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The Beaten Path

  4.9 ( 10 ) Favorite


26.6 mile 42.8 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 3,806' 1,160 m
Descent: -2,066' -630 m
High: 9,927' 3,026 m
Low: 6,242' 1,903 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)


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An epic traverse of the Beartooth Range from East Rosebud to Cooke City.

samh Haraldson

Features Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife


Car shuttling logistics for this hike require hundreds of miles of highway and can entail most of an entire day. The ideal setup would be two separate hiking groups, one going north to south the other going south to north that simply swap cars.


The Beartooth Plateau is one of the most unique mountain ranges in the world consisting of large, flat plateaus soaring at 10,000+ feet in elevation. There are 25 peaks that exceed 12,000 feet and it is home to 300 pristine lakes and some waterfalls in excess of 300 feet. Traveling through this oft-harsh landscape is not for the faint of heart but there is a single ribbon of trail that leads hikers across the zone past exquisite lakes, next to huge waterfalls, and among some of North America's wildest wildlife.

Arrive at East Rosebud Lake and "car camp" the first night after having taken care of any car shuttling needs. Wake early and set off into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Almost immediately, you'll find yourself swallowed up by absolutely massive vertical walls of rock with gashed couloirs that hold snow year round. Down on the ground it's sunny and perhaps there's a light breeze blowing down valley. Playful water flows downhill as you pick your way across boulders and through wildflowers.

You'll gain elevation until the halfway point of the trip when you top out in alpine plateau country consisting of bare rock and shallow, gravelly lakes. If you've brought a rod, cast a fly into any of the water along this path for a chance at some beautiful rocky mountain trout.

A myriad of camping options abound along the route and choosing the most beautiful spot can be difficult given the sheer number of choices. This hike can be done in as few as one day (if you're a marathoner) or as many as five or six if you want to dawdle and fish.

The trail exits just East of Cooke City, MT where a burger, some pizza, or a cool (age appropriate) beverage awaits those exiting the Wilderness.

Alternately start at the other end of the trail. This will be a much easier hike, causing you to lose more elevation than you gain. Starting at East Rosebud Lake will lead you on about a 20 mile uphill journey in which you'll only be going down for the last 6 miles. It is no where near half the trip like the above paragraph states. By starting at the Cooke city end, you go up about 6 miles, then down for about 20.

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Aug 5, 2019
Jeff Rogers
Mosquitoes! Forget DEET 98%, use Picaridin! 26.6mi
Aug 21, 2018
Herm-Dawg Millionaire
Stellar day hike. 26.6mi
Jul 28, 2018
Reid Buckley
Aug 17, 2017
Zach Kohn
Took us three days and had a good time. 28.2mi
Aug 6, 2017
T Bishop
Did the Beaten Path both ways over 2 days. My feet hurt 54mi
May 26, 2017
Hannah Pieper
Hiking in backcountry on "The Beaten Path" Should be a 2-3 day backpacking trip. 26.6mi
Aug 13, 2016
Tate Barnhardt
Hiked to Rimrock Lake 1st day (6 miles), then Twin Outlets Lake (6.8) and back to Lake at Falls (3.8) 2nd day, and hiked out next morning (9 miles) 12.8mi
Jul 16, 2015
Erin Nolte

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 10 votes


  4.9 from 10 votes
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in Montana


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This will be your first glance at Elk Lake heading southeast on The Beaten Path!
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1500 feet of vertical rock - from the The Beaten Path Trail
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Rainbow Lake
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"Lake at the Falls"
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Tarping in the Wilderness
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