Mystic Lake is a magical spot nestled in the Beartooth Mountains of southern Montana, not far from the breathtaking Yellowstone National Park. While the lake has a dam and is used to generate hydro-electricity, the area is largely blissfully unspoiled – a tranquil spot within the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The lake is the deepest in these mountains, and has a surface elevation of 2,328m. It is a perfect place for photography and outdoors recreation, and also supports a rainbow trout fishery. www.travelrows.com
Getting to Mystic Lake
To reach Mystic lake, take 1-90 east of Bozeman or west from Billings and exit at Columbus. Then take MT-78 N and follow this route to MT-419 (Nye Road). Drive through Fishtail then take a left onto West Rosebud Road and continue for 17 miles to reach the beginning of the trail.
Mystic Lake on the map:
Mystic Lake Trails
Mystic lake is the destination for one of the best hiking trails in this part of the state. At the trailhead there are a couple of campgrounds, and the dam infrastructure. The trail is well traveled, and you are unlikely to be alone. But this will surely not diminish your enjoyment of these beautiful natural surroundings.
After officially entering the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness, the Mystic Lake Trail ascends – climbing up out of the forest and making a series of switchback turns across a boulder field. The reward for your climb are the stunning views over Mystic Lake that lie just beyond that rocky obstacle. The walk to reach the lake is around 5.5 miles there and back again, or 8.5 if you continue round the lake.
Once you reach this stunning lake, you can continue on the three mile trail that leads around the shoreline, before returning to the start point of your walk. You could also simply stop and take some time to do a little fishing, or simply to enjoy the sun reflecting off the water and the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding forest and mountain peaks.
The hike is moderately easy, (the most challenging part is the steep section of switchbacks near the top) and in summer you will often see families and more inexperienced hikers on the trail. There is plenty of shade along much of the route, and the rewarding views of the lake to look forward to during the most challenging section.
However, the hike should really only be undertaken during the summer months, between May and September, unless you are experienced with hiking in snow. Outside peak season, this can quickly become a far more challenging hike.
If you want to hike alone – look elsewhere for a summer hike. But if you don’t mind a bit of company, and are looking for a relatively easy hike in stunning surroundings, then the Mystic Lake trail could be the perfect choice for you.