Mystic Lake is arguably the most popular day hike destination in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains. That is to say, sometimes there are some people on it. Sometimes. Mystic Lake is also the Beartooth’s deepest and largest lake, at over 300 feet deep and stretching two miles in length. This is more than likely due to the attached hydroelectric damn, that admittedly does very little to dampen the lake’s unbelievable beauty. The hike in is managable for folks in any resemblance of good shape, and the views will stop you dead in your tracks, about every 10 steps.

We visited late last summer, and were lucky enough to have some fine folks from local backpack maker Mystery Ranch on hand as guides. We hit some nasty weather, caught a couple trout, hiked a few trails and bushwhacked a few more. With Tempest, Mystic, and Granite Peak mountains looming overhead and at least three other lakes within half a day’s walk, this section of southern Montana is truly a gem. And it’s only three hours outside of Bozeman—a relative breeze by Montana standards.

A word to the wise though — pay attention to forecasts as weather can and often does change dramatically without a moment’s notice, so pack rain gear and additional supplies.