Get Lost at Lost Lake
Lost Lake on the Lake Fork Trail
Our Beartooth Mountains hold some pristine creeks, trails, and lakes. The nice part is that most of them aren’t that difficult to get to. The Lake Fork Trail can take you places, and one of those places is to Lost Lake.
It’s an easy hike, but at nearly 5 miles from the trailhead you are walking for quite a while. Fortunately the scenery is amazing, and the destination is well worth it.
The Trail to Lost Lake
The nicest part about the trail to Lost Lake is that you don’t gain much elevation. Over the course of 4.9 miles, from the trailhead to the lake, you rise just 1,325. There’s very little downhill on the way in, which means very little uphill on the way out. It’s a relaxing hike that can be done in just a couple of hours if you keep a good pace and don’t stop.
As you begin, you cross a wooden bridge over the Lake Fork Creek. The trail then follows along the creek the entire way with less than a few hundred feet variance. Along the way you walk through trees, through meadows, past rock slides, and you get great views of the mountains around you, the creek below, snow capped peaks in the distance, and waterfalls cascading down the precipices.
About a mile from the trailhead keep an eye to the left (south) and watch for Silver Falls. If you’re into winter sports, ice climbing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing, the falls freeze up nicely. They create a popular ice climb.
As you walk keep an eye out for moose. There are quite a few in the area, and often they have babies with them. A mama moose is just as dangerous as a grizzly bear.
Finding the Turn Off to the Lake
If you have a GPS, you should be able to find the turn off from the main trail to Lost Lake without too many problems. However, if you don’t, you will likely end up walking to the second bridge that crosses back over the Lake Fork Creek. There are no markings on the turn, and it’s easy to miss; especially in the early season when there are still patches of snow around.
If you hit the bridge, turn around and backtrack about 300 yards. Don’t mind the random trails that go up into the woods, they meander around and you won’t find the lake. When you do find the right trail, it’s just a couple hundred yards up the hill to the lake. You pop out about the middle, so you’ll have a little more hiking to get to the good fishing spots.
Fishing Lost Lake
Lost Lake has some enormous cutthroat trout. And they’re very keen on being fished. As you stand along the banks, you can see these fish slowly swim past. Many appear to be over 20 inches. But if you can see them, they can most likely see you. So they won’t be biting on what you throw in. I have tried worms, lures, jigs, and everything you can think of. The only luck I had was on a silver spinner that I happened to pull in front of a small school; one bit likely out of irritation.
What I have heard from others that fish this lake there are two ways to ensure you catch dinner. A flyrod with ultralight line will make it so the fish can’t see your line, and a tiny little midge about the size of an ant. Then, to ensure success, you have to bushwhack your way around to the back side of the lake. The front is popular and too many people scare away the fishies. The back, however, doesn’t get fished nearly as hard.
Furthering Adventures on the Lake Fork
If you need a moderate day hike, Lost Lake is your destination. If you’re looking for something a bit further, or perhaps an overnight camp trip, then you can continue on the Lake Fork Trail. Keyser Brown Lake is a couple miles further. You can head up the canyon, off trail, to First Rock Lake or Second Rock Lake, or follow the trail to September Morn Lake. If you want some serious adventure, you can cross over Sundance Pass and hike out to the West Fork Trailhead, a 19 mile trek.
Finding the Trailhead
Lake Fork Trail is easy to get to. Simply head south out of Red Lodge as though you’re going to drive the Beartooth Pass. About 11 miles from the center of town you will see a small sign that says “Lake Fork”. Follow the Lake Fork Road for about 1.5 miles and you’re at the trailhead!
Scott is a writer, outdoor enthusiast, beer snob, and woodworker. When he is not out exploring all of the wonders around Billings, he loves to sit down for a frosty brew at one of the many great breweries we have available to us. You can read about most of his adventures, and many of the fine brews he has sipped right here. Find out more about Scott at ScottSery.com