Montana: Beartooth Hiking Adventure

August 18 - 22, 2019

“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

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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. You’ll even have the option to ride along as we drive the Beartooth Pass, considered one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country.  The pass traces a series of zigzags and 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, bears, and even the elusive wolf.

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 guides, Laurie and Michael, 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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Details

Other Info: This trip has a maximum of 12 people.

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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
  • Spot local wildlife including mountain goats, moose, deer, 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
DAY 1

We meet in the morning in Billings either at the airport or at a designated hotel and shuttle directly to Red Lodge, about an hour away. Once we've arrived, we'll have introductions and an orientation to the week while enjoying a picnic lunch along the banks of Rock Creek, which winds its way through town and is responsible for carving out the entire beautiful valley.  We then head out on our first hike of the trip to our operations manager Kris' favorite hike: Glacier Lake. Glacier Lake is 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.  You can relax on the shore or take in a couple more nearby lakes (Little Glacier and Emerald) before descending to the trailhead and back to Red Lodge. We'll check into our hotel before departing for the fun, local affair of pig races at the Bear Creek Saloon. After cheering on your favorite swine, we will head to dinner at a fabulous local restaurant. Hiking Distance: Four miles with 1,022 feet of elevation gain, plus an opportunity for extending another two miles of nearly flat hiking

DAY 2

After breakfast, we set out for a trail that will lead us up the west fork of Rock Creek to a gorgeous mountain meadow surrounded by spectacular views of the Silver Run Plateau and nearby Whitetail Peak. The 2008 Cascade Fire burned in the beginning section of the trail, allowing the wildflowers to flourish without competition from trees. After hiking five miles, past two sets of waterfalls, we reach the expansive meadow.  We'll pick out a perfect spot for lunch, and for jumping into a cold mountain stream swimming hole (you have to do it once - it will be an experience you'll never forget!). You have the option to return to the trailhead or take on the challenge of extending your hike via a very steep mile-long uphill hike to Mary Lake. After returning to our lodge, you can choose to relax in the pool and hot tub or join us for a scenic drive up the famous Beartooth Pass, considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Tonight's dinner will be at our friends' fun, casual restaurant downtown focused on using seasonal and fresh ingredients. To top things off, we'll take a stroll around town while enjoying some tasty Montana-made ice cream. Hiking distance: Ten miles round trip with 800 feet elevation gain, plus an opportunity to extend another two miles with an additional 1,200 feet of elevation gain

DAY 3

This morning we have almost an hour-long shuttle to our trailhead. 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 at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe on our way home - which is basically in the middle of nowhere, giving rise to the restaurant's slogan - "Where the hell is Roscoe?"  This is your chance to try some delicious local grass-fed beef.  Hiking distance: 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 4

Today is full of options! You can choose as your destination one of four different but equally as beautiful alpine lakes. After a short shuttle to the trailhead, we begin our gradual uphill hike, winding along the Lake Fork of Rock Creek for most of the way. Squeezed between Hellroaring and Silver Creek plateaus, the trail offers access to a lake-filled mountain valley, with Whitetail Peak overlooking it all (we saw the other side of this peak on Day 2!). If you make it all the way to the fourth lake (Keyser Brown), you will have climbed 1,600 feet in elevation and eight miles.  Tonight, we will have a special farewell dinner - a cookout at Zephyr Headquarters, complete with a campfire and s'mores! Hiking distance: 7.5 miles - 16 miles with up to 1,600 feet of elevation gain

DAY 5

On our last morning together, we can duck out the back door of our hotel and take one of two options - a flat and beautiful walk on a little-used gravel road, or a hike up to a lookout point on the side of the iconic mountain that overlooks the town of Red Lodge. Afterwards, we'll check out of our hotel and let you loose on Red Lodge one last time to have lunch on your own.  We reconvene and shuttle everyone back to Billings where you can catch your flight home or extend your stay. Hiking distance: flexible

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Trip Accommodations

ROCK CREEK RESORT / RED LODGE

All four nights of this tour are spent in comfortable accommodations located in a beautiful canyon in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, just outside of town. You can fall asleep to the sound of the rushing Rock Creek gliding by just outside your window.

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Arrival & Departure

We meet you in Billings either at the airport or a designated meeting spot at 10:00 AM 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, joined by additional hiking guides, as necessary.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 beautiful 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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