The National Forest
Montana is a hidden gem in the USA. Sure, it is not filled with the glitz and glam of an exciting city, but its sky seems to stretch endlessly without interruption, a seamless ocean. Like it’s skies, Montana’s national forests extend for millions of acres, including the Custer Gallatin National Forest which is located in central-Southern Montana. Within these boundaries exists my favorite place in the world: the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. This is a vast amount of deep rich forest, wherein two beautiful mountain ranges loom-the Absarokas and the Beartooth mountains. Brimming full with wildflowers and waterfalls in the summer, and weighted down with fluffy snow and cascading ice in the winter, this uncommon destination is a scenic combination of vibrant life and peaceful calm. It is remote and far-removed from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. This little–but not so little–treasure in Montana allows you to take a step back from the impatience of our fast-tracked lives and live according to the mountains’ pace. So, if you are looking for a breath of fresh air, set down that IPhone (since you probably won’t be within service range), and take to the Wilderness. (194 Words)
If, like me, you crave the mountains and want to explore them up close and personal, do not fear, for the Absaroka-Beartooth offers miles and miles of trails for the avid hiker. Surmounting to over 700 miles of trail within 30 peaks, you can leave your boot prints stamped all over this alluring landscape. Along these trails do not be surprised in finding the hundreds of lakes, rivers, and streams that vein through the craggy rocks and alpine woods. Needless to say, these mountains are filled with an abundant variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, grizzly bears, and ( for the excited fisherman) cutthroat trout. A note to the fishermen, make sure to acquire a Montana fishing license before setting off, as wildlife official will check your pack. In addition, if you are interested in camping in these neck of the woods, as I highly recommend, keep up to date with wildlife watch and make sure to check conditions with the rangers prior to your trip. You can check the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service to find the information you need. Among the trails, you most definitely want to explore the many lakes that speckle the mountainside. A few of my favorites include Slough Lake and Phantom Lake. These three are must-see destinations. They will stun you with their natural beauty and crystal clear water, plus the trails that lead to them are full of life. These are all found in the East Rosebud, a valley brimming full with unnamed streams and lakes. Phantom Creek trail will lead you through this beautiful landscape and, if followed to the top, this trail will lead you to the highest point of elevation among Montana’s mountains, Granite Peak.
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is truly the oudoorsman’s heaven. Not stopping at the East Rosebud, its equally enticing counterpart, West Rosebud, also provides amazing views. Mystic Lake is located in the West Rosebud and claims the title for the deepest lake in the Beartooth Mountains. This lake makes for an awesome day hike. It arrives at a dam, and overlooks the many lakes surrounding it. Known for its plentiful stock of rainbow trout, Mystic Lake gives you a taste of the beautiful Stillwater County–a fisherman’s paradise. You can get to Mystic Lake by taking the West Rosebud Lake. This trail can also give you access to Froze-to-Death Plateau. While the name is enough to keep any sane person at bay, this plateau is definitely worth the risk. By following Trail 19 to Trail 17, you can start your ascent up Tempest Mountain. Froze-to-Death Plateau gives you breathtaking views of miles upon miles of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Just across the ravine from the plateau, you have a vivid picture of Granite Peak. Froze-to-Death Plateau is not as scary as it sounds. It is definitely not for the inexperienced hiker, but it is an easier alternative to scaling the ominous Granite Peak. It is a gorgeous and fun hike that I highly recommend, however, be sure to check the weather, because you do not want to be stuck on this vast plateau during a storm.
Along the Beartooth Highway, nestled in the mountains, Red Lodge is among the sights not to be missed. This is a small town with a huge personality. I have been frequenting Red Lodge since I was a little girl and love the rustic and personal atmosphere it gives off. Not unlike everywhere else in Montana, this mountain town is an adventurer’s paradise. Hiking, climbing, rafting, fishing, and etc. are all right there in front of you. Also, for those who love snow sports Red Lodge Mountain is a great ski park. It’s relatively unknown, so if you are looking to avoid the crowds there is no problem there, and it has great runs for a low price. If you are more interested in a idyllic or romantic getaway, Red Lodge is also a great place to cozy up by the fire. It is filled with quaint Bed & Breakfasts, wildlife tours, and other non-strenuous activities. I highly recommend stopping in for an aromatic cup of tea and friendly conversation at Red Lodge Books & Tea, and following that with a good fresh hearty meal at the locally famous Grizzly Bar. Red Lodge is along the way to Yellowstone National Forest, and is a worthwhile stop. The Beartooth Highway traverses the landscape and is recognized for its gorgeous scenic roadway, as well as the steep and somewhat stomach-churning elevation climb. Also note Grasshopper Glacier and Hellroaring Plateau on the way!
Take to the Mountains
Whether you are looking for an outdoor adventure, or simple want to enjoy a rejuvenating getaway, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness has a little something for every traveler. I encourage you to take to the mountains and dive in to the many benefits of nature, I assure you, you will not be disappointed!