Author Archives: chris

East Fork Boulder River- Absaroka Range

East Fork Boulder River- Absaroka Range

East Fork Boulder River

South of McLeod, MT, lies the East Fork Boulder River, a popular trail that leads to less than popular destinations. The trail runs 3.5 miles to the bridge over the East Fork Boulder River, where many hikers choose to fish, camp, or hike onward to the Lake Plateau. The camping at the East Fork Boulder River is excellent, with both firewood and trout in large supply. For a novice backpacker, the low elevation gained on this hike make it a good choice. In fact, the hardest part of this hike might be driving to the trailhead itself.

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08 May 2016

Ouzel Falls- Madison Range

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls, located in Big Sky, Montana, offers the opportunity for a quick hike to a scenic waterfall. The South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River (which is a mouthful, to say the least) plunges over the falls, on its way to the Gallatin River. Ouzel Falls is located just .75 miles from the trailhead, making it a short hike after a long day of skiing, or an attractive detour on the way to Yellowstone. The low grade of the trail is easy for most hikers, although there are many side trips along the way if you want to stretch your calves. In winter, the trail to the falls, and the falls themselves, are the most scenic.

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01 May 2016

Planning a Backpacking Trip

Planning a Backpacking Trip

Planning a backpacking trip takes time, but the rewards are worth it.

Planning a backpacking trip is the least exciting part of backpacking. Figuring out where to go, what gear to carry, what to eat, and transportation is the backpacking equivalent to working in an accounting office. However, as an accountant is invaluable to the company that he or she works for, proper planning of a backpacking trip is equally important. Not to sound over-dramatic, but planning a backpacking trip properly can literally mean the difference between life and death. You can survive without food for weeks or drink contaminated water for days, but if you plan a trip poorly, you can die within hours.

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10 Apr 2016

Cottonwood Road BLM- Pryor Mountains

Cottonwood Road BLM

Cottonwood Road BLM

Most people think of a beautiful lake or a scenic alpine view, when they think of hiking. They imagine a beautiful drive to the trailhead, where they might see a cascade of water rushing down the valley, or evergreen forests that surround the road. Most people overlook the Cottonwood Road area, which is equally beautiful in its own right. Covered only with sagebrush and a few juniper trees, Cottonwood Road’s beauty is something you have to hike away from the road to appreciate.

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01 Apr 2016

Pine Creek Falls- Absaroka Range

Pine Creek Falls- Absaroka Range

Pine Creek Falls

Seventeen miles south of Livingston, MT lies the scenic and popular Pine Creek trail, leading to Pine Creek Falls. Pine Creek Falls itself is an easy hike, with no large hills or obstacles. This makes the hike a popular hike, so expect company along on the trail. Regardless of how many people you pass along this trail, this hike is beautiful any time of the year.

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23 Mar 2016

Weatherman Draw- Pryor Mountains

Weatherman Draw/Valley of the Chiefs

Weatherman Draw

Eighteen miles south of Bridger, MT lies an unusual hiking destination, called Weatherman Draw. At first, Weatherman Draw (also referred to as Valley of the Chiefs by many Native American tribes) seems lifeless and barren. Here there isn’t any flowing water, and only the occasional juniper tree provides shade. What does make Weatherman Draw an amazing hike has to do with the history of the Valley of the Chiefs, and the geological wonders of the area.

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18 Mar 2016

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