Cooke City to the Broadwater River

Remnants of days gone by near the trailhead

Aside from the snoring I slept fairly well…until about 5:00 when it became apparent, after tossing and turning for an hour, that I wasn’t going to fall back to sleep with both Canadians snoring away. I snuck out to the trusty Rav4 with sleeping bag in tow and attempted to sleep in the back seat. Without a decent pillow I was forced to use the roof bag but without much success. I think I managed to doze off just after first light.

We managed to avoid the dreaded condensation in the tent during the night but it did rain lightly. It wouldn’t take long to dry as the sun was already starting to peek over the foothills to the east.

We broke camp just as easily as it went up and were soon on our way down to Cooke City for breakfast at the Bearclaw Bakery---Bob’s favorite breakfast joint.

We were able to snag the one open table just before a few other groups entered. Our waiter, Trevorl, was a funny young chap who kept us laughing with his dry sense of humor. He poked fun at Brad for having a pink “swoosh” on his Nike hat, being Canadian and for ordering the large portion of french toast, which he qas positive Brad could not finish. If memory serves, Trevor was correct about that one.

Lady of the Lake

Our last meal before hitting the trail was a good one and for those of you keeping score at home, the tanning bed was still in the rest room.

I had a fairly good idea of where the trailhead was located but wasn’t positive where to go other than up the Lulu Pass road and then hanging a right somewhere. I was hoping for some signage directing us to the Lady of the Lake trailhead but we never did see any.

The road itself was in fairly decent condition but I was still worried about the trusty Rav4’s suspension with all of the added weight so I took it slowly. We came to a dead stop about ¼ mile up the road when we spied a young male grizzly feeding 50’ from the road. This was a gentle reminder that we needed to take precautions with our food at the lower elevations.

After about 15 minutes we came upon a small parking area with 4 cars parked and the typical NFS board with the usual information. This had to be it. We got out, laced up our boots, shouldered our packs and popped some vitamin I. It was 10 AM...game on

Bob showing good napping form along the shores of Lady of the Lake

Except we couldn’t find a trail.

After perusing the map we decided that we were not at the right spot after all and that the trail we wanted was about a ½ mile away. Instead of packing up the trusty Rav4 and driving over we hiked down Lulu Pass Road another ¼ mile until we got to a junction, then walked another ¼ mile past the remnants of an old mine. Deciding to hike the road turned out to be a good thing as the trusty Rav4 would have never made it through the deeply rutted and muddy muddy track near the mine.

Meanwhile, the map clearly showed the trail began at the end of that road, but all we could see were 2 abandoned cabins, a rusted out Chevy and a bunch of ammunition casings on the ground. WTF? Brad and I spread out to begin looking for the trail. It was Brad that found it behind the near cabin. To celebrate our first victory we decided to take our first break. It was 10:30, lol.

Jeff crossing the Broadwater

We had to cross a small stream, which upon closer examination was really just excess run off flowing over the trail, before we could really get started and see the path we'd be hiking for a few miles. The trail at this point was wide enough for ATV’s but quickly narrowed. There were no views to be had but no significant elevation gain or loss, either, which was fine with all of us.

After a while it became apparent that Jeff and Bob would become intimately familiar with each other’s back side for the duration of the hike. Bob’s pace, not quite approaching what one could call “slow” in the first place combined with Jeff’s recently surgically repaired knee did wonders for my own morale: I’d either spend a lot of time up front or behind Brad---not in the rear! Further, with no motivation to push the pace, I found myself hiking at an easy pace and felt great despite not doing a thing to get ready for the trip.

We caught our first real glimpses of the mountains and Granite Peak ahead of us during our next rest stop.

In the lead for the first time in years, it didn’t take long until I got to the foot of Lady of the Lake, a long, narrow body of water set in the trees. Nothing spectacular for the Beartooths but good too see nonetheless and the perfect spot to take another break. At the rate we were going I figured we might not ever make it up to the Skytops.

Our first nights camp at 12T 588152 4993208 (8843')

We found a grassy beach with a slight breeze about halfway up the lake and decided to take another break. Breaks, lengthy breaks for no particular reason, would turn out to be the theme of the hike. I filtered some water and chowed down a couple of granola bars while the other 3 guys tried to take naps. Jeff fell asleep in about 5 minutes and started snoring. I’m not sure about Brad, but Bob was in a heightened state of relaxation.

After we managed to leave our prime rest area we had about an hours worth of hiking until we had to start looking for the unmarked Skytop Creek trail. The guidebook said the trail was easily found at an obvious campsite at the confluence of several streams but I had no idea if it was clearly defined or not.

We found an obvious campsite, found a trail and followed it for a while then determined this was just a user trail that led to another boring small waterfall. After retracing our steps and finding nothing “obvious” we crossed Star Creek and there it was.

The trail followed what I believe was the Broadwater River down about 150’ through dense forest until the terrain leveled out. I passed several small meadows before coming to a large grassy clearing along the Broadwater that was just begging to be camped at. I could have gone on but I waited for Bob to ask him what he thought about stopping there for the night. Bob was down with that and so were Brad and Jeff when they ambled past about 5 minutes later.

A look at the Broadwater River from a bit above our camp

With all the flat grassy ground at our disposal it took no time at all to find a spot and set up our shelters which consisted of one Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo, one SMD Wild Oasis, one Tarptent Moment and one TT Contrail.

For such a grassy area there were very few mosquitoes which made for a very relaxing camp---so relaxing that I had nobody to talk to as everyone else was taking a nap before dinner.

Not feeling like cooking anything I settled on some PB&J wraps and chips for dinner then hiked upstream along the river for about 75 yards hoping to get a good shot of some waterfalls or something when it hit me that, we were still in Griz country and I probably shouldn't be creeping stealthily along the noisy river and turned back to camp.

After hanging our food I popped a sleeping pill and was out like a light by 8 PM.


Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, 2012
The Hikers and Special Invite
The Drive West
Island Lake CG
Trip Map
Skytop Creek
Lone Elk Lake
Skytop Lakes
Skytop Lakes
Oly Lake
Fossil Lake
Fox Lake
The Hike Out
The Drive Home
Final Thoughts
Trip Photos
Back to Backcountry Trips

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