Although millions of summer visitors swarm into Yellowstone National Park to the south, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is blissfully unpeopled year-round, except for dedicated backcountry travelers who come precisely for its emptiness. Unlike in Yellowstone, no paved roads lead into the wilderness area, although a four-wheel-drive vehicle is not essential for access. The wilderness encompasses Montana’s highest mountains, including 12,799-foot Granite Peak; because of that, the prime hiking season (August) is relatively short. Many of the 640 high-mountain lakes may remain partially frozen even into August, especially in the high plateau region. Hikes are moderate to strenuous. Perhaps the most popular trails are those in the East Fork–Rosebud Creek area (35 miles one-way), where numerous lakes rest in alpine basins above 9,000 feet. Keep in mind that this is grizzly-bear country. You can get information and permits from Custer National Forest in Billings, or Gallatin National Forest in Bozeman.
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