Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
3,264.00 ft (994.87 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
14.40 mi (23.17 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Crow Lake is a stunning alpine lake in Montana’s rugged and beautiful Beartooth Mountains. Less visited than its nearby neighbor, Sylvan Lake, Crow Lake is a prime backcountry destination. Several unnamed crags of the East Rosebud Plateau tower over the lake to the south, giving Crow Lake the perfect picturesque background.

The trailhead can be accessed either at the West Fork of Rock Creek or on the western side from East Rosebud. From the East Rosebud side, find the trailhead on the far end of the campground loop. The trail runs along Spread Creek, climbing almost immediately and entirely through new forest growth. The 2008 Cascade Fire burned approximately 10,000 acres in this area, and its burn scar is still evident across the mountainside.

A long series of switchbacks await once the trail turns away from Spread Creek. With the forest canopy gone, colorful displays of wildflowers are visible up the mountain. Most prominent of the wildflowers is fireweed, a tall magenta-pink flower that quickly establishes itself in disturbed areas like forest fire sites.

The trail eventually takes you into the unburnt portion of the mountainside, providing both shade and water from several creek crossings. Once you leave the timberline, it is clear you’re making your approach to the plateau. The trail disappears on the alpine tundra, but several large rock cairns help point you across the plateau and back into the forest. Be sure to take in the phenomenal views to your west, which include Shepard Mountain and Mount Hole in the Wall on the Froze to Death Plateau.

After the plateau crossing, the trail winds back down into the forest. The junction to Sylvan Lake comes up quickly. Those with extra vigor and time can take the 0.6-mile one-way trip to Sylvan Lake to enjoy the sights and take their chances at hooking a golden trout from its waters.

From the junction it is another 1.4 miles to the Crow Lake junction. From the Crow Lake junction, it is only a half mile push uphill to Crow Lake. A backcountry camping spot is evident right before Crow Lake. From here, follow the fishing trail to your left (across the lake outlet) and around the lake to find other common backcountry sites. If you'll be there for the day, a large boulder field on the northwest side of the lake makes for an excellent fishing spot.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Gorgeous alpine lake. Less-travelled.

Cons

First several miles are steep with little shade.

Trailhead Elevation

6,378.00 ft (1,944.01 m)

Highest point

9,642.00 ft (2,938.88 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Fishing
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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