Beauty Lake- Beartooth Mountains
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.
Leaving the trailhead, keep a keen eye out for Trail 621. This right turn is approximately 300 yards past the trailhead, heads north and immediately crosses Little Bear Creek. This creek is easy to cross in the mid-season, and even easier to cross later in the year, when the water levels are lower. Rock hop your way across this small creek, and arrive on the other side; where a maze of willows await. Weave through the willows for these few hundred yards, and you will arrive at a mature lodgepole forest.
Continuing into the forest, the trail begins its uphill climb. This first mile is the steepest part of the trail, gaining approximately 350 ft. Don’t worry, though- this section of the trail is perfectly fine for kids or inexperienced hikers. Take your time if you do have little ones on this trail, as the higher altitude makes their breathing harder. As you hike uphill, be sure to also keep an eye out for wildlife- deer, elk, and bears are common in this area of the Beartooths. Proper protection against bears is essential on this hike, don’t leave home without your bear spray!
After approximately one mile, the grade flattens, and is trail is quite pleasant. The dense forest offers privacy along this section of the trail, and if you’re lucky you may have the trail to yourself. After approximately a half mile of hiking this flat stretch of trail, Crane Lake appears on the left. Several spur trails lead down to the lake- pick one, and hike down the short, yet steep, hill to the lake’s edge. Although Crane Lake isn’t nearly as impressive as Beauty Lake, it’s worth your time to visit this lake.
Once you’re ready to move up the trail again, hike back up the hill, and continue north for another 10 minutes. Beauty Lake appears, and the trail follows the lake for the next half mile. Take the time to hike along this short stretch, regardless of your plans at Beauty Lake. The view is worth it- Beauty Lake seems to take on a completely different personality from each vantage point along the trail.
If you’re planning on fishing along this route, you may be disappointed at Crane Lake. Instead, fish the deeper water at Beauty Lake, concentrating along the northern shore. The brook trout here are hungry, but they also see a lot of flies and lures, which is to be expected for a lake that is easily accessible from Highway 212. Make sure that you have a Wyoming fishing license, regardless of which lake you end up fishing.
Beauty Lake can also be reached from another trailhead, which is the Island Lake Trailhead. Although this route down the Beartooth High Lakes Trail is very scenic, it’s also nearly 5 miles longer. A more interesting option would be to hike to Island Lake in a loop or shuttle trip- the two trailheads are separated by only 4 miles of road. No matter which option you choose, please help keep Beauty Lake pristine. If you see any trash along the trail, please pick it up; every effort counts towards ensuring that Beauty Lake and the surrounding forest remain beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
Pictures of Beauty Lake, and the Trail
Directions to the Trailhead
From Highway 212 outside of Red Lodge, drive 38 miles to the well signed Beartooth Lake campground. Drive down this gravel road for approximately a half mile, passing the boat ramp, and campgrounds. The trailhead is on the left, and is marked by a sturdy wooden sign.