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Hiking in Montana

Montana, United States, North America: One giant leap: The world is your playground in the Beartooth Mountains's insider take:

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, a million-acre chunk of public forest, lends itself to Montana-size superlatives. The Beartooth is the largest alpine plateau in the U.S., with nearly 1,500 miles of trails, almost 30 peaks that spiral up to 12,000 feet, and hundreds of lakes (some two dozen are home to rare golden trout). The plateau is the kind of place where a well-equipped hiker with ample provisions and preparedness can disappear for days, if not months. But be wise: If you're not experienced, go with a guide, or you might disappear in a bad way. A good place to start is the East Rosebud Lake trailhead, west of Red Lodge. The relatively easy trail follows a chain of lakes and passes beneath massive rock buttresses; stop for a picnic three miles later at Elk Lake, or push on to Rainbow Lake for a longer outing (14 miles, round-trip). For a more challenging overnight trip, begin at the East Fork of Mill Creek, south of Livingston, and follow the strenuous trail eight miles north to Elbow Lake, where you'll camp beneath the towering alpine architecture of Cowen Cirque. For guide services, contact local guide Ron Brunkhorst (406-578-2155; For a more kid-friendly summer outing, amble through the Lewis and Clark Caverns, a popular state park also in southwest Montana, near Three Forks (about a half-hour drive from Bozeman). The charmingly corny guided tour through the spectacular limestone caves combines geology with local history.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.