The High Lakes area of the Beartooth Mountains is a hiker’s and backpacker’s dream: lakes and streams everywhere, rolling granite terrain, and peaks all around. Hiking the 8¾ mile loop formed from the Beauty Lake Trail and the High Lakes Trail is a great way to spend a day exploring the Beartooths with only gradual elevation gain. It is best to do it in mid to late summer because the region is covered in snow before then and the streams can be difficult to cross when there is a lot of runoff.
The hike begins from Beartooth Lake Trailhead which is at the back of Beartooth Lake Campground. Before embarking it’s important to remember mosquito repellant and check that stream at the trailhead is crossable. Stream crossings are frequent and keeping your feet dry can be a lost-cause. The trail itself can often turn into a pond or channel for runoff.
This guide is written from the perspective of hugging Beartooth Butte on trail #619 first, but it doesn’t matter which way you do the loop. If you want to go to Beauty Lake first, you just need to cross Little Bear Creek near the trailhead.
The trail begins by skirting around the marshy northeast end of Beartooth Lake, crossing several of the lake’s tributaries, and passing through a maze of dense willows. The limestone and siltstone Beartooth Butte dominates the skyline – its rich ochre color contrasts the green landscape and gets reflected in the still marshes.
After crossing the last of the tributaries, the trail gradually climbs up the grassy eastern flank of the butte until it reaches the junction with the High Lakes Trail. Head right (east).
Lakes Trail #620
Shortly after the junction, the trail crests a hill revealing a great view of Lonesome Mountain and some lakes below. At 9,950’, this is the high point of this loop.
This section of the loop is characterized by numerous crystal-clear lakes, ponds, streams.
Beauty Lake Trail #621
Flora and Fauna
The Beartooths are a great place to see wildflowers after the snow has melted. The area isn’t as great for wildlife watching, except Mountain Goats are often spotted on nearby Beartooth Pass. Carrying bear spray is still a good idea, but grizzly bear sightings are pretty uncommon when compared to nearby lower-elevation places like Cooke City. Brook Trout can be seen swimming around many of the lakes and streams.
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