Lake Fork Trail – Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

Pictures From The Trail

On New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2020, we headed out for a day hike on the Lake Fork Trailhead in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is a vast expanse, approximately 944,000 acres in size, of mostly undeveloped landscape dominated by its two namesake mountain ranges, the Absarokas and the Beartooths. The hiking and scenery in this region is amazing, with an extensive network of trails leading past countless alpine lakes, waterfalls, and endless views of the rugged and craggy mountains.

There are several “out and back” hikes departing from the Lake Fork trailhead, with popular destinations like Black Canyon Lake and Sundance Pass, among others. The main trail follows the Lake Fork of Rock Creek. The trail isn’t exceptionally well marked, but it is well worn and relatively easy to follow. For the extra adventurous types, the option for a 20.5 mile trailhead (Lake Fork) to trailhead (West Fork) hike also exists. The hiking on the majority of this trail is moderate, especially when compared to the more difficult hikes in the area.

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Cell service is non-existent in the majority of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and the Lake Fork Trailhead is no exception. Be prepared with at least two methods of navigation. I actually like to carry three. I have the OnX Maps app on my cell phone. The OnX app allows me to download offline maps to my phones hard drive. Many people don’t realize that the GPS capability on cell phones is independent of cell towers and actually connects to Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. With the offline maps downloaded, I can toggle between OnX’s satellite, topographical, or hybrid map views. OnX also has a built in tracker that allows the user to leave a breadcrumb track of their hike. When I go on an extended hike, I also like to carry an external battery bank to ensure my cell phone remains charged throughout the hike. Additionally, I carry a Garmin handheld GPS unit and a lensatic compass.

The Lake Fork trail is in bear country. While I’ve never personally run into a bear in this area, it is highly recommended to carry at least one form bear deterrent, such as Counter Assault Bear Spray. Know how to use your equipment, always be prepared.

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is one of our favorite hiking destinations, and I look forward to sharing more in future posts.