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Montana: Beartooth Hiking Adventure

August 9 - 14, 2020

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
John Muir

Red Lodge, Montana and the Beartooth Mountains hold a special place in our hearts. The mountains are our playground and the small town of 2,300 residents is what we fondly term our “world headquarters.”

The breathtaking Beartooth Mountains are the highest mountain range in Montana, with numerous peaks above 12,000 feet, and offer an abundance of phenomenal hiking trails. Each day we head out on a different trail seeking out pristine alpine lakes, gorgeous plateaus, and stunning vistas. We’ll also take you on a ride up the Beartooth Pass, considered one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country.  The road zigzags up a series of switchbacks along the Montana-Wyoming border, topping out at almost 11,000 feet and with a view of the “bear’s tooth” for which the mountain range is named. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife throughout the trip and you might spot marmots, moose, coyote, big-horned sheep, mountain goats, Grizzly bears and black bears.

Tucked into a valley between glaciers and plains, it won’t take you long to fall in love with Red Lodge. Our charming mountain town has great restaurants, fun shops and laid-back local watering holes. There are no stoplights in the entire county yet we are only one hour from the airport in Billings. The locals are incredibly friendly too – including our wonderful local guides and our alumni ambassador and tour operations manager, Kris!

We know there are more famous places in Montana, such as Glacier National Park, Big Sky, and portions of Yellowstone. And we love those too. But for a genuine, non-touristed, real Montana experience, you cannot beat the Beartooth Mountains. Join us as we explore our own backyard and learn why we love it so much here – we can’t wait to show you around!

Private Tour Info

Private tours can be arranged for groups as few as four people.

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Trip Favorite Moments & Reviews

It was overall an excellent trip.  Once again Kris went above and beyond to make sure that we had a good time and were taken care of.

Amy S.

We enjoyed every moment from breathtaking scenery, challenging hikes, meeting new Zephyr friends, and delicious dinners.   Our favorite event was dinner at Kris and Michael’s home on the last evening of our adventure.  Sitting around their deck, eating dinner and visiting was so much fun.  Lots of laughter and memories made with new friends.

Jake and Elizabeth J.

Details

  • Dates: August 9 - 14, 2020
  • Cost Per Person: $2,600
  • Optional Single Supplement: $600
  • Private Tour Minimum: 4
  • Activities: Hiking
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Guides: Kris Keys, And Local Guides

Other Info: This trip has a maximum of 13 people.

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Past Traveler Tour Rating

5.0/5 stars

Trip Highlights

  • Explore Zephyr's charming hometown, Red Lodge, Montana, set in the stunning Beartooth Mountains
  • Hike a number of spectacular trails to beautiful alpine lakes, scenic plateaus, and breathtaking vistas
  • Look for local wildlife including mountain goats, moose, deer, wild turkeys, eagles, marmots, coyotes, and bears
  • Relax at a local watering hole while watching...pig races (yes really!)
  • Get a REAL Montana experience with a Montana-based company and local guides

Note: since most of our hikes are "out and backs" it is easy to shorten or lengthen the distances of the main routes noted below. 

DAY 1

We meet in Billings this morning, either at the airport or at our designated hotel, and shuttle directly to Red Lodge, about an hour away. Once we've arrived, we'll drop off our luggage at the hotel, discuss our plans for the week and the trails, and pack a trail lunch to take with us.  After a short shuttle to the trailhead, we'll begin our introductory hike, a gentle and gradual uphill along the beautiful rushing waters of the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, where we commonly see moose. Squeezed between Hellroaring and Silver Creek plateaus, the trail offers access to a lake-filled mountain valley, but since this is our first day of hiking, we will turn around at Broadwater Lake (actually just a widening of the river) after stopping at our favorite place on the trail - Snack Rock. We'll then return to our hotel to check in before departing for the fun, local affair of pig races at the saloon in the nearby town of Bear Creek. After cheering on your favorite swine, we will head back to Red Lodge for dinner at our friends' fun, casual tapas restaurant downtown.

Main Hiking Route: 7 miles - with up to 800 feet of elevation gain

DAY 2

This morning we shuttle 90 minutes to our trailhead in the West Rosebud Valley. Although it is only a few miles as the crow flies, we have to drive around the mountain range along the sky-high ranch country of the Beartooth Front to get to one of the most stunning locations in the area: Mystic Lake, a large lake made even larger by a hydroelectric dam. Because most of the hike is in a protected wilderness area, the power company that controls the dam has had very little impact to the lake itself and it is a nice example of man's progress melding with nature. A steady climb of three miles along West Rosebud Creek and through Custer National Forest will take us past a plethora of huckleberry bushes, through rock fields and stands of Lodgepole Pines and Aspens, to the edge of the lake.  Before reaching the lakeshore, make sure to pause at the overlook to get a glimpse of Montana's uniquely shaped tallest mountain, Granite Peak. You can stop here to enjoy lunch, or continue another 2.7 miles around the lakeshore to Huckleberry Creek before turning around and heading back to the trailhead. We'll stop for dinner on our way home at a local restaurant.

Main Hiking Route: Six miles round trip to the edge of the lake with 1,200 feet elevation gain (plus an opportunity for an easy extension around the lakeshore trail of almost six additional miles).

DAY 3

We'll give our feet a bit of a break today! After breakfast, you'll have the option to take the morning and pamper yourself or walk with us to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, which provides a lifelong habitat to wildlife that is unable to be released back into the wild.  The residents of the sanctuary include black bear, wolf, coyote, lynx, mountain lion, bobcat, fox, porcupine, a variety of prey birds, and Speedy the Bison!  Lunch is on your own in town. Afterward, we'll shuttle to a nearby river for a fun afternoon rafting trip where we'll shoot a few rapids and watch for jumping trout, elk, deer, bald eagles, and other wildlife along the shore of this beautiful wild river. Another delicious dinner in Red Lodge awaits us and to top things off, we'll take a stroll around town while enjoying some tasty Montana-made ice cream.

DAY 4

Today we take to the trail for our operations manager Kris' favorite hike: Glacier Lake, a beautiful alpine lake that not only is the source of the beautiful Rock Creek, but also the source of Red Lodge's drinking water, judged by some as among the best in the country. The drive to the trailhead is bumpy (which keeps out many would-be hikers) and although the hike is only two miles each way, it has some steep sections. The reward is a stunning crystal clear lake surrounded by steep mountains.  We recommend having your lunch on the rocks along shore and then relaxing there for a good long while, but if you want more hiking you can take in a couple more nearby lakes (Little Glacier and Emerald) before descending to the trailhead and back to Red Lodge. We'll get back to town in the afternoon, and set you free to explore town on your own this evening.  

Main Hiking Route: Four miles with 1,022 feet of elevation gain (plus an opportunity for extending another two miles of nearly flat hiking)

DAY 5

Today is a big day!  We depart Red Lodge in the morning to drive up the famous Beartooth Pass, considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Up, up, up we go - to almost 11,000 feet - keeping our eyes open to try and spot the mountain goats that are commonly seen in this beautiful high-altitude tundra.  We'll get out for pictures at the top of the pass before descending the other side and getting out to hike from Island Lake to Beauty Lake, the only point-to-point hike of the trip. Although this is the flattest hike of the week, we are at almost 10,000 feet and we do have a couple of stream crossings!  Tonight, we will have a special farewell dinner - a cookout at Zephyr Headquarters, complete with a campfire and s'mores! 

Main Hiking Route: Six miles of nearly flat hiking

DAY 6

On our last morning together, we have an optional walk on a flat gravel path that encircles the airport and rodeo grounds, with beautiful vistas of the surrounding mountains and plains. You'll have time to shower before checking out of the hotel. We'll let you loose on Red Lodge one last time to have lunch on your own before shuttling everyone back to Billings, where you can catch your flight home or extend your stay. 

Main Route: Three miles of nearly flat walking

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Trip Accommodations

POLLARD HOTEL / RED LODGE

All five nights of this tour are spent in comfortable historic accommodations in the heart of downtown Red Lodge. The hotel was the first brick building in town (built in 1893) and features a great pub and dining room.  You can walk anywhere in town from here!

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Arrival & Departure

We meet you in the morning in Billings either at the airport or the Northern Hotel and head straight to Red Lodge about an hour away. On the last afternoon of the tour, we will drop you off at the Billings airport or at a downtown hotel if you are planning to extend your stay.

What's Included
  • Two local Zephyr guides will accompany each trip.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your meals except for one dinner and one lunch are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included.
  • All your ground transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All group activities (including rafting).
  • NOT INCLUDED: Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.
Weather

Red Lodge is located in the Beartooth Mountains so the weather can change very quickly.  You will want to bring layers, including waterproof layers, as temperatures can swing dramatically. High temperatures in August average upper-70s during the day with low temperatures averaging 40s at night.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience.

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