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Park County, Montana

Backpack to Upper and Lower Aero Lakes

12 Miles Total - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Colton Stiffler

Distance: 12 miles roundtripElevation gain: 1,400'Duration: multi-dayQuiet, very remote locationLots of wildlife: grizzly and black bears, goats, sheep, deer, elk, moose, etc.Excellent fishing with abundant Cutthroat

Key Hiking Points:
  • 1.5 miles: Lady of the Lake Trail Junction
  • 2.5 miles: Junction with trail to Long Lake, turn right
  • 2.8 miles: Stream coming in from Long Lake
  • 3.6 miles: Star Creek
  • 4.8 miles: Start of climb to Aero Lakes
  • 5.7 miles: Base of Lower Aero Lake

Upper and Lower Aero Lakes, in the heart of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, are well worth the strenuous hike.

From Lady of the Lake, follow the trail along the west side of the lake. At the far end of the lake, the trail heads off to the left, and in a quarter mile reaches a meadow on the north side and a trail junction. Take the right trail, which leads almost due north to the confluence of Star and Zimmer Creek.

Cross the stream and continue north on Zimmer Creek until you see the switchbacks of Trail 573 up a steep right side of the cirque. The ascent up the switchbacks is short and steep, and will definitely make you sweat – this section is called "Cardiac Hill,” and once on it you'll understand why.

At the top of Cardiac Hill you will emerge at the base of Lower Aero Lake. There are no trees on this high alpine plateau. Follow the right bank around the lake to the far side. If you choose, there are plenty of places to camp here.

To proceed to Upper Aero Lake, follow the stream that connects the two lakes on the north side of Lower Aero Lake. Find a spot to pitch a tent, and enjoy the amazing high country scenery!

Getting there: The trailhead can be difficult to find. Starting from Cooke City Montana, head east on US 212 for 1.6 miles to the signed turnoff for Lulu Pass. Turn north at the gravel road and start measuring distance from this point. Follow the road for 1.1 miles to a 3 way fork and continue up the middle fork. Stay right at 1.8 miles and reach Goose Lake Junction after 2.4 miles. If you have a low clearance car, you will need to park here and start hiking, otherwise with an adequate 4x4 you can continue. At Goose Lake Junction, right turn on a small side road (don’t continue to Lulu Pass or Goose Lake). Follow this rough side road for 0.3 mile, where you will find the trailhead at the end of the road. Watch out for old mining equipment and junk metal that will damage your tires if you're not careful.

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