The Beartooth Beer Hike is near the Montana-Wyoming border between Yellowstone National Park to the south and the small community of Red Lodge, Montana to the north. This is remote country except for a steady stream of vehicular traffic crossing between the two states via Beartooth Pass, a heart-ramping drive with spectacular views along the way.
The hike is better known as the Lost Lake hike, an in-and-out route that follows the Lake Fork of Rock Creek – being a New Mexican, I think it would be more appropriate to call it Rock River. Montana hiking struck me as a place to be a lot more worried about bears than most places I hike – grizzly bears in particular are an unfamiliar quantity worthy of substantial caution. As it turned out, I didn’t encounter any wildlife on this hike but I was tuned in and ready just the same.
The route to Lost Lake is a steady uphill march along a beautiful forested trail periodically punctuated by pretty grassy meadows. The path never strays far from the rushing stream. There was no traffic when I was there — we didn’t encounter another soul. The steep valley is flanked by mountains on both sides of the stream. Waterfalls spill off these mountains occasionally along the way. Like most hikes I undertake, this is another one that was great for building thirsts.
Post-hike, we retreated to Red Lodge Ales, a small brewery operation just north of the town. Red Lodge was a nice base for a couple of days. The former gold and coal mining community has some nice old bones that I imagine old-timers consider to be inhabited now by a pretty foo-foo crowd. The main drag caters to the passing tourist traffic with a good (more than is justified by the 2000 population) collection of knick-knack places, coffee spots, and places to eat. I stayed with some acquaintances on a ranch near town with big sky views.
Red Lodge Ales was a busy place. Contrary to their name, they also offered a fine lager or two. I enjoyed a Dos Goatees Doppelbock, a strong (8% ABV) malty brew that their menu notes is a two-time gold medal winner of the North American Beer Awards.
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