If you're looking for a quiet and challenging hike away from tourists, Campfire Lake in the Crazy Mountain Range is a great option.
The trail winds through thick forests into open meadows, follows creeks and leads you up to a ridge that gives you a stunning view of Campfire Lake. Once you descend down to the lake, take out the fishing rod for a chance at some small Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.
Head east on I-90 towards Livingston. Turn north on Highway 89 at the Clyde Park exit eventually turning right onto Cottonwood Bench Road soon after you hit town.
From here, follow Forest Service signs for Cottonwood Road to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead.
This hike is long, has poor trail conditions, and includes a ridge, making for a difficult hike.
Averaging about 2 miles per hour, you'll get to the lake in 3 1/2 hours. With Some time at the lake, and another ridge hike, plan on a full day of 8 to 9 hours.
This route starts at 6759 feet above sea level and ends at 8250 feet.
However, since you climb to a ridge and descend down the other side, you reach a maximum elevation of 9528 feet, and your total elevation gain will feel more like 4047 feet.
The view upon ascending the ridge and looking down at Campfire Lake will take your breath away.
There are several creek crossings and a good portion of the trail follows a stream. Once you start ascending the ridge, there won't be any more opportunities for water until you get down to the lake.
This hike is long and hard, you'll need some energy. Bring a meal and a snack.
The trail starts out wide and well maintained. Once you turn onto Trespass Creek Trail the conditions become poor. Lots of downed trees and brush cover large sections of the trail. The sections of trail not covered in debris are rocky.
If your dog is in good enough shape, it will enjoy this hike.
Cottonwood Road becomes very narrow with lots of ruts and potholes. It's recommended to take a high clearance vehicle.
Beartooth Publishing's Crazy Mountains Map covers this whole trail as well as some road leading to the trailhead.
Although there are only a handful of places to park, this trailhead doesn't get much traffic. You should not have a problem finding a spot.
Don't expect to see too many other folks on the trail, especially after turning north on Trespass Creek.
You'll spend some time in the shade and some time exposed on this hike. Long pants will protect your legs while climbing over downed timber. Dress in layers and prepare for changing conditions.
There can be light mosquitoes and flies near creek crossings, especially early season in the wet basin.
The trail starts in dense forest but thins out as you get higher. As you descend down onto Campfire Lake, you'll re-enter some light forest just below the treeline.
The hike to Campfire Lake is long. Unless you hike fairly fast, this is a good hike to consider for a one night stay. If you choose to, there are places both at the lake and all throughout the drainage while you're heading towards the ridge.
Middle Fork Sweet Grass Trail
Keep heading east past Campfire Lake on the Middle Fork Sweet Grass trail. After roughly 4 miles you'll hit an intersection with plenty of connection options.
North Fork Elk Creek Trail
When you attain the ridge, you'll have a chance to head west and drop down into the Elk Creek drainage. WARNING Do not attempt to reach the North Fork Elk Creek trailhead or the Porcupine cabin from here. Private land access has been closed off and is not accessible to hikers.