Backpack the Beartooths via the West Rosebud Trail

Rate this Adventure Montana West Rosebud Trail

Added by Derek Tice

The distance is to Avalanche Lake (the base of Granite Peak) and the elevation gain is from Avalanche Lake (another 2,800' to the summit of Granite Peak). This adventure should take about 3 days, 2 nights, with 5 lakes stocked trout lakes. You also have the ability to continue on to Granite Peak (considered one of the hardest summits in the lower 48 and also highest Point in Montana).

The West Rosebud Trail functions as one of the major routes to Granite Peak, the highest point in Montana. The trailhead (6,558') is located approximately 80 miles south of Billings in the Beartooth Absaroka Wilderness. The road to the trail passes Emerald and West Rosebud Lakes just before arriving at the spacious parking area with available restrooms.

The trailhead is accessible by walking the dirt road through the Montana Power Company facilities, which harvest electricity from the Mystic Lake dam. The trail is clearly marked and proceeds 3 miles to Mystic Lake (a popular day hike). The first 2 miles lay relatively flat, followed by 1 mile of switchbacks. The 3 miles puts you up approximately 1200 ft above the trailhead on to the top of a hill overlooking Mystic Lake (7,686') and the dam. The trail continues along the lake for its entire length of 2 miles with camp spots scattered along the route. A trail to the left, about a half mile along the lake (Phantom Creek Trail #17) acts as access to Granite Peak via the Froze to Death Plateau, a more popular route. At the end of the lake, the trail crosses a bridge over Huckleberry Creek to an area of large camp spots.

The climbers trail beyond Mystic Lake is not maintained, but manageable with a map and navigational knowledge. A steep, faint trail is visible on and off as it follows Huckleberry Creek for 1 mile to Huckleberry Lake (8,370') and another 1 mile to Princess Lake (9,170'). From here, the trail leaves the lake at the inlet and continues to follow Huckleberry Creek to a cascading waterfall just before Cold Pond. At Cold Pond the trail disappears as you hit a large boulder field above the tree line that requires serious boulder-hopping for about a mile, bringing you to Avalanche Lake (10,000') and the base of Granite Peak. The clear blue water is a magnificent scene with Granite Peak (12,807') towering above you.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Back Packing Essentials
  • Water Filter
  • Shoes with Ankle Support
  • Rain Gear
  • Bear Spray
  • Fishing Rod
  • Photo Gear
  • GPS
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Backpacking, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Rock Climbing

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



21 Miles

Elev. Gain:

6200 Feet


Easy Parking

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Added by Derek Tice

Adventurer || Designer || Snowboarder

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