Slough Lake- Beartooth Mountains
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.
The trail to Slough Lake is an interesting one, to say the least. Starting from the trailhead, the trail immediately starts climbing uphill through charred forest. Generous switchbacks await, guaranteeing a good stretch for your calves on the first mile. Once you turn the corner towards Armstrong Creek, and away from the East Rosebud valley (of which you’ll have an excellent view), the trail grade decreases.
After the first mile, you will see huckleberry plants on both sides of the trail (if you’re lucky enough to hike this trail in late summer, you may have a healthy crop of huckleberries to slow your progress). Huckleberry bushes stretch uphill, taking full advantage of the lack of competition for sunlight. This valley was scorched in the 1996 Shepherd Mountain fire, and the competing pine trees have yet to start shading these huckleberry plants. Nestled in the protected valley, these plants receive just the right amount of sunlight and rain to yield a nice crop.
Hiking past the berries, the last section of the trail follows Armstrong Creek, and offers a fantastic view of the creek as it crashes down the valley. Don’t bother fishing the many pools that are downstream of Slough Lake- by the time they appear, Slough Lake is just around the corner. Froze to Death Mountain appears in the background as you approach Slough Lake, and offers a fantastic photographic opportunity.
Once you arrive at Slough Lake, many options await. You can continue hiking up to the Froze to Death Plateau, and pass by this peaceful lake, or you can spend all day at Slough Lake. Fishing for brook trout is usually the most popular activity here, where you can sometimes see fly fishermen in the finest gear attempting to persuade one of the resident brookies to strike their fly. Camping is also an option, as there are a couple of campsites near Slough Lake; be sure to leave no trace behind, as these sites receive a lot of traffic due to the limited number of campsites. Slough Lake is also perfectly suited for a relaxed afternoon of wildlife watching, or napping. At only 7,500 feet, Slough Lake is a warmer wilderness destination than most, allowing the perfect temperature for an afternoon slumber.
Once you have enjoyed your stay at Slough Lake, hike back down the trail to your vehicle at the trailhead. You should make excellent time on this brief, downhill portion of the trail. That is, of course, if you don’t get distracted by those tempting berries.
Pictures of Slough Lake
Directions to the Trailhead
From Absarokee, take Highway 78 south of town. About 13 miles down the highway, turn right at Roscoe (East Rosebud Road). Follow this road all the way (about 5 miles), until the road sharply turns to the right (if you drive straight, you will hit Luther Roscoe Rd). There is a bridge just before the turn, and a large forest service sign at this turn, so it’s easy to spot. From here, it’s another 8 miles to the trailhead, which will appear on your right. If you pass East Rosebud Lake, you’ve driven just slightly too far.
Map to the Phantom Creek Trailhead