Get outside: Beartooth meadows show off colors even when frozen

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The Lake Fork is one of the most popular trails in the Beartooth Mountains. Just south of Red Lodge, the path is well constructed with only gradual elevation gains. 

The Broadwater Meadow is a relaxing destination on a cool early fall day — a seven mile round-trip hike. Rewards include the possibility of moose sightings, fresh huckleberries and raspberries, and sweeping mountain views. 

In the winter, two out of three ain’t bad, even if you have to work a lot harder. Plus there’s a trade off for the berries; the creek can freeze in psychedelic blue shapes that rival any wildflower in beauty. 

Take Highway 212 about 10 miles south of Red Lodge and turn right on to the Lake Fork Road. The pavement may be icy and snow-covered, but it’s usually navigable until a gate not quite a mile later. 

From there, a trail follows the south side of the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, or the road is frequented by cross country skiers, snowshoers, or just hikers on the relatively packed snow. It’s a little more than a mile from the gate to the trailhead. 

The trail is relatively easy to follow, and parallels the creek for much of the trail. Fresh snow piles on rocks, turning them into a vision of marshmallows. Water freezing along rocks creates too many icicles to count. 

Broadwater Meadow winter

The Broadwater Meadow up the Lake Fork Trail in the Beartooth Mountains pictured in December.

The meadow is easy to spot, even in winter. It makes an ideal place for a snack while soaking up the views, and most likely, a turn-around point. Crazed souls can continue farther up the trail to destinations like Lost Lake or a scenic bridge that crosses the creek. 

Be conscious of daylight; the creek drainage quickly chills during the evening. But on a nice, sunny day, views at the meadow put a more positive spin on the idea of winter blues. 

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