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Home Wild Life Photo Essay: Pine Creek Lake
Aug 29 2019

Photo Essay: Pine Creek Lake

Follow along on this hike to a spectacular alpine lake in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

Exploring Montana

Pine Creek Lake is a well-known destination, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile. The lake is set in a stunning alpine cirque on the west side of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, surrounded by jagged peaks, meadows full of wildflowers, and numerous cascading waterfalls. The trail ends at the lakeshore, but there are plenty of chances to scramble around on the talus slopes that surround the lake, or even to climb to the summit of Black Mountain which, at 10,941 feet, is the second-highest peak in the Absarokas.

Several good campsites exist around the lake, but please take care to minimize your impact - there are plenty of visitors here, and it's up to us to help this specataclar area stay wild and pristine.

To learn more about the hike to Pine Creek Lake, check out the trail description on our online hiking guide, hikewildmontana.org.


Ice above Rattlesnake Creek
Before you get to the shores of Pine Creek Lake, you'll pass the small but stunning Jewell Lake, which is both fed and drained by spectacular waterfalls. 


Camping on Stuart Peak
Make sure you take a moment to admire where you came from - the views aren't bad looking back down the trail.


The Rattlesnake is Missoula's backyard Wilderness
A broad waterfall, fed from the melting snowfields in the cirque above, tumbles into Pine Creek Lake's southwestern end.


Blanketed under snow
Looking west from the top of the waterfall provides great views of the talus slopes, emerald meadows, and jagged peaks that ring the lake.


East face of Mosquito Peak
Looking down the west-facing canyon in the evening provides a nearly unbeatable sunset view. On this day in early August, the sun followed the slope of the ridgeline on the left, extending the sunset for nearly an hour..


Stuart Peak in the Rattlesnake
A moderate 2,0000-foot scramble up Black Mountain serves up panoramic views of the jagged Absarokas and Beartooths.


The crown of the Rattlesnake Wilderness, McCleod Peak
You'll work up a sweat climbing to the summit, so make sure to cool down - carefully - on some the lingering cornices capping the gullies that run off the peak.


A lone tree bears witness to the sunrise
From the summit of Black Mountain, the Pine Creek Basin is spread out before you in all its glory. 


A lone tree bears witness to the sunrise
Even in August, plenty of snow remains in the cirques that surround the lake, and the runoff feeds countless fields of wildflowers at the high elevations.

- Alex Blackmer, MWA communications coordinator

Please set