The Absaroka/Beartooth mountain range is a pure slice of heaven. I have been coming to this area on and off since the early 2000s. I would usually stay at a old hunting cabin located in the Sunlight Basin about 30 minutes away but we would frequent Fantan and Sawtooth Lakes which offer stunning scenery, excellent fishing, and seclusion. I had camped on national forest land a couple miles off the Beartooth Highway near the entrance of these lakes. I found a grassy campsite overlooking the Chain Lakes below. The pic above is my first morning in the area. I woke up early to pee and took this beautiful shot. No editing required.
I was treated with a waterfall by my campsite. Did I mention this is grizzly bear country!
Also the mosquitos were in full force. I had dealt with some bugs in Steamboat and Jackson. Some mosquitoes in the Winds. But noting like here in the Beartooths. These mosquitoes must work out in their down time as they are very aggressive, resilient, and fast. Also they have the numbers. Lucky for me when I was in Pinedale I picked up a head net at the local gear shop. Also I had constructed a screen door for when my van slide door was open. It worked great and kept the bugs out while I was chilling inside.
Here is an evening shot of my campsite. Since this was grizzly country I would clean and pack up all cooking gear after every meal. It was kind of a pain in the ass to keep setting up and stowing my kitchen but I wanted some peace of mind.
Ah the whole reason I am here… Trout! Here are my first keepers from Fantan Lake. When I resupplied for the Beartooths in Jackson I only bought a small package of chicken legs for a week long stay with the intention of having several trout dinners. I stayed for 8 full days and had trout dinners 6 of the 8 days. Nice!
So after catching my fill of trout at Fantan Lake I did a short off trail hike up to Cliff Lake. As many times I have been to Fantan lake I never checked out this one just a short distance away. It was evident why the lake was called Cliff lake with the rock outcropping lining one side of the lake.
Taking a look back at Fantan lake.
One of the Chain Lakes off in the distance.
Taking it all in.
My next fishing trip was to Sawtooth lake. This lake is always windy but its a good sized body of water. You can see the sawtooth rock formation in the background that gives this lake its name.
Fishing was slow going so I made my way to the inlet of the lake and found this neet little waterfall cutting through the granite.
After about 3 hours of casting into the wind and not catching anything, I wanted to call it quits when I decided to give it one more shot casting along a sandy beach from one side to the other. After about 10 casts… Boom.. The fish started biting and caught these 3 brookies.
My favorite dish I made while on the road. Trout and Bacon Quinoa Bowl.
What looked like a break in the weather it was time for a mountain bike ride. I decided to check out the Morrison 4wd road that traverses a bald high alpine section of the range. This was my first lake encounter called Top Lake.
After some woody rocky riding in the lower elevation forest I broke treeline and proceeded up and down rolling alpine hills. The only thing up here was wind blasted trees.
The weather was not the best. Rain was quickly moving in and I pressed on with haste. If you can’t tell, the weather was very finicky during my stay in the Beartooths.
Despite conditions I was certainly having a great time and got a KOM on this route!
This was the end of the road for me and time to turn back. You can see the Sunlight basin down below. If I was to continue on there would be a lot of descending down to the bottom of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River down below.
Some peat bogs off in the distance. This was a fun out and back that I would recommend. It was a great way to experience the backcountry in this beautiful area.
I ran across a fly fisherman in a parking lot when I took a quick ride on my bike to Long Lake earlier in the week. I asked the man how fishing was and he said it was ok at Long Lake but Nite Lake was where he was catching the nice sized trout. After waiting out some weather I made my way over to Nite Lake. It was just a quick 20 minute bike ride from my camp on the other side of the Beartooth Hy.
With a little persistence the nicest trout of my trip were hitting! I was catching tons of fish during my stay in the Beartooths but I was only catching 6″-12″ trout. These were at least 14″!
Jackpot! I caught a nice string and cleaned them by the lake to be cooked later. I was using my spinner rod with a Panther Martin lure. Tried and true.
After a wonder 8 full days of staying at this site (I could have stayed for 14 days for free) it was time to move on. Everything all packed up nice and tidy, I snapped one last shot of my van and the Chain Lakes off in the distance.
I had visited the Beartooth Highway many times but never traversed all the way to the Montana side.
The highway was amazing and it turned out to be one of the most spectacular high alpine drives I have experienced.