Trip Number: 12167A
Staff: Laura Bonds-Johnson
- Develop a deep understanding of the Beartooth ecosystem accompanied by an experienced naturalist
- Explore and fish in an area of numerous lakes teeming with trout
- Camp next to a beautiful alpine lake every night!
- Experienced naturalist will accompany the trip
- All meals on trip
- Group equipment, including cooking gear and bear canisters
Photo: Laura Bonds-Johnson
Unfortunately, this trip has been cancelled. If you
have questions, please
Located in south-central Montana and northwest Wyoming.
The Beartooth mountain range is composed of a great mass of Precambrian granite
that rises 9,000 to 11,000 feet, with an occasional spike above 12,000 feet.
Glaciers have sculpted the area into granitic peaks and deep, U-shaped canyons,
leaving behind hundreds of lakes scattered along the plateau.
The Beartooths are one of the most biologically unique mountain ranges in North
America, encompassing four distinct life zones and associated flora including
grasslands, mountain, sub-alpine, and fragile alpine tundra. The Beartooths
are a critical component of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem known for its
abundance of large animals such as moose, elk, deer, wolves, black bear, and
grizzly, and are part of the 900,000-acre Absaroka-Beartooth
Our trip will explore the less congested southern flank of the Beartooth Mountains and edge of the Beartooth Plateau known as the High Lakes located in Wyoming. We'll weave in and out of the wilderness area and adjacent protected lands. As an added bonus, a knowledgeable naturalist will accompany the trip. We'll learn a great deal about the flora, fauna, and environmental impacts in this region and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
This area boasts numerous alpine lakes, forested valleys, and high mountain meadows strewn with wildflowers. Many of the lakes are teeming with trout, making this area an angler's paradise. Short hiking distances and a layover day provide ample time to cast a line, relax, and stroll alongside pristine lakes and streams near camp.
Day 1: Our group will meet at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning
at the Island Lake Campground. Breakfast will be provided. We'll conduct a brief
trip orientation, coordinate a short car shuttle and begin our journey hiking
4.5 mostly flat miles to Becker Lake at 9,700 feet elevation. We'll pass a handful
of shimmering alpine lakes and enjoy the spectacular views of the granitic mountain
Day 2: We'll layover at Becker Lake. Participants can relax,
fish, or join a naturalist lead day hike into the surrounding area.
Day 3: We'll hike less than three miles to camp at Claw Lake
(9,800 feet elevation). In the afternoon, fishing, visiting nearby Grayling
Lake, contemplating, or relaxing is ours for the taking.
Photo: Laura Bonds-Johnson
Day 4: We'll hike three miles to camp at Native Lake (9,500
feet elevation) and have the afternoon to relax, fish, or explore nearby lakes.
Day 5: We'll trek less than five miles around the geological
wonder of Beartooth Butte, through a wildflower-strewn alpine meadow and forested
valley to camp at Granite Lake (8,500 feet elevation). Granite Lake straddles
the Wyoming and Montana border and is one of the largest lakes in the Beartooths.
Day 6: We'll ford Lake Creek, hiking six miles to camp at
the large and forested Lake Reno (8,200 feet elevation).
Day7: Heading out 6.5 miles to our cars, we'll pass through
lower elevation forest and sagebrush via Lost Lake.
The nearest airports serving the area are Yellowstone Regional Airport located in Cody, WY (76 miles away), and Billings International Airport, MT (107 miles away).
Our meeting location is Island Lake Campground, situated just off of the Beartooth
Highway, US 212. The Beartooth Highway is considered by many to be the most
dramatically scenic road in the United States, offering sweeping valley and
mountain vistas as it crosses high tundra and enters the northeast corner of
Yellowstone National Park. Participants may wish to camp at Island Lake Campground
prior to the start of the trip. Pre-trip lodging is available in the nearby
towns of Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana. Carpooling is highly encouraged.
Entry and exit trailhead access roads for this trip are suitable for two-wheel
drive passenger vehicles.
Accommodations and Food
Hearty and healthy vegetarian-friendly meals and snacks are provided, beginning
with breakfast on day one, ending with lunch on day seven. Participants will
share the responsibility of meal preparations and clean-up.
The trip difficulty is rated two on a scale from one to five. Our hiking days
will be relatively short and mostly on-trail. However, carrying a 45-pound pack
on trail at high elevations is physically challenging, therefore participants
must be in good physical condition and be prepared for the rigorous physical
demands of a backpack. Mileage on our hiking days ranges from three to seven
miles, with a total of almost 27 miles for the trip (not including layover day
hikes). Participants who have a known sensitivity to higher altitudes are encouraged
to arrive to the area a day early to acclimatize.
Daytime temperatures in late August average in the 60s to low 70s. Nighttime temperatures could dip into the 20s. Thunderstorms, rain, hail, snow, wind, and cold temperatures are not uncommon at this time of year. It is essential that participants be prepared for extremes in weather conditions, and also be flexible so that we can adapt our route to accommodate unexpected conditions or events.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Laura Bonds-Johnson
Participants will furnish their own personal equipment, including: backpacks,
sleeping bags, pads, tents, a basic first-aid kit, toiletries, and eating utensils.
Backpacks should have a capacity of at least 4,000 cubic inches in order to
accommodate commissary and personal gear.
Sturdy, good-fitting, broken-in, waterproofed boots with lug soles are ideal
for this trip. Sturdy water sandals will come in handy for river and stream
crossings. For shelter, a tent with a rain fly or a lightweight waterproof tarp
is the required minimum. For raingear, bring a waterproof jacket and pants instead
of a poncho. Hiking poles or a hiking stick provide helpful support. A small
day pack will be useful on the layover days. Be sure to bring insect repellent
and sunscreen. The leader will send detailed equipment recommendations to participants
well in advance of the trip.
The Sierra Club will provide the following items: food (including trail snacks), pots, cooking utensils, stoves, fuel, and bear-proof canisters. At the beginning of the trip you will be issued one bear canister loaded with food, plus a portion of the group gear, which together may weigh up to 15 pounds. Please limit your personal gear to 25 pounds or less, so that your total pack weight is less than 45 pounds, including 1-2 liters of water. Participants will be provided water treatment tablets for treating drinking water. You may bring your own water filter if you prefer.
- Schneider, B., Hiking the Beartooths.
- Turner, J., Travels in the Greater Yellowstone.
- Beartooth Butte Quadrangle, WY. Muddy Creek Quadrangle, WY.
Photo: Laura Bonds-Johnson
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is an important part of the Greater Yellowstone
Ecosystem. We'll discuss environmental threats to this and adjacent wild lands,
such as pine beetle infestation (which is evident all over the West including
the Beartooths), oil, and gas development. Several large glaciers have been
present in the Beartooths for many years. Like other places, these are melting
quickly due to global warming. We'll ponder the long-term effects of their reduced
water supply for areas downstream. As a group we will diligently observe Leave
No Trace principles.
"The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond
reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth... the only home we
shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need -- if only we had the eyes to
see". -Edward Abbey
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about
conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our
work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging
grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater
understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club. Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Shoshone National Forest.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Laura Bonds-Johnson's long-standing hobby of backpacking in the Sierra Nevada, Rocky Mountains, and slickrock canyons of the Southwest has evolved into her quest for conservation activism and outdoor leadership. Laura has lead Sierra Club trips into the Sierra Nevada, Montana, and Utah. Laura is a registered nurse and wilderness first responder and resides in Evergreen, Colorado.
Kevin Loney was introduced to backpacking over ten years ago with a simple down & back trip to the Grand Canyon. However, he caught the "bug" and hasn't stopped trekking ever since. He enjoys exploring his southeastern backyard and can often be found exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, The Appalachian Trial, and the Shenandoah area. He enjoys mixing his love for traveling with his passion for backpacking. Kevin has led several private trekking trips to the Na Pali Coast, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Mt Orizaba and Morocco. Kevin also enjoys exploring the Sierra and sharing the outdoor and his passion with others. In 2010, Kevin completed the Knapsack Leader Training program and is certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips