Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Wildlife
Car to car loop hikes are great because they let you see new scenery every day without the hassle or environmentally-taxing car shuttle. This one is close to home if you're a Bozeman or Livingston resident.
Drive up the well-graded gravel road along the West Fork of the Mill Creek drainage until you can go no further. Here lies a trailhead into the massive Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Complex, a 900,000-acre expanse containing thousands of high peaks and all the beautiful valleys between them.
This 25-mile round-trip hike is great for a weekend. Head in on a Friday night and hike up the Thompson Lake Trail until just before dark, set up camp on the shores of Thompson Lake, relax and enjoy the quiet night. If you arrive at dusk or if you awake early be sure to cast your fly rod into the waters of this region.
The next morning, prepare for a longer day and hike continuing up Thompson Lake Trail to the junction with Horse Creek Divide Trail. Take this to the junction with Knox Lake Trail heading west either to Castle Lake, or if you want just a little more climbing, up the hill to Fish Lake. This country is not too oft-visited so take your time to appreciate the solitude of these backcountry lakes.
On the last day, hike along Knox Lake Trail to the junction with Monitor Peak Trail where you'll turn to the northeast. Hike the remaining miles back to Thompson Lake Trail and turn north towards your car enjoying the babbling creeks and occasional waterfall along the way. The terrain flows gently downhill, easy on the knees and the perfect way to round out a weekend of hiking.
After the trailhead hit up the Pine Creek Cafe for good, local food just aways up in Paradise Valley, or Mark's In-N-Out in Livingston if you're feeling more like greasy burgers and fries.