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Hike to Elk Lake: another Montana scenic trail

Updated 06.01.2013

The hike to Elk Lake, Alpine, Montana

The Rosebud Trailhead near Alpine, Montana

Are you looking for an active travel adventure in Montana? Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the wildness of the Treasure State. And, with trails available for every level of hiker, there’s no reason to sit on the cabin porch, especially when you can hike to Elk Lake.

During our trip to Fishtail, Montana, we found several hikes in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness that offered alpine scenery without huge increases in elevation gain, making for a moderate hiking experience. As an added bonus, getting to the trailhead usually included a 13 or 14-mile drive down a scenic dirt road with plenty of photo opportunities.

Such was the case when we hiked the East Rosebud Trail to Elk Lake. From Fishtail, we took a local shortcut to Roscoe, home to the Grizzly Restuarant and not much else, for the approximately 14-mile drive to Alpine and East Rosebud Lake. The scenery was so stunning that it required many photo stops, making the journey to the trailhead slow going. Of course this meant that our hike began in the late morning, partly because I lingered over my morning coffee at Mystic Rose Cabin and that porch view of the Beartooth Mountains.

We filmed a video to give our boomer readers an idea of what to expect:

Although we only made it as far as the waterfall area on our hike along the East Rosebud Trail, you can be sure that this part of Montana will be seeing our itchy travel feet again.

What You Will See on a Hike to Elk Lake:

  • An isolated community of cabins surrounding East Rosebud Lake
  • Views of Montana’s highest mountain, Granite Peak
  • Re-birth of a forest that was devastated by fire in 1996
  • White water of East Rosebud drainage, including excellent fishing
  • Waterfalls
  • Alpine lakes
  • Other hikers, many with dogs

Tips for the Trail:

  • Bring plenty of water
  • Be prepared for changeable weather
  • Pack bear spray
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Don’t forget the bug spray
  • Hiking poles offer stability and help your posture
  • Bring the camera!

We found a copy of Day Hikes In the Beartooth Mountains on the bookshelf at Mystic Rose Cabin. Written by Robert Stone, the book gives excellent description and advice on hiking to Elk Lake and many other trails in the area. We’ll be buying our own copy for the next visit to Fishtail, Montana.

So many hikes, so little time. Make the most of your visit to Big Sky Country by checking out our Montana Hiking articles.

Have you gone on a hike to Elk Lake? Post a comment to share your experience. Alan and I can’t wait to return for another hiking adventure.

Read more about our trip to Fishtail, Montana:

I have included an Amazon link to Day Hikes in the Beartooth Mountains for your convenience, however My Itchy Travel Feet does receive a small percentage for purchases made at Amazon.com.

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