Hiking Project Logo

Island and Night Lakes

  4.0 ( 1 ) Favorite


3.3 mile 5.3 kilometer out and back


Ascent: 71' 22 m
Descent: -74' -22 m
High: 9,568' 2,916 m
Low: 9,525' 2,903 m


Avg Grade: 1% (0°)
Max Grade: 4% (2°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Amber Scott

At just about 3.0 miles round-trip, seeing both Island and Night Lakes is an easy and accessible alpine experience.

Amber Scott

Features Birding · Fishing · Geological Significance · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly As an easy, flat, out-and-back route, you can take little ones as long or as far as they can go while still getting stunning, high-alpine views and lake access.

Beartooth Highway #212 is closed during the winter (which is generally mid-October through May). Check with the USFS or Montana DOT for current status.


Situated at the top of Beartooth Pass, this route lets the car do all the climbing—up to over 9,500 feet—making this a remarkably flat and mellow route. From the trailhead, wander through alpine meadows along the edges of both Island Lake and Night Lake. Turn back whenever you'd like or continue deeper into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area.


The trailhead is on Beartooth Highway #212, south of Red Lodge and east of Cooke City. Approaching from either direction is pretty straightforward as the access road is well signed. Turn north on FS Road #148 after signs for Island Lake Campground. Turn right on the first turnoff to get to the trailhead—the campground is to the left, and continuing straight goes to the boat ramp.

Begin the hike by leaving the trailhead and following the trail that angles across the meadow towards the boat ramp. Cross the boat ramp and continue along the Beartooth High Lakes Trail as it winds around the west side of Island Lake. It's a hair longer than one mile to the northern end of Island Lake. Then it's approximately 0.1 miles between the lakes, and then another 0.6 miles to the northern end of Night Lake. Turn back here, or continue onwards!

The Island Lake Campground is an excellent location from which to explore the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area—Island and Night Lakes offer plenty of exploration opportunities, as do the numerous trails beyond them and both east and west along Highway #212. The trailhead is also the starting point for a plethora backpacking excursions, but just be sure to do your research on necessary wilderness and fishing permits given the proximity to the Montana-Wyoming State border and the differing regulations in each state.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna, History & Background


Rate This Featured Hike

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Hike

Check In



Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 1 vote


  4.0 from 1 vote
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Featured Hike Rankings


in Wyoming


8 Views Last Month
8 Since Dec 30, 2019



July 2019. Island lake looking North to Beartooth Plateau.
Dec 15, 2019 near Tower J…, WY
July 2019. Island lake
Dec 15, 2019 near Tower J…, WY
Beartooth Plateau across Island Lake.
Mar 24, 2016 near Tower J…, WY
Beartooth Plateau from the west side of Island Lake
Mar 24, 2016 near Tower J…, WY
Sunset at Island Lake. with permission from Hobbes7714 Photo Credit: Andrew Wahr  Link: https://twitter.com/WahrAndrew
Apr 4, 2016 near Tower J…, WY


Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking