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Horseshoe Lake on Lake Plateau a beautiful reward after 30 switchbacks
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Horseshoe Lake on Lake Plateau a beautiful reward after 30 switchbacks

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Horseshoe Lake

The unnamed peak above Horsheshoe Lake is a fun hike for those up for a rocky scramble, but on a bad year for mosquitoes, the elevation won't offer relief from the bugs.

I am not a fan of uphill hiking, but if the trail is shady and the view at the end is beautiful, it's worth it.

That's the benefit of hiking up to the Lake Plateau.

South of Big Timber in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, nearly to the end of the Main Boulder Road, the Upsidedown trail takes you up 3,000 feet in 30 switchbacks to the plateau. It's a gateway to so many stunning lakes and peaks.

If you're able to start early enough in the day, and you're up for a lot of hiking, you can even turn it into a day hike. 

From the trailhead to the lake is about 8 miles, almost all uphill. A funny thing to note at the start: The trailhead's "Upsidedown Trail" sign is hung like its name — upside down.

The trail has few spots to refill water, so take advantage of each creek crossing (there are typically two). Remember, it's wise to drink about an extra liter of water per 1,000 feet of elevation change, so that's a lot of water for a day hike.

About 30 switchbacks later you'll reach the plateau, and then Horseshoe Lake will be another mile or so along the trail. The plateau is prime mosquito habitat, so make sure you bring lots of bug spray and light layers. Sometimes the only relief for a buggy hike is a light long sleeve shirt.

If you bushwhack south from the lake, there's a nice open meadow that you can see several peaks from, including Monument, Haystack and Columbine.

Or, if you choose to try to peak the unnamed mountain above Horseshoe Lake, prepare for a scramble. The terrain is rocky and steep, and the gravel can slip easily underfoot. But the view of the lake and the rest of the plateau is a lovely reward for the peakbagger. But be warned — if you're tired of the bugs and think the elevation may provide relief, you're wrong. This hiker continued to swat mosquitoes on a windy peak, even in the middle of a dry summer.

Those looking for a longer trek can continue farther onto the plateau, and those looking for a day hike or overnight can jaunt back down the switchbacks and grab a rewarding meal in Big Timber. My favorite is a milkshake at the Frostee Freeze.

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