Here in Montana, the first day of 2010 is just plain cold. It’s too cold to venture outside for much longer than fifteen minutes, too cold to really enjoy skiing or snowshoeing. In times like these, cabin fever begins to creep into the soul and I find myself dreaming about hiking in the mountains. Winter is a great time to take stock, peruse guide books, study maps and begin planning the hikes you would like to conquer once winter loses its icy grip.
During 2010, my sights are set on the following hikes, listed in order from shortest to longest distance.
- Glacier Lake is a 4 mile round-trip hike in Custer National Forest near Red Lodge. Gaining about 1200 feet in two miles, this trail is a short but steep trek up to a beautiful alpine lake in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area.
- Beartooth High Lakes is an 8.5 mile shuttle hike through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness from Island Lake Trailhead to Beartooth Lake Trailhead. This area is full of lakes and trails and could easily be turned into a loop or out-and-back hike if you do not have the option of arranging a shuttle. I’ve done a lot of hiking in this amazing area, but have yet to visit all of the Beartooth High Lakes.
- Iceberg Lake is a 10 mile round-trip hike in the Many Glacier Valley of Glacier National Park. Hikers climb about 1000 feet in 5 miles along the way to a beautiful lake in prime grizzly habitat. Chunks of ice linger in the lake through September lending this lake its name.
- The Helmet and the Sphinx is an 11.5 mile loop through the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area near Ennis. The trail begins and ends at Bear Creek Campground gaining almost 3000 ft in elevation as it passes through the gorgeous mountains of the Madison Range.
- The Loop follows Glacier National Park’s popular Highline Trail for 7.6 miles to Granite Park Chalet before dropping 4 miles down to Going-to-the-Sun Road along the Loop Trail. Hikers will experience about 1000 feet of elevation gain as they enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Glacier National Park’s free hiker shuttle system along Going-to-the-Sun Road makes setting up a shuttle from Logan Pass to The Loop easy.
- Upper Holland Lake is a 12 mile loop with 3000 ft elevation gain from Holland Lake to Upper Holland Lake in Flathead National Forest north of Seeley Lake. On Memorial Day a few years ago, I attempted this hike and made it the first 6 miles before some lingering snowdrifts forced me to turn back. This area is beautiful and I would like to finish what I started.
- Pebble Creek traverses 12 miles through Yellowstone National Park from Warm Creek Trailhead to Pebble Creek Campground. The first 1.5 miles is a challenging 1000 foot climb up to Pebble Creek, but the final 10.5 miles follows the creek downhill.
- Dawson-Pitamakan is a popular 18.8 mile loop in the Two Medicine Valley of Glacier National Park. The trail gains 3000 ft in elevation as it leads hikers over three mountain passes.
- Sundance Pass leads hikers for 19 miles from the Lake Fork Trailhead to the West Fork Trailhead in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness near Red Lodge. To conquer Sundance Pass, hikers must climb about 3700 feet.
- The Beaten Path blazes for 26 miles through the heart of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness from the East Rosebud Trailhead to the Clarks Fork Trailhead passing nearly twenty pristine alpine lakes along the way. Arranging a shuttle to complete this hike is tricky. One recommended solution is to split into two hiking parties, each one starting from opposite ends of the trail and then meeting up in the middle to swap keys. When starting from the East Rosebud Trailhead, the trail gains about 4000 feet in elevation, while it only gains about 2200 feet when starting from the Clarks Fork Trailhead.
Although it may not be possible to complete all of these hikes in 2010, it’s fun to dream. Summer will be here before we know it and when it arrives, make the most of every opportunity to realize your hiking goals.