The Beaten Path Trail

HARD 55 reviews
#3 of 31 trails in

The Beaten Path Trail is a 28.6 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Roscoe, Montana that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

28.6 miles
3,431 feet
Point to Point

dogs on leash





horseback riding

nature trips







wild flowers




Twenty-five miles of spectacular backpacking in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness of Montana, USA. "The Beaten Path" is a 25 mile trail traversing some of the most spectacular country within the 944,000 acre Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Lakes and streams appear around just about every corner enticing both those appreciative of a spectacular Wilderness view or one with a penchant for hooking a trout upon the end of their fly-line. The trail itself is aptly-titled "The Beaten Path" for it is literally a well-worn treadway stretching from Cooke City in the South to East Rosebud in the North. Signage is ample and the route is easy-to-follow during the summer season (July - early September). For the more adventurous, ample opportunities to leave the trail and find true Wilderness lie up every draw you see. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and spans 944,000 acres of Montana and Wyoming. The two access points to "The Beaten Path" are at East Rosebud Trailhead (about 15 miles from Roscoe, Montana) and the Clark Fork Trailhead (a couple miles East of Cooke City, Montana). You'll find primitive car camping options at both ends of the trail so arriving in the evening and car camping before an early departure into the backcountry is an option. The trail rises in elevation to a high point and then descends so hiking North from Cooke City or South from Ease Rosebud are both options. Viewing the elevation profile will provide you a better understanding and will help you decide which direction is best for you. The trail is approximately 25 miles long and passes through a number of ecosystems. Although it has been hiked in a single day many times the beauty of the scenery and possibility for off-trail exploration may cause you to opt to spend a few days along the path. Consider shorter days and spend the extra time fishing or bagging a peak.

17 minutes ago

Hiking from Cooke City to East Rosebud July 27th to 30th. Looking for a key exchange at the Clarks Fork Trailhead or we can meet in Red Lodge and exchange cars/keys. Email Curt at Thanks!

1 day ago

Fantastic. Amazing. Breathtaking. Wow.

We hiked from East Rosebud to Clarks Fork from 7/16 - 7/19. Everyone we talked to before the hike said the mosquitoes and snow were terrible. Fortunately, nearly all the snow was melted and did not prove to be a problem at all. The mosquitoes were horrible from Russell Lake to the Clarks Fork Trailhead. Seriously horrible, but bug nets helped immensely. We camped at Elk Lake, Duggan Lake and Bald Knob Lake.

This hike is a must do if you are able. If I did it again I would take the time to stay in the high country a bit longer and explore some of the other lakes and scenes in the area as there is SO much to see.

If you're considering this hike and are on the fence, just do it. You will not be disappointed.

2 days ago

Hiked this trail about four years ago, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Great scenery and stunning views.

Looking forward to going again at the end of July. I'm looking for a key exchange on July 31st at the Clarks Fork Trailhead. Email Pete at Thanks!

14 days ago

Wow. Just got home from backpacking the Beaten Path (Cooke City to East Rosebud) and it was an adventure I’ll never forget.

7/6/18 Snow covered most of the trail from Russel to Fossil lake. We would have likely gotten lost if not for our map/compass. There were also two places we needed to cross fairly wide rivers to get to the trail (water was about knee/thigh deep, pretty fast, bring trekking poles and extra socks!!!!)

Once we made it past the Twin Outlet Lakes it was pretty smooth sailing. Absolutely spellbinding scenery and a clear trail to follow.

One last word of advice to anyone headed out early July, the mosquitoes were biblical. We were eaten alive from Cooke City pretty much until after Rainbow Lake. Bring high intensity insect repellant and apply liberally. We used spray but I’m still absolutely covered in bites from the last three days.

Despite all that, this really was a remarkable, one of a kind trail I’d highly recommend - just wait until later in the season when the snow has melted away from the trail and the mosquitoes aren’t as bad!

22 days ago

Been coming here the last 2 years. Due to never having a car on both sides I’ve always had to hike out the way I hike in. It’s always east rosebud to fossil lake or Clark’s fork to lake Dewey. Probably my favorite place in the world. Coming back on July 3 to hopefully hike into fossil to camp from the rosebud side if snow isn’t too deep. The stretch from twin outlets to fossil is just stunning

1 month ago

Hiked the trail once a couple years ago and going back in a couple weeks for round 2. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

I’m also looking for a car/key exchange July 4-7.

1 month ago

Looking for a key swap for July 6th-8th or July 14-16th. Please email Justin at

1 month ago

I hiked the Beaten Path from Chief Joseph Trailhead to East Rosebud lake July 22nd 2017 and the trails we're perfect, I heard this year from Russell lake to Fossil lake there's quite a bit of snow, so I'm not sure if July of this year is a good time to start. I am not the most physically fit person who hikes daily, but with determination and endurance anyone can start and finish a 28 mile hike. At one point after starting from the Chief Joesph trail head I started to feel tired, my body ached. I wanted to give up. I told myself I would make Russell lake my final destination and head back to parking the next morning. The following day I woke up and asked myself what was I thinking??? to give up on something I had planned on doing for a year. I knew my journey was just about to begin. With every will power in my body I knew my goal was to finish the Beaten Path. From the highest breath taking views of Fossil lake, to sitting in quiet coves next to the twin lakes I had no regrets. I believed the Crow sprits near the end of my 3 day journey asked me if I would ever hike this trail again? East Rosebud lake behind me I looked back at the unforgivable beauty and the last mesquito trying to suck the life out of me, I replied "Yes. One thing I learned about this experience last year was to always embrace ones Beauty, Culture and History. They Don't call it the Beaten Path for Nothing" so make sure you wear ankle support hiking boots and Embrace ~

1 month ago


1 month ago

Looking for a key exchange July 22nd-25th. Please email


1 month ago

I am planning on hiking the trail the week of 4th of July. Any idea if there will be other hikers that week? Would be uncomfortable if we were the only hikers out on the trail. Wasn’t sure if that time of the year is still considered early. Comments please?

4 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 @

5 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 @:

5 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.

11 months ago

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!

11 months ago

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

11 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!!!

11 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!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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**

Sunday, July 16, 2017

If anyone is interested in doing a key exchange/ vehicle swap in August or September please let me know. Thanks, Rob

Sunday, July 16, 2017

There is still lots of snow but with caution could walk on top and trek poles helped a bunch. Was not that bad though. I actually loved the snow because it made the views even better. Views are amazing and around every corner. My only complaint was at this time of year the mosquitos were bad the whole way. But if you have lots of deet spray they are tolerable. Was warm too never needed layers and hiked in shorts the whole time. Early in the morning a lite jacket helped till about 8am. Hiked from east rosebud to cook city in 3 days but 4 days or longer would have been better.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

there is a lot of snow on top couldn't safely make it over the top had to turn around mosquitoes were terrible we are going to try again in August

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not a review, rather a trail report. Spoke to FS office in Red Lodge yesterday & there is heavy snow between Dewey & Russell Lakes requiring extensive post-holing. Snowshoes recommended. Not considered passable at this time for a through hike. Might be ready for a through trip late July or early August. Call the FS Office for current trail report before attempting this as a shuttle hike. If you do hike part or all of it, please provide a current trails report. Thank you!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

In love with this trail! It's absolutely beautiful!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Does anyone have any information on whether the trail is open all the way across the summit? Wondering if snow is an issue. Thanks! Planning on going July 17th.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hiked this trail in early August. Started the trail by Cook City and ended at East Rosebud. If starting at Cook City do not let the map at the trailhead confuse you!!! The map looks as though the parking lot trailhead doesn't connect to the Beaten Path, but it does!!

Did the hike in 2.5 days, 2 nights. Started late in the afternoon on day one, just hiked a few miles in before setting up camp. Next day, set up camp at the peak of the trail, Fossil Lakes, and woke to the most beautiful sunrise I've seen. The final day, was all downhill to Rosebud, and our knees were not happy for it. I would not recommend doing this trail in such a short amount of time unless you are physically fit and trying to push your limits. I would however, recommend this trail to anyone looking for a truly stunning journey through Montana's back country.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Trail was great, saw some beautiful views! We started the trail by Cook City and ended up at at East Rosebud Lake. This is a difficult trail, so make sure you prepare and get in shape. Also the bugs were really bad when we stayed at Dewey Lake. Totally worth the sore muscles!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This hike is by far my favorite. I do not recommend it if you are not used to hiking as it is a rough hike. This review is for when I went (which was not recently) and I still think about how amazing it was. Ive lived in Montana all my life and hiked a lot of trails and This is my number 1. Went went over labor day weekend for 5 days and did the whole thing. But that time of the yesr made it really cold at night especially when you get to the highest points. We also got stuck in a lot of rain. I recommend not going during that time. Be sure you have good gear and good shoes. Even my poor pups paws were raw by then end, if only they kept their paw protector boots on!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Such a beautiful hike. Did two nights and only went as far as rainbow lake. First day, started in the evening and hiked up to Elk Lake where we had dinner and camped for the night. We kept our tent up the next day and day-tripped to Rainbow lake, another 4 miles give or take, and came back to Elk Lake for night two. This hike is UNREAL, you feel like you're in a different world. East Rosebud -> Elk Lake is not too physically straining, but Elk Lake -> Rainbow is a little more difficult but well, well worth it.

We came in the early summer and there were many temporary streams to cross -- be sure to have some water proof shoes if you go right after snowmelt.

Monday, August 15, 2016

This trail was amazing. We started in East Rosebud and made our way towards Cooke City. We had an older person with us and only made it half way before turning around and going back to our vehicle. We took our time and stayed two nights/3 days. The views were breathtaking! I really look forward to doing this trail again, but starting on the Cooke City side and completing the whole trail The worse part is between Elk Lake and Rimrock, but if you can make it past that, it's well worth it! The only downside, is people didn't have their animals on leashes during the trail, and we had a couple encounters with spooked/territorial unleashed dogs.

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