Beartooth High Lakes, Wyoming

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

35mi (57km) on the Continental Divide

This lollypop loop circuit, as recommended by Lonely Planet Hiking in the USA, starts and (supposedly) finishes at the Island Lake trailhead on the intensely scenic Beartooth Highway, an access to Yellowstone National Park.

The wildflowers here in early August are insanely great.

Unfortunately, the horseflies and mosquitoes are insanely awful. Fish food, I guess.

For all the wildlife in nearby Yellowstone, I was surprised to see nothing larger than this marmot. … Perhaps the mosquitoes drove them out.

The High Lakes hike is aptly named. You trek from one remote lake to the next. With all the granite, at times it reminded me of the Sierra Nevada.

You are going to get your feet wet, for sure. But normally there is a way across the widest streams.

Many love this wilderness for the remote tenting options. Set up wherever you want.

Lonely Planet rates this adventure easy-medium, the worse misranking of any hike in the book. It is correct here:

… Waymarkings and signposts are unreliable. …

The Beartooth High Lakes circuit is very challenging due to the many rocky and wet scrambles. The snow that stays into late July. The lack of signage. Trails that often fizzle out completely.

In fact, I’d not recommend you try it without a good topo and GPS. One lake looks like the next up here.

Here I am wandering out through charming alpine meadows, looking for a good spot to leave a Summit Stone.

Though I was blissfully unaware at the time, I was far lost.

I ended up at the Clay Butte lookout tower, miles from my vehicle. … It was a long highway walk back to my car.

I loved the High Lakes hike. But I’d never do it again until after the mosquitoes are mostly gone. Perhaps September.

The best day hike is the section up to Becker or even Albino lakes.

See all photos from my High Lakes hike.

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