Red Lodge, MT
Afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast for each of our last three days in Red Lodge so we limited our hiking to shorter trails south of town at the base of the mountains. The first was a hike up a portion of the West Fork Rock Creek Trail. To get to the trailhead we drove south of town on US 212 just a couple of miles and turned right (west) on to West Fork Road. After 2.8 miles the road makes a switchback to the right and leads up to a ski facility. At the switchback we turned to the left and continued west (still on West Fork Road) for 10 miles to where the road ends at the trailhead. The road is paved for half of that 10 miles before turning to a well maintained dirt track.
The trail heads up along the creek through forest destroyed in the Cascade Fire of 2008.
While the remains of burned trees gives the trail an eerie feeling, a large number of young ones are beginning to gain some height. The lack of trees does allow for great vistas of the mountains around you.
As we gained elevation we began to encounter snow blocking the trail.
Beautiful waterfalls dotted the canyon walls to the north.
After two and a half miles the snow began to increase. It was beginning to soften so we couldn’t walk on top, causing us to sink in over our knees. It was time to turn around and head back down the trail.
On the return hike we stopped to enjoy lunch along a stretch of loud, violent rapids.
On the drive back to Red Lodge we stopped at an interesting little lake on the north side of West Fork Road.
The next day we drove about twelve miles south of Red Lodge on US 212 to a point just before the highway begins to climb up into the mountains. We turned right (north) on to a road leading to the Parkside Campground. The road leads up the valley past a number of camping areas, but we parked in the first lot for the Parkside Picnic Area.
The picnic area is the beginning of a short hike up to Greenough Lake.
Greenough Lake is small but picturesque. It is a very popular fishing spot for campers.
Our final hike in this area was on the Lake Fork Trail. To get there we again drove south on US 212, this time for just under ten miles. We turned right (north) on to Lake Fork Road and drove 1.8 miles to where the road ends at the trailhead.
Like all the streams right now, the Lake Fork Creek is rushing with snow melt.
About a mile and a half up the trail we had to cross a small stream just before it emptied into the Lake Fork Creek.
We crossed that with not much problem, but encountered a much stronger and wider stream a bit further up the trail. Not feeling comfortable about that crossing, we turned around and headed back. On the return hike we spotted a large waterfall above us.
Since we cut our hike short we decided to drive back up the Beartooth Highway to see what a couple days of warm weather did to the snow pack. We were surprised how much had melted in the 72 hours since our first visit.
As we drove along we noticed a sign that had been covered by snow during our first visit. The sign identifies the feature that gives the mountain range its name: The Bear’s Tooth.
As we drove back north we came across a skier taking advantage of the snow and the wind at 10,000 feet.
That wraps up our visit to Red Lodge. It is a neat little town surrounded by natural beauty. Next up is a short stop to visit friends.
More on that later . . .