glad you got to enjoy this beautiful area.

  3. Your description of "extremely picturesque" setting is so inviting. With Montana on our target next year, we will once again be following your footsteps.
    Wonderful pictures of a very scenic area.

  4. I love marmots. They are so cute. Cute, cute, cute.

  5. Gorgeous landscape, and such a great trail! You guys have been doing the most awesome hikes this summer. Yes, bear spray is definitely a necessity in that part of the country. Eric kept a big canister strapped onto his belt the entire 10 days that we were in Yellowstone a couple of years ago. It's somewhere buried in the back of the truck -- we'll have to dig it out when we return to Montana. I wonder what the shelf life is on that stuff? :-)

    1. We've been wondering about the shelf life too, one of our cans is two years old. We don't keep them in the truck though, too hot.

  6. Wow Lisa, my jaw was dropping just looking at your pictures of the drive and the hike. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be there. That was seriously some chance meeting. I know what you mean about constantly conflicting information about hikes and especially distances. I have wondered many times if all of the people providing this information have actually done the hike.

  7. There is no denying the beauty of the Beartooths, even with the smoke haze. Your travels this summer keeps me thinking about a trip back to MT. Your photos are beautiful Lisa.

  8. We wanted so bad to ride the Harley there when we visited, but the road was closed. Absolutely beautiful Lisa! I love the pictures of the meadow and peaceful and quiet!

  9. Incredible beauty! I traveled this highway many years ago when I was very young, so I don't remember much about it. Looks like I really need to get back there and do some hiking. :) I just drove to S. Dakota this weekend, and hope to do some hikes in the Black Hills.

  10. The only place I've ever seen marmots is at Yellowstone, until we landed in Rock Creek Park in Twin Falls in the spring. Those cute little critters were everywhere! We could count a dozen or more every time we went out for a walk. Beautiful photos!

  11. I love the beartooth. Only drove through one time. But I' sure I will again after reading this post. Im sitting in YNP nowand loving every minute. Enjoy.

  12. What a beautiful place. I love all the different water along the trail and the road. Glad the smoke in the distance didn't affect hiking!