Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Elbow Lake

July 29, 2023  •  1 Comment

We kicked off our backcountry season this year (July 7-9) with a new spot for us, Elbow Lake. Our friends who had been before all had great things to say. Here are my favorite photos from the trip, enjoy!

We started off early to beat the heat since it was going to be uphill the entire 8 miles to the lake. There was plenty of water for the dogs along the way which was great.

20230707-jwf-007820230707-jwf-0078NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-007320230707-jwf-0073NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Once we started to climb out of the forest, the views of the valley keep getting better and better. The wildflowers were great, but I think we missed the peak of the balsam root by a few days.

20230707-jwf-009220230707-jwf-0092NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-010520230707-jwf-0105NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-011120230707-jwf-0111NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-012020230707-jwf-0120NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-013220230707-jwf-0132NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-013420230707-jwf-0134NPS / Jacob W. Frank

With breaks and lunch, it took us about 6 hours to climb the 3,400 ft and 8 miles with full packs. When we arrived, we were the only people at the lake. We picked a spot to throw up our tents, made dinner, and watched the sunset while enjoying hot apple cider and bourbon.

20230707-jwf-019620230707-jwf-0196NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-020120230707-jwf-0201NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230707-jwf-024720230707-jwf-0247NPS / Jacob W. Frank

The following morning we woke up at sunrise to a completely still lake. We made coffee and breakfast along the shore and watched the light slowly creep down the face of the giant granite walls. There are a few lakes in the basins above Elbow Lake, and our plan for our layover day was to explore the basin to the east of Cowen.

20230708-jwf-0273-Pano20230708-jwf-0273-PanoNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-027620230708-jwf-0276NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-028620230708-jwf-0286NPS / Jacob W. Frank

We started to pick our way up through the boulders and along the creek between the two lakes.

20230708-jwf-029820230708-jwf-0298NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-030520230708-jwf-0305NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-031220230708-jwf-0312NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-031420230708-jwf-0314NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-033220230708-jwf-0332NPS / Jacob W. Frank

After taking in the views along the upper lake, we decided to hike up to the ridge for our turnaround spot.

20230708-jwf-033620230708-jwf-0336NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-033920230708-jwf-0339NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-035020230708-jwf-0350NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-035420230708-jwf-0354NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-037020230708-jwf-0370NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-037920230708-jwf-0379NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-038220230708-jwf-0382NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-038520230708-jwf-0385NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-038920230708-jwf-0389NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-039220230708-jwf-0392NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-040520230708-jwf-0405NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-040920230708-jwf-0409NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-041620230708-jwf-0416NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230708-jwf-044920230708-jwf-0449NPS / Jacob W. Frank

It was a spectacular day in the mountains. The weather held out all day and we were able to swim back at Elbow Lake before the sun dipped behind the ridge. Around that same time another group of friends showed up in time to eat dinner with us. At sunset we started a fire and passed around the bourbon until it was gone. A great end to an even better day.

20230708-jwf-053120230708-jwf-0531NPS / Jacob W. Frank

The next morning we were treated to another great sunrise. We ate breakfast while our gear dried out in the morning sun. Eventually we packed up and headed back to the car.

20230709-jwf-0549-Pano20230709-jwf-0549-PanoNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230709-jwf-055120230709-jwf-0551NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230709-jwf-055720230709-jwf-0557NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230709-jwf-056520230709-jwf-0565NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20230709-jwf-058120230709-jwf-0581NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Overall we had a blast, and it's likely that this will turn into a yearly visit. There are a ton of areas to explore above the lake, so each visit can be a little different. I think a push for the Cowen summit is also likely in the future. Here's the profile of our trip including the layover day, from the trailhead to the highest point we reached. 

Screen Shot 2023-12-29 at 5.55.40 PMScreen Shot 2023-12-29 at 5.55.40 PM Screen Shot 2023-07-16 at 7.44.24 AMScreen Shot 2023-07-16 at 7.44.24 AM

Thanks for dropping in, Cheers!

Jake


Comments

Jeff(non-registered)
With pics like this you’ll probably have more company on your next trip up. A perfect way to spend a “layover” day. Thanks for posting this.
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