Basin Creek Lakes- Beartooth Mountains
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.
Starting at the trailhead, the first and only turn appears for Silver Run Trail. Hike past this turn onto Basin Lakes Trail 61, and the trail begins its constant uphill grade. This part of the trail is the steepest- a good calf stretcher to prepare you for the rest of the trail. This first mile climbs about 700 feet- not a small hill by any means. As you are hiking this section of the trail, you can hear and see Basin Creek just off the trail.
The first stream crossing is perhaps the most confusing for some, and the Forest Service has helped out with a good sign pointing towards the trail. Turn left here, and cross the logjam over Basin Creek, reaching the other side. There are many logs here, and this safe crossing is the only obstacle on the trail.
Hiking down the trail, a couple of decaying cabins appear. This is a neat feature of this trail, and one that you would not see if this was a typical wilderness hike. Feel free to take pictures of these interesting cabins, but please resist the urge to vandalize them more than they already are. These cabins show the fear that many have with so many hikers on a trail- with increased traffic comes an increase in abuse of the forest.
Continuing down the trail, and at about 2.5 miles, Lower Basin Lake appears. This lake is shallow, relatively warm, and beautiful. For many exhausted hikers, this is as far as they hike down the trail. It’s a good day hiking destination, but has no camp sites to speak of. Fishing is also nonexistent here- the lower lake experienced a freeze out years go. When you have finished taking a break at Lower Basin Lake, continue down the trail.
From here, the trail climbs steadily through the dense forest towards Upper Basin Lake. One of the unique features of this trail is that the trail is almost entirely surrounded by forest- a rarity on this side of the Beartooths. The 1988 fires were not kind to the Beartooths, and this dense forest around Basin Creek Lakes is absolutely beautiful.
At 4 miles from the trailhead, Upper Basin Creek Lake appears. The lake is deeper than the lower lake, and contains a willing population of Brook Trout. At the west end of the lake you can see the beautiful Silver Run Plateau, and the snow field that feeds Upper Basin Creek Lake. There are campsites on the southern end of the lake, but please remember how much traffic this lake receives if you do camp here. Camp lightly, and remember to respect others with your site. When you are ready to return to civilization, hike back on the trail that you arrived on. This portion of the trail is a real treat- it’s downhill all the way!
Pictures of Basin Creek Lakes, and the Trail
Directions to the Trailhead
Just outside Red Lodge, turn right onto West Fork Road (FR71). Follow this road for 7 miles, and turn left onto the trailhead parking lot.