Author Archives: chris

Slough Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Slough Lake

Slough Lake

Underneath Froze to Death Plateau, Phantom Creek slows to a standstill, creating a scenic marsh. Inside that marsh lies Slough Lake, a shallow 6 foot deep lake filled with brook trout, and an excellent destination for a day hike. Located just 2.5 miles from the trailhead, it’s a short hike to Slough Lake, albeit mostly uphill.

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23 Dec 2015

Froze to Death Plateau- Beartooth Mountains

Froze to Death Plateau

Froze to Death Plateau

There are few places on this planet that are truly named well. Covered with ice and snow 11 months out of the year, Froze to Death Plateau more than lives up so its name. At this plateau, snow is possible any time of the year, and the air conditioning is always on. If you hike up to this plateau, you’ll be rewarded by the scenery- the West Rosebud and Phantom Creek valleys are breathtaking, to say the least.

On the topic of breathtaking, the high altitude and steep trail make this hike a moderate hike. Weather at this altitude can also rapidly change, so be sure you are both in good shape, and prepared for the weather. With a name like Froze to Death Plateau, it goes without saying that you’ll want to carry a warm jacket, at least.

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14 Dec 2015

Hiking with Kids- Tips 6-10

Hiking with Kids- Tips 6-10

<–Click here to read Hiking with Kids- Tips 1-5, if you haven’t already.

Young kids can carry a few pounds- and every pound helps!

Young kids can carry a few pounds- and every pound helps!

6.) As a kid becomes more familiar with hiking, share the weight.

Kids like to help adults, let your child start helping out with carrying gear, when they are ready. That’s a tough decision- how do you know when your child is ready to start carrying a pack? For starters, the child shouldn’t have any weight the first couple of trips. If they’re young enough (younger than 9), you should be carrying all of their gear, with the exception of their water bottle. As the child grows older (and is more experienced with hiking), you’ll know the right time to start adding weight to their pack- they’ll ask for it. Kids love to help out, and as they grow older they’ll want to be increasingly more independent. They’ll thank you for the added responsibility, and your back will be thankful as well!

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10 Nov 2015

Hiking with Kids- 10 Tips for Hiking with Children

Hiking with Kids- Tips 1-5

Hiking with your kids forms memories that last a lifetime.

Hiking with your kids forms memories that last a lifetime.

There’s no greater joy than sharing the outdoors with your family. Hiking with kids adds a whole new perspective to a day hike or overnight hike, allowing you to see the mountains through their excited eyes. Hiking with children is no easy task- it will test your patience, and theirs as well. Special considerations will have to be made, adding extra weight to your pack. The extra weight and hassle is definitely worth it-you will build memories that last a lifetime, provided a few extra precautions are made, and a few extra provisions carried.

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10 Nov 2015

Thompson Lake- Absaroka Range

Thompson Lake- Absaroka Range

Thompson Lake

Thompson Lake, located in the Absaroka Range, offers something for everyone; cutthroat trout swim beneath the lake’s surface, deer and bears are commonly seen, the mature forest makes for great camping, and the trail to Thompson Lake is a relatively easy hike. The trail is a short 5 miles, and only gains 1,200 feet in elevation. This barely qualifies it as a “Moderate” hike, and the only reason it should be a “Moderate” hike is due to the number of hills and obstacles on the trail.

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20 Oct 2015

Beauty Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Beauty Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Beauty Lake, WY

Located in Wyoming, Beauty Lake is a popular summer day hike, for many good reasons. Beauty Lake is well named, the gorgeous scenery from the surrounding hills is reflected on its surface; leaving you to wonder if you are looking at a lake, or a mirror. The lake is below timberline, but only just barely- leaving you with shade in the afternoon, while offering alpine vistas as well. Nearby Crane Lake offers similar views, with perhaps less visitor traffic. Both lakes are easily accessible from the Beartooth Lake Trailhead, with the total elevation gain little more than 500 feet in the short 2.4 miles to Beauty Lake.

You’ll want to have your camera handy along this trail, given the many scenic opportunities that lie along it. Immediately starting from the trail you’ll pass Beartooth Butte, an outcrop that rises more than 1,500 feet above Beartooth Lake. Further down the trail, you’ll pass Crane Lake, a beautiful lake in itself. Finally, you will arrive at Beauty Lake.  You’ll appreciate the appropriate name of the lake, as you hike along its shore. 

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18 Sep 2015

Timberline Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Timberline Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Timberline Lake

Timberline Lake is an alpine lake nestled beneath the Silver Run Plateau, located within minutes of Red Lodge. Scenic vistas surround the lake, leading you to wonder which is more beautiful- the surrounding rock and snow, or the lake itself. The lake has a beautiful turquoise hue, resulting from glacial melt above Timberline Lake. Snowfields, the remains of these glaciers, feed the lake today via Timberline Creek.

Timberline Creek is crossed a couple of times on this hike, although the first two miles of the trail are dry. The trail to Timberline Lake climbs about 2,000 feet in 4.5 miles, making it a relatively steep trail. Thankfully, the grade is only noticeably steep for the first couple miles.

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23 Aug 2015

Lake Mary- Beartooth Mountains

Lake Mary- Beartooth Mountains

Lake Mary

Lake Mary is an alpine lake bordered by two high mountain plateaus- The East Rosebud Plateau rising from the west, and the Red Lodge Creek Plateau rising from the east. These two plateaus give Lake Mary  a “top of the world” appearance, which is aided by the scenic trail to Lake Mary. At 9,960 feet, Lake Mary certainly isn’t the top of the world, but it will feel like it on this hike. Fortunately, most of the hike won’t make you feel like you’re climbing to the top of the world.

This hike covers 6 miles, gaining a little over 2,000 feet in elevation. Hikers can expect to spend half their hike on the first 5 miles, and half their hike on the last mile to Lake Mary. From Quinnebaugh Meadows to Lake Mary, you will climb 1,200 feet in just 1 mile. A light pack is recommended, unless you enjoy fighting gravity.

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10 Aug 2015

Quinnebaugh Meadows- Beartooth Mountains

Quinnebaugh Meadows- Beartooth Mountains

Quinnebaugh Meadows

Quinnebaugh Meadows is a gorgeous mountain meadow that is surrounded by spectacular views of the Silver Run Plateau, and nearby Whitetail Peak. Wildflowers blanket the meadows, and line the trail all the way to Quinnebaugh Meadows. Nearby Rock Creek thunders down two waterfalls along the trail, with side trails leading to both falls. Once you reach the meadows, the number of people that you passed on the trail all seem to disappear- the meadows are so expansive that they easily swallow large and small parties alike.

Hiking to the meadows is rather straightforward, as the trail gains only 1,000 feet in 5 miles. The trail itself is well built, well maintained, and well traveled. You can expect to see company on this trail, but that won’t bother you much once you reach Quinnebaugh Meadows. There are also no turns on this trail, other than a left turn at the trailhead.

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04 Aug 2015

Lava Lake- Spanish Peaks

Lava Lake

Lava Lake, located in the Spanish Peaks section of the Madison Range

It’s hard to find a good mountain lake that is close to a city, but yet is still surrounded by untouched wilderness. Lava Lake is located just minutes from Bozeman, but is still a scenic destination in the wilderness. Although the traffic on the trail is heavy (expect plenty of company on the trail), the condition of the trail has been kept clean by the forest service- and it shows. On a typical summer day, 30+ parties are not uncommon. The large nearby parking lot ensures that unless you hike this trail in February, you can expect to bump into quite a few people on this trail. However, the fishing and beautiful scenery more than make up for the busy trail. The trail is rather straightforward as well, although it is uphill all the way.

The trail to Lava Lake gains 1600 feet in 3 miles, making it a short but strenuous hike. I’ve rated it as easy, but the trail is really somewhere between easy and moderate, given the steep grade. That being said, the trail does have a few straight runs, and offers plenty of scenic spots to take a break at. The biggest challenge of this hike isn’t the trail, but instead finding somewhere to park.

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31 Jul 2015

Basin Creek Lakes- Beartooth Mountains

Basin Creek Lakes- Beartooth Mountains

Upper Basin Creek Lake

Upper Basin Creek Lake

Nestled under the scenic Silver Run Plateau lies one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Beartooths- Upper Basin Creek Lake. Although the trail gains more than 2,000 feet in the short 4 miles to Upper Basin Creek Lake, that doesn’t stop hundreds of hikers from enjoying this trail. In fact, this trail’s popularity led the forest service to designate it a National Recreational Trail. The traffic won’t keep you from enjoying the two lakes on this trail however, as this trail does an impressive job of splitting the traffic between Upper and Lower Basin Lakes.

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14 Jul 2015

Silver Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Silver Lake

Silver Lake

Silver Lake

There are some hikes where the trail itself is more interesting than the destination.  Silver Lake is much like that- the official trail ends 2.5 miles from the lake, and the rest of the trail is maintained only by hikers such as yourself.  This trail leads through a remote section of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, while passing two popular lakes along the way.

This hike has something for everyone- fishing, wildlife photography opportunities, and swimming (some of it non-intentional). It also offers the opportunity to lose the trail in several places, one of my favorite features of this trail. This trail is easy to follow for the first six miles, but the remaining 2.5 miles are anything but easy.

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13 Jul 2015

Princess Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Princess Lake

Princess Lake

Princess Lake

It’s a rare experience to hike on one of the busiest trails in the Beartooth Mountains, and hike in solitude for the last two miles of the trail. Princess Lake is a beautiful mountain lake located in the West Rosebud section of the Beartooth Mountains, and it’s just two miles from Mystic Lake– arguably one of the most popular day hike destinations in the Beartooth Mountains. The last two miles of the trail to Princess Lake are anything but busy, however. In the early or late season, you could easily have the lake to yourself. The trail to Princess Lake is what keeps most hikers away- the steep grade and faint track are not for inexperienced hikers.

This trail has a little something for everyone- rock fields, uphill switchbacks, flat runs, mature lodgepole pine forests, and good fishing. It also offers the opportunity to be lost in the woods, one of my favorite parts of this trail. The trail is well defined for the first six miles, but after that I’d recommend bringing along a GPS- just in case.

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08 Jul 2015

Curl Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Curl Lake

Curl Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Curl Lake

Curl Lake, located in the Beartooth Mountains, is an interesting lake. Curl Lake blurs the definition between lake and river (it’s neighbor Broadwater Lake is technically the same lake), and the trail is an adventure in itself. The trail passes by two major bodies of water (Kersey Lake and Broadwater Meadow Lakes), making it a messy swamp early in the year. A couple of months later (mid summer), the mosquitoes are out in full force- making Curl Lake a good late summer hike. Curl Lake does make up for this by providing fishing, and an absolutely gorgeous view.

When preparing for this hike, a map/compass or GPS should be considered required gear. The trail is hard to find in places, and while route finding is very easy on this trail, the hiking is easier if you stay on the trail. Losing the trail early on can mean navigating around wet marshes, tall hills, and steep cliffs. It’s much easier to carry a compass/GPS, and avoid losing the trail entirely.

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06 Jul 2015

Calamity and Sentinel Falls- Beartooth Mountains

Calamity and Sentinel Falls- Beartooth Mountains

Calamity Falls

If you’re looking for a short day hike that allows you to see two spectacular waterfalls, look no further than Calamity Falls and Sentinel Falls. These two waterfalls are located a short distance from Red Lodge, making them a perfect short day hike. This hike is only 3.6 miles long, and gains only 511 feet, making it a good first wilderness hike for young hikers. The trail begins on the north side of the trailhead parking lot, which is clearly marked.

This is a well maintained trail, which you will notice immediately as you head down the trail. This trail is very popular in the Red Lodge area, and many boots have worn a nice trail. Try and do a good deed here, and pick up any trash that you might see on the trail. Although this trail is well groomed, it’s heavy use makes cleanup harder for the forest service. It only takes a little garbage to ruin the pristine appearance of the wilderness, which is reached after the first quarter mile of the trail.

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01 Jul 2015

Fox Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Fox Lake

Fox Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Fox Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Fox Lake, located in the Beartooth Mountains, is suitable for a day hike, an overnight stay, or a base camp. Located just 4 miles from the trailhead, Fox Lake is a quick hike for conditioned hikers. In the mid season (July), the busy trail is easy to follow, and well marked. This may not be true in the early season (early June), where traffic is almost nonexistent, the trail is harder to follow, and snow drifts still block the trail in many places.

Regardless of when you hike to Fox Lake, you’ll want to bring proper protection against bears. Grizzly bears are common in the area, as are moose. You’ll want to be prepared for this with either bear spray, or a suitable alternative. This area (Cooke City) is notorious for bear attacks, and this trail will lead you 4 miles into bear country. When you drive to the trailhead, you’ll be reminded of this fact. Campgrounds in the area do not allow tent camping because of bear attacks, and many signs along the highway will remind you to properly store your food when camping.

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01 Jul 2015

Rock Island Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Rock Island Lake

Rock Island Lake

Located near Cooke City on the famous Beartooth Highway, Rock Island Lake is an excellent choice for a day hike, or relaxed fishing in the wilderness. The hike is relatively short (6 miles round trip), on a trail that is mostly level (only gaining 270 feet at it’s highest point). The hike to Rock Island Lake also offers an excellent opportunity to view wildlife such as moose and deer. The trail is easy to follow, as long as you pay attention to the signs along the trail.

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08 Jun 2015

Kersey Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Kersey Lake

Kersey Lake

You will rarely find a lake that offers fishing, good wildlife viewing opportunities, and is close to a major highway. Kersey Lake, located near Cooke City, Montana, is a relaxed day hike with the all of these features. The hike is an easy hike (3 miles round trip), and gains less than 200 feet of elevation. This makes the hike a perfect first hike for small children, or a quick hike for travellers passing through the area. The road to the trailhead is paved, so any motor vehicle can make the drive- something that is rare for a lake next to the Beartooth Absaroka Wilderness.

Driving to the trailhead can be considered an adventure itself. Whether if you are headed from Red Lodge, Yellowstone National Park, or Cody, you will pass trout filled lakes along the way, scenic alpine vistas, and glacier fed streams. Access to the trailhead is possible most of the time from late May to early October, but it is always best to check the Montana Road Conditions Map before you head out. The well signed Clarks Fork Trailhead is located 58.1 miles from Red Lodge, or 3.4 miles from Cooke City, on US 212.

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06 Jun 2015

Passage Falls- Absaroka Range

Passage Falls

Passage Falls

Passage Falls

Standing beneath the falls, a whirlwind of mist covers you. The mist clings to anything that isn’t already wet, and the roar of the falls deafens you. Looking up, it’s hard to imagine how many hundreds of gallons of water are pouring over the falls, or how this waterfall managed to drastically change the volcanic outcrops that you cling to. Passage Creek beneath the falls becomes a torrent, as the water rushes out of the narrow valley. This place is Passage Falls, a popular hiking destination in the Absaroka Range, and a great place for a short day hike.

Located South of Livingston, Passage Falls is an easy to find hike that offers a spectacular waterfall. The short length (4.2 miles), easy to follow trail, and low gain in elevation (490 ft) makes Passage Falls an excellent hike for hikers of any level. Although this is an excellent trail most of the year, the best times to visit are between mid-May and mid-June, when the water levels are at their highest. In addition, the trail is quite busy later in the summer, so spring tends to be my preferred season for hiking this short trail.

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26 May 2015

What to do When You’re Lost in the Woods

what to do when you're lost in the woods

You feel your chest tighten up, your heart races, and your eyes dart back and forth trying to find a way out. You’ve become lost in the woods, and you just realized that you can’t find the way out. As the terror subsides, there’s the urge to just run- your adrenaline starts pumping, and your body tries to fix the problem by telling you to go as far as you can in a single direction. When the adrenaline wears off, you realize how hopeless your situation is. The landscape seems alien to you- did you cross this path before? The woods close in on you, and the trail seems miles away. What do you do, now?

 

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19 Mar 2015