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The Beaten Path

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.9 (16) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

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


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Map Key

26.6

Miles

42.8

KM

Point to Point

9,927' 3,026 m

High

6,242' 1,903 m

Low

3,806' 1,160 m

Up

2,066' 630 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

29%

Max Grade (16°)

Dogs Leashed

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

Overview

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.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Sam H with improvements by Toddatfarley Wilson

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 16 votes

#255

Overall
  4.9 from 16 votes
5 Star
94%
4 Star
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3 Star
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Recommended Route Rankings

#8

in Montana

#255

Overall
418 Views Last Month
44,991 Since Apr 23, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

This will be your first glance at Elk Lake heading southeast on The Beaten Path!
Mar 23, 2017 near Red Lodge, MT
Dewey Lake.
Oct 9, 2016 near Cooke City, MT
1500 feet of vertical rock - from the The Beaten Path Trail
Apr 23, 2015 near Cooke City, MT
Near the East Rosebud Trailhead
Aug 13, 2020 near Red Lodge, MT
Rainbow Lake
Apr 23, 2015 near Cooke City, MT
Rainbow Lake
Aug 13, 2020 near Cooke City, MT

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 71 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Aug 30, 2020
Erik Haivala
Great trail. Lots of people camping. Go for the amazing views but not if looking for solitude. 26.6mi
Aug 11, 2020
Renee Lenthe
Backpacked from east rosebud up to rainbow lake. Definitely a gem of Montana, I will be returning. Light traffic during the week, heavy on the weekend 16mi
Aug 7, 2020
Dan Olson
Cooke to East Rosebud was great. Trail traffic was fair with runners and other through hikers. It is Montana at its finest!
Jul 31, 2020
Paul Op
Jul 24, 2020
Casey Cotter
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