Three Short Hikes Complete our Red Lodge Visit

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.

End of the road

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.

Can you spot the young hiker standing next to the boulder?

The trail goes through a large boulder field

A calm spot between two areas of strong rapids

Evidence of extreme heat in one of the large boulders

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.

Lunch with a view


On the drive back to Red Lodge we stopped at an interesting little lake on the north side of West Fork Road.

Wild Bill Lake

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.

Roaring stream going through the area

Colorful flowers brightened the trail

Open meadow along the trail

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.

Snow on Sunday . . .

. . . versus snow on Wednesday

The views are still fantastic

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.

The small point designated by the arrow is 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 . . .

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24 Responses to Three Short Hikes Complete our Red Lodge Visit

  1. It’s so sad to see so much destruction from these fires (and that heat damaged boulder – wow!), but good to know new trees are starting to fill in a bit. And you’re right, the views are still very impressive. I’m sure it was eerie, but also really unique.

    It is amazing how much snow you encountered up there and just as amazing how quickly it all disappears…I imagine if you went back in a week or two, there might not be any snow at all. Of course, it IS June….

    • placestheygo says:

      Seeing the fire destruction is difficult, but we know it is necessary for future growth. With this fire it did allow us to see so much more. It is amazing how quickly the snow melts. A few days can make all the difference, but as you said, it is JUNE!

  2. Cindy says:

    What a juxtaposition! Seeing you hike with shorts and a tee shirt in ankle/knee deep snow. Gotta love those spring hikes. I loved seeing the rapids — could hear them in my mind and love that song. I hadn’t noticed the regrowth of trees so it was comforting to hear you mention that rebirth was occurring despite the destruction. I love your hikes but do you ever take any EASY ones? Cindy

  3. Jim and Barb says:

    From afar those burned hills look devoid of life, just dead trees standing there waiting to fall over. But upon closer look once you are in the hills, there is so much life which is so interesting to see! The snow hiking looks great, I bet the temps are such you could hike all day!

  4. So much snow and water! Looks like September would be a good time to visit and do more hiking!

    • placestheygo says:

      Definitely September would open up more trails at higher elevations. But the snow and high water was very amazing, as well. Guess one needs to visit in both seasons.

  5. Gay says:

    Great hikes Pam and John. Love the rushing water and lakes! Glad you spotted that beautiful waterfall. I always see things I missed on the in part of in and out hikes…almost like 2 hikes in one!

  6. exploRVistas says:

    Love that photo of Greenough Lake. Those mountains are magnificent!

  7. Larry says:

    That’s such a pretty area of our country

  8. Sue says:

    I love all the water, the rushing streams and the sweet little lake. I always find it interesting to see just how a forest slowly comes back to life, little by little.

  9. pmbweaver says:

    The header photo is gorgeous!!!
    I did spot the young hiker standing by boulder. I love the boulders. And you know how I feel about rushing water…it is mesmerizing. Glad you thought twice about crossing the wider, deeper stream.
    Beartooth Highway sure looks beautiful from the jeep window. A little old for my liking.

  10. Laurel says:

    Such pretty hikes, with the beautiful little lakes and fun stream crossings. But that part about hiking in snow and sinking up to your knees? A big “NO” to that! That was a very good time to turn around. 🙂 (PS So glad you included the photo of the sweet little Pasque Flower—that’s one of my favorite wildflowers.)

    • placestheygo says:

      The snow was great fun since it wasn’t cold, but it did get a little too deep and soft with no relief on the rest of the trail. The Pasque Flower was new to me this trip. They were so cute. We only saw them above 7500 ft.

  11. I think we had hike one of those trails and the wildflowers were abundant then plus there were some bear sightings. Too bad there was still snow and so much water, there was one hike that I liked there too 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, we sacrificed some nice higher elevation hikes for the snow. But I was really interested in seeing the deep snow this trip. Luckily, the lower elevations had the wildflowers and no snow.

  12. Dawn says:

    My hubby and I are both educators in Western Montana, but not quite retired. We discovered the beautiful Beartooth area two summers ago and keep going back. Hubby took a picture of me standing next to the rock… it is more than impressive (the rock, not the photo of me :)! We are going back again in August. I can’t wait! Thanks for sharing!
    – Dawn

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Dawn, for stopping by the blog. There is nothing like the Beartooth Pass especially on a motorcycle which is how we did it the first two times. The most beautiful place around. Glad you enjoyed it also.

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