The Beartooth Loop Trail isn’t a hike for beginners. This trail is part of the National Recreation Trail system overseen by the US Department of Agriculture. It gives you a taste of the incredible diverse Beartooth Plateau, starting with a deceptively pleasant downhill followed by a few uphills and even more downhill sections. That makes for a lot of uphill that you’ll have to haul out on the return trip. It’s a rocky trail as well, so don’t wear your lightweight running shoes. Choose something with good soles and support.
What Makes It Great
This is a well-marked lollipop trail that travels through absolutely amazing scenery. Forests and meadows, boulders and cirque lakes abound on this hike. If you’re looking for a tough trail for experienced hikers, this is it. It’s definitely worthy of a notch on your trekking poles and that big burger you’ll inhale once you get back to town.
The Beartooth Loop Trail starts with a burly descent into Gardner Lake at 0.7 mile. From here you’ll head south to the Little Rock Creek Trail at 1.5 miles. Go downhill, through the meadow and the Little Rock Creek Canyon where you’ll cross two creeks at 2.5 and 2.75 miles. No wet shoes here. Once you leave the canyon you’ll hike into a lovely valley and another trail junction at 3.9 miles. Stay right toward Camp Sawtooth. There’s another creek crossing at 4.1 miles then you’ll go downhill again to a swampy patch. Small rock cairns make the trail. Further on is another trail junction at 6.0 miles. Continue onto the Stockade Lake Trail. You’ll head uphill to Stockade Lake at 7.0 miles. Losekamp Lake sits at 7.8 miles and then you’ll find yet another trail intersection. Go right towards Tibbs Butte Pass. This uphill section ends at the pass at 9.3 miles. At the 9.7 mark you’ll finish the loop of the trail and return to Gardner Lake. Remember, this will be an uphill slough for the next 1.5 miles.
Who is Going to Love It
The Beartooth Loop is perfect for someone who doesn't have many days to spend hiking and exploring the area. You’ll get all the exercise you want, see the incredible landscape, probably see all sorts of wildlife and do something not a lot of people have done. If you have just one day for hiking, you can’t go wrong with this trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody, take WY-120 north to the junction with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, 16.8 miles. Turn left and travel 62.7 miles to the intersection with the Beartooth All American Scenic Highway, US 212. Turn right (east) and travel to the Beartooth Loop National Recreation Trail parking lot at 84 miles. Be advised it’s at least a two hour drive to the trailhead - start early.
This can be a buggy hike so take DEET and your ever-present bear spray. Some of the creek crossings can be significant, especially early in the season. There are no fees and leashed pets are permitted. Also, it’s wise to check the road conditions of the Beartooth Highway before heading out. Summer snowstorms and rock slides often close the road.