The Beartooth Highway is finally open for the season providing access to some of the best hiking trails in Montana and Wyoming. About 11 miles east of Cooke City along the Beartooth Highway (50 miles west of Red Lodge), Crazy Lakes Trail leads to a string of lakes in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Although snow still covers many of the trails on the Beartooth Plateau at this time of year, Crazy Lakes Trail offers an accessible early season hike to Ivy Lake.
The trailhead is located directly across from Crazy Creek Campground along Highway 212 in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest. Many visitors stop at the Crazy Creek trailhead but most only venture the first half mile up the trail to marvel at Crazy Falls where Crazy Creek cascades impressively over slabs of granite rock. Hikers who continue along the trail past the falls will be rewarded by the solitude and beauty of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
Shortly after passing Crazy Creek Falls, the trail breaks away from the creek leading up through sagebrush meadows interspersed by aspen groves and Douglas Firs. Wildflowers line the path in a diverse array. As the trail gradually climbs the south facing slopes, panoramic views of the surrounding area, including Pilot and Index Peaks, beckon hikers onward. About two miles into the trip, the trail leads hikers around a marshy area that can be quite wet and muddy in June. From here, the trail climbs up through a large area of burnt forest recovering with vast stands of young pine trees. A spur trail leads to Little Moose Lake about 3.5 miles up Crazy Lakes Trail. Take the time to walk down to this small, peaceful lake and climb up the rocks along the northern shore to obtain a beautiful view from a natural perch. Return to the main trail which joins a jeep road as it leads on toward Ivy Lake. Follow the jeep road continuing past the sign indicating Crazy Lakes Trail which leads off to the right. (Crazy Lakes Trail branches away from the jeep road towards the other Crazy Lakes, including Big Moose Lake, Widewater Lake, and Fox Lake, but reaching these lakes requires a longer day hike). After about a half mile, the jeep road ends and a trail leads on to Ivy Lake. Ivy Lake, about 4.5 miles from the trailhead, is the first lake in the chain of Crazy Lakes and is the point where Crazy Creek begins. Enjoy the scenery before heading back toward the Crazy Creek Trailhead.