When you turn off Route 78 in Roscoe, Montana between Red Lodge and Columbus to drive to the East Rosebud Lake the pavement disappears fairly quickly and your vehicle is soon dust covered.
Don’t moan, complain, or worry about the washing of chrome and paint that will have to be done later. Keep your eyes fixed dead ahead and your mouth shut so that every time it drops open at another awe-inspiring view you can let it have its way.
This drive approaching the canyon is gorgeous, breathtaking, God-given, and every other descriptive word of beauty that you can dream up.
Thirty years had passed since my first trek to the East Rosebud and that was far too long to miss out on visiting this gem. The lime green meadows have deep evergreens shooting skyward while they lead your eye up the mountain slopes to the colorful ridges, some still touched with snow.
Last summer my brother-in-law and niece hiked the 26 mile stretch from atop the Beartooth Pass in Cooke City down to East Rosebud Lake. It took them four days and was worth every arduous step that their booted feet took. At least going that direction it’s more down than up.
We hiked a bit of the Elk trail and passed serious backpackers headed up the steep hills to Cooke City and, incongruously, a guy carrying nothing but a Subway bag—the nearest of those is more than twenty-five miles away.
The trail is mostly exposed, so keep the sunscreen on your skin and the hat on your head. Even if you think you have tough skin, the western sky is so clear that it’s easy to get burnt.
Kicking up a froth
Still violent water
Wouldn't ride these rapids
Montana is a place that will captivate your heart, so be ready when you’ll visit … because once you see the beauty of this state and let it seep into your soul, you’ll never be the same.
Location: the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Custer National Forest, Roscoe Montana, Highway 78
Best time to go: spring to autumn, but that’s because I don’t like being cold.