Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Custer National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

What a great hike with amazing views all around! We went May 8th and there was still some snow on the ground, but not too much to stop us. I was visiting from Philly and it was the most beautiful picturesque Montana day!

An easy going trail with incredible views, and we didn’t even make it to Elk lake! After fighting the snow for about a mile we decided to save it for another day when the snow had melted. Will definitely be back

Even though this one is rated easy, there were some spots that were tough for me. I will definitely try this one again being more physically fit, but it was worth every bit! Beautiful scenery and lake was breathtaking at the end!

Did not go very far due to a storm coming up but did see a moose from far off!

hiking
2 months ago

Is it possible to park a motorhome at the trailhead? And if not, what is the camping like nearby?

backpacking
2 months ago

Looking for a party to exchange keys with, leaving from East Rosebud Lake heading to Cooke City from July 31 thru Aug 5 of 2018. If interested please contact Jim @ jkidwell9@cox.net.
Thanks

backpacking
3 months ago

This is one of my favorite backpacking trips. Not very difficult. I spent 3 days doing this out and back because it was so beautiful. Day 1, I drove to the Lake Ford Trailhead from Great Falls, MT and immediately hit the trail. I found this trail to be a steady up-hill most of the way. I ended up spending my first night at Keyser Brown lake, in a nice open meadow next to the lake. Day 2 I made the short trip up to September Morn lake and once again made camp for the night. After setting up camp, I took the switchback trail up to Sundance Pass. Amazing views...absolutely incredible. Pictures do not do this trip justice. That night, after returning to camp, a furious thunderstorm blew through. The thunder really booms and echos off the mountain walls surrounding September Morn...and the hail that came down was a sight to see. Day 3 I woke up early and started the hike back to the Lake Fork Trailhead...I believe it was just about 10 miles from September Morn. I encountered more hail on my way out. Overall, it was a great 3 day trip. I loved camping next to the lakes. The elevation wasn't too challenging. I'll upload some pictures from my trip. This is a PERFECT beginner backpacker trip. Highly recommend this.

backpacking
3 months ago

Looking for a party to exchange keys with at the trail heads of the Beaten Path in latter August of 2018. Contact Dennis @: dennisroach509@gmail.com

backpacking
3 months ago

We left "The Dead Indian Creek Trail", and stayed overnight in Cooke City. We then started on the Cooke City side. Parking was plenty. There is zero parking cost, part they are not responsible for any damage or theft to your vehicle. There is a picnic area here, along with a toilet. Beautiful waterfall, and neat history if you just wanted to see a roadside stop. We backpacked to Rock Island lake. Our campground was gorgeous, along with the view. It was not a bad jaunt, if you are looking for a quick place for experience. We had a huge moose walk passed our hammocks at about 3:00 a.m. The stomps were amazing, on top of waking up scared as hell knowing there was that huge animal passing by. We woke up to see him still in the lake splashing. Simply Amazing. I would love to come back and actually do the trail itself. We were told we were making a mistake going this time of year because mosquitos just hatched. THEY WERE NOT LYING. Being from Minnesota, we thought we were used to them. They were unbelievable, although with the proper clothing, never really were bitten. We were also told we would hit a lot of snow....we had a few patches but nothing to really even walk on.

There are two routes from Mystic Lake, the first trailhead breaking off to the Southeast, shortly after the Mystic Lake dam, will take you up numerous switchbacks leading to a 6+ mile hike across froze-to-death plateau leading to the saddle approach. (Hint: stay high on the plateau, to the east, it has a tendency to push you lower, as you think you are heading more direct to the peak but this leads to getting out on the many peninsulas and can cause a lot of additional distance)

As far as the Princess Lake route that is shown, this can be a spectacular trip and, as stated, is much harder in full pack than the plateau route.

The route shown from Princess Lake to Avalanche Lake is basically impassable without climbing gear. I have rappelled down this section but I would not recommend up climbing it as it is very loose and very steep. (Extremely frustrating with full packs!)

A better route from Princess Lake is to follow the light trail from the west side of Princess Lake that follows the drainage from Snowball Lakes, then bear east, staying North of Storm Lake and around the Northern tip of Avalanche Lake, and then south along the eastern shoreline until reaching the approaches to the Granite Peak Saddle.

Be prepared for serious boulder hopping for several miles along Avalanche Lake. Tighten down your pack as you’ll be needing to jump over pretty deep chasms as you proceed.

There is a small area at the southern tip of Avalanche Lake to overnight, but probably 3 tents, max!

Enjoy!

horseback riding
7 months ago

I've done this as a trail ride with my dad. Hope to hike it soon. The scenery is beautiful and very enjoyable. Fishing is pretty good too. Hikers usually seem pretty tuckered out, I know our horses get a work out. Beautiful area.

Beyond gorgeous hike!! The views were amazing. There was a fair amount of snow today for the last 3/4 of a mile to the lake. With the seasons changing, hiking boots and warm socks are recommended. Sneakers might not cut it!

hiking
7 months ago

Capped off a great longer day hike starting from East Rosebud lake going passed elk Lake and Rimrock Lake to end the day at Rainbow Lake. What a beautiful view and worth the extra mile past Rimrock Lake.

Such a great hike. Incredibly beautiful and a wonderful was to spend 2-3 hours. Great spots for photos. It's uphill to the lake but it's pretty gradual and not difficult. Trail is well maintained. The road going in used to be rough but it was graded and is now a breeze.

Hike here or die knowing you missed out. The most beautiful trail from beginning to end, with very little difficulty.

Beautiful. Felt so good to soak our feet in the gorgeous lake.

hiking
8 months ago

I did this starting at East Rosebud Lake, going past Elk Lake and Rimrock Lake, eventually ending the day at Rainbow Lake. What an amazing day and scenic view. Took a needed swim on a hot day. It's cold blue waters did the trick!

One of the most beautiful hikes you will ever go on. Just loved it.
Gravel road to get there. Trail well marked easy to follow. Anyone in decent shape can do. Being bear bells and or spray.
We went to the far end of the lake, 8 mile round trip. Elevation not difficult, flatlanders can do.
It was stunning and remote and perfect. We saw no other people the whole time.

fishing
8 months ago

Was a tough hike. Beautiful trail. constant climb. There is a shortcut almost at the end. We took it. Saves you about 1.5 miles. on the way back we went the long way. it was an amazing view on top. caught 15 golden trout. stayed 2 nights. We had a wonderful time.

Simply an amazing hike! We started from the Cooke City side and seriously appreciated the downhill to East Rosebud. Spent a few extra days and took our time. 4 days, 3 nights. Tossed the tent down at Ozul, Lake at the Falls and Elk Lake. Ozul was amazing, lots of places to camp on the west die of the trail. The hike up past Emil Lake and Fossil Lake was incredible. Lake at the Falls was a fluke. We weren't planning on staying there, but it's where we ran out of steam. Hard to find a place near the lake, but still amazing. The hike from Lake at the Falls to Elk Lake is great too. Keep your eyes open for raspberries!

Pay attention to the weather, got caught in a few thunderstorms the first day. Be prepared...the skeeters were big enough to carry you off. Lots of bug spray!

backpacking
9 months ago

We spent 3 days on this trip, which was a great choice for backpacking newbies! To wrap it up succinctly:
Day 1: short, easy, a good way to start off (West fork trailhead to Quinnebaugh Meadows)
Day 2: challenging
Day 3: long (from September Morn to the Lake Fork trailhead)

It's a beautiful trip. I hope to do it again someday!

Simply outstanding. Waterfalls, mountains, lakes and fishing. Who could ask for more. An iconic hike that should be on your bucket list!

Great views all along this hike. Spectacular mountain meadows, lakes and hillsides

backpacking
9 months ago

Hi Mark,

Myself and a few buddies are headed there in two weeks. It will be our first time on this trail, any suggestions for which lakes were best for camp sights? The fewest people, best fishing, etc?
Also, did you do any side hikes off of the main trail? Any info would be awesome! Thanks!!!

backpacking
9 months ago

Awesome trail. Had a billy goat spend some time in our camp on the hill at Fossil Lake (great fishing). we started at Clarks Fork trailhead which made the hike easier and very enjoyable as it was pretty much all down hill from Fossil Lake to East Rosebud trailhead. We spent 2 nights at Rainbow lake and thw name did not let us down with tasty trout. Dewey Lake is gorgeous and worth staying at but it was too close to Fossil so we did not. No gun is needed as we did not see any bear or grizzlies and park ranger says sightingings are rare so I wouldn't carry the extra weight. Nights probably got in the 40s and I did not bring any thermal underwear so my 0F down sleeping bag was just right for keeping me warm. we started the trip in pouring rain and hail so good rain gear and boots are critical. What an awesome trip and would definitely recommend it to anyone!

A must do hike

Great challenging hike with "worth it" views on the two lakes. Nice spot to quick one night camp too. Moderate is correct rating. 9664 ft ASL. @5miles to Timberline Lake. 2142 ft vertical. It took me about 4:30 hours to complete, but I took my time at the top and checked out the waterfall at the far end of Timberline. Crazy lake views!

This is an incredible hike! However if you want to summit Granite Peak, I suggest going the Frozen-to-Death plateau route. This route is difficult to navigate with a pack between the Mystic Lake trail and Avalanche Lake. It is beautiful though!

backpacking
10 months ago

Excellent trip. I'd recommend going from the Clarks Fork Trailhead to East Rosebud instead of the other direction. As I was walking from Twin Outlets Lake to to East Rosebud I was so thankful I chose to hike that direction due to all of the switchbacks. The hike up from Clarks Fork to Fossil isn't near as bad as East Rosebud to Fossil. I stayed for three nights at 1) Russell Lake 2) Twin Outlets and 3) Rainbow Lake. **BRING FACE NETS FOR MOSQUITOS**

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