Beartooth Mountains: Fishing the Hellroaring Lakes

In All, Camping and Backpacking, Fishing, Montana by DylanLeave a Comment

Flowers and Hairpin Lake.

Hairpin Lake on the Hellroaring Plateau. (Click image to buy print)

I explored the Beartooth Mountains for the first time ever. And well, was blown away!! I felt like I was walking in the Alaskan Tundra. It was windy, stark, barren and above all GORGEOUS!!

The trip began with a drive up a moderate 4-wheel drive road, which climbed roughly 4,000 feet to the beginning of the Hellroaring Pleateau. My friend Marneé and I met my dad Ricki and his friend Bob at the trailhead. It took us well under 2 hours to get to the first lake, Snowbank, and only minutes after that to get to our destination, Hairpin Lake.

 

The group heading in.

The group heading in.

 

Here's Ricki fishing Haripin Lake.

Ricki fishing Haripin Lake.

 

This was the average Cutty.

This was the average Cutty.

We fished Hairpin Lake all afternoon, catching big healthy Cutthroat Fish, all averaging well over 12 inches. As the sun went down, we headed down to Snowbank Lake and caught Brook Trout. Well, Ricki and Bob did, I got skunked.

We fried the fish, steamed them and finally cooked them wrapped in tin foil. We stuffed them with lemons, garlic and some Old Bay. Tin foil in the fire was by FAR the best!

The next morning the Sun lit up the entire eastern facing basin. It was spectacular!! The reflections were damn impressive, especially speckled in the rocks.

 

Ricki fishing snowbank.

Ricki fishing snowbank. (Click to buy image)

 

Cooking the fish in the twilight.

Cooking the fish in the twilight.

 

Morning light on Hairpin Lake.

Morning light on Hairpin Lake. (Click image to buy print)

 

Lot's of rocks

As the sun comes up… (Click image to buy print)

The Sun warmed up camp and we ditched our sweatshirts.

We headed around the corner to Rockslider Lake. It was a short hike, but the scrambling made it pretty technical.

Most of the day at Rockslider was spent napping, fishing, and napping some more. We did see two other groups of fishermen, but the lake was so big, up to 245 feet deep, we had no problem not competing for the same run. We carried six fish back to camp and had another “fish fry.”

 

Marneé enjoying the morning light

Marneé enjoying the morning light.

 

Bob on the way to Rockslider Lake.

Bob on the way to Rockslider Lake.

The last section of Rocks to Rockslider Lake

The last section of rocks to Rockslider Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we decided to climb past the waterfall above the head of Hairpin Lake. Again, it was all scrambling over big and small boulders.
I fished along the way, catching a few healthy sized fish.

Once we got to the head of Hairpin Lake we were able to find grassy routes up through the sea of boulders. We also saw sign of Mountain Goat. Hair and scat to be precise.

Past the grass, at the base of the waterfall, the pitch become close to 30 degrees. The rocks were loose and the wind was howling. It was literally two feet up, one foot down. But the reward was a glacier. Super rad!

 

Circumnavigating Hairpin Lake .

Circumnavigating Hairpin Lake .

 

Looking down toward Hairpin Lake (HDR image).

Looking down toward Hairpin Lake — HDR image. (Click image to buy print)

 

Heading back from the glacier.

Ricki loving the sight of the glacier.

 

Bob at the top.

Bob at the top.

 

Grinding the rocks on the way down.

Grinding the rocks on the way down.

 

Grassy knoll above Hairpin Lake.

Grassy knoll above Hairpin Lake. (Click image to buy print)

 

Looking back up tow where the glacier was.

Looking back up tow where the glacier was.

Because of the ominous clouds we decided to pack up camp and head back to the truck. We figured it’d be better to get wet car camping than packing out wet gear the next morning.

 

Heading back to the truck

Heading back to the truck.

We drove down the rough road and out to Red Lodge for a burger at Red Box Car. We then drove over the Beartooth Highway to Wyoming, where we camped at Island Lake.

We woke to a thick haze from forest fires in the near lying regions. We still found good views from, ironically, the Clay Butte fire tower. From there, we headed north from the fire tower, along the ridge of Clay Butte.

 

Smokey mountains looking south.

Smokey mountains looking south. (Click image to buy print)

 

Wispy clouds above the Beartooth Mountains.

Wispy clouds above the Beartooth Mountains. (Click image to buy print)

 

Finishing up the day hike.

Finishing up the day hike.