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Relieving the heat at Rimrock Lake
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Relieving the heat at Rimrock Lake

When temperatures reach triple digits it's time to escape the suffocating valley heat by visiting a high mountain stream — nature’s A/C.

Rimrock Lake, connected to East Rosebud Creek in the Custer Gallatin National Forest, is the perfect long day hike that provides great views of the Beartooth Mountains.

The 12-mile round trip hike climbs 2,100 feet from the north entrance, where the small community of Alpine is located. To get there, turn south on Interstate 90 onto Highway 78 in Columbus. Follow the road to Roscoe and turn right.

From there, one winding road that switches from dirt to asphalt a couple of times leads to the trailhead. Look out for tire-popping rocks. 

This is the northern starting point for The Beaten Path, a 26-mile trail that connects to the Clarks Fork Trailhead on the other side of the mountains.

At the base of this trail, hikers follow alongside East Rosebud Lake before ascending the creek to a small waterfall. Switchbacks lead past the falls into a large glacier canyon, still recovering from its last wildfire.

The wilderness boundary is just a mile into the hike. Make sure to bring bear spray.

The trail gradually inclines up the canyon to Elk Lake, where many backpackers stay and day trippers turn around. Move left around the lake, and begin the ascent to Rimrock Lake.

The most elevation is gained here on rock field switchbacks. The trail hugs a tight ravine as it passes a 100-foot waterfall. At Rimrock, an old wood bridge crosses the bottom of the lake.

There is a nice spot to sit and eat lunch with a view of the high peaks of the Beartooth Mountains.

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