Teton Wilderness, Absaroka's, Brooks Lake, Cub Creek Backpack Loop


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
I did this 3 day backpacking trip back in July. I figured I would post a report in light of the recent bear attack that happened somewhere in the Cub Creek drainage a few weeks ago. But on this trip, horses would create more problems than bears. Trip map can be found here: http://caltopo.com/map?id=5G1D Full trip video below:


Brooks Lake



I had just gotten down to Wyoming, after spending the previous month up in Glacier, and was anxious to get out on the trail with my good friend Ryan. Over a few beers, we ambitiously decided on what appeared to be an easy loop trip in the Teton Wilderness. Cub Mountain was someplace neither of us had been before. Our maps don't show miles, and looking back, it was probably comical to watch us gauge the mileage using our fingers, based on past trips involving the Teton Wilderness map.

Getting started at the Brooks Lake Trailhead

We started on a Friday evening, getting to the Brooks Lake trailhead around 6pm. Brooks Lake, if you haven't seen it, is spectacular. Its a few miles east of Togwotee Pass, in the Shoshone National Forest. Recently, pine bark beetles have killed many of the trees in this area, and as of now the campground on the lake is closed.

View as we rounded Brooks Lake

The mosquitos were in their prime, and we hustled through open meadows, following the creek from Brooks Lake to Upper Brooks Lake.


Me about to ford the creek running between the lakes

Hiking past Upper Brooks Lake

Shortly after, we reached Bear Cub Pass, and entered into the Teton Wilderness. We took a short cut off trail towards Cub Creek, and set up camp in the dark. The skies cleared, a nearly full moon appeared, and we enjoyed a fire. It had taken us just over 2 hours to hike what we figured was around 5 miles. We stayed up late, thinking the next few days were going to be easy, even speculating on doing some side trips with our extra time.

Meadows in the cub Creek drainage


Me at our campfire

Me at our first campsite the following morning

The next morning, we quickly reached cub creek, and followed it up to its headwaters.




Photos along Cub Creek

We found wolf tracks, black bear tracks, and several fresh sets of grizzly tracks that included cubs. Lots of scat as well. Some areas were thick with brush, other sections were open meadows.

A large wolf track, and a bear track

Grizzly scat along cub creek

Me using a log to cross cub creek

Hiking along cub creek.


Hiking through open meadows and wildflowers

As we got near the pass, which I will call Cub Creek Pass, thunderstorms surrounded us and hail began to fall.

Cub Creek Pass (unofficially)

A video from the pass. I'm much more worried about the weather than Ryan.

It soon turned to rain, and would soak us the rest of the day. We dropped down into a beautiful, open valley, and soon were following the South Buffalo Fork river.


The view dropping down from the pass

Hail falling as we make our way down

Continuing down the drainage

We had to cross the creek a few times, which was difficult. It then began to dawn on us that we had several more crossings, farther down river, that were definitely faster and deeper. We had a large bull elk pass by pretty close to the trail. We encountered a few sections of recent fire burn, as we rounded around Cub Mountain, and made our way west.


Hiking in beautiful meadows along the South Buffalo

Looking back up the South Buffalo

We reached a series of river crossings, which the map showed 7 over the course of a few miles. I knew right away it wasn't doable. We couldn't see the bottom in places, and the water was way too fast. We decided to bush whack along the southern side of the river. This proved difficult, and several times we had to climb up several hundred feet to continue on. By the time we reached the trail again, it was close to dark. We found a meadow to camp along, and set up camp in the rain.

The South Buffalo Fork

Following the river edge, avoiding having to cross

Dropping back down to the trail from a fire burned ridge

It finally quit raining right before dark, and we started cooking dinner next to a tree in the meadows. We noticed horses grazing, and smoke burning at the other end. The horses started moving towards us, and it soon became obvious they were intrigued by our presence. I walked away for a few minutes, and when I came back, was surprised to see them only 20 feet away. Ryan was standing up, and asked "do horses attack?" We laughed, but quickly retreated. The horses stormed our food, ripping apart my food bag, chewing on everything, destroying a few of my cooking items. Thinking back, I don't remember why I wasn't filming.

A view of camp from our food prep tree. Shortly before the horses showed up.

I don't know much about horses, but there was definitely 2 horses that were the leaders. They kept growling at us, pacing back and forth starring us down, in front of the other horses who were eating our dinner behind them. A few times they gave us that old "EEEEEE" while standing up on their back legs. We weren't really sure what to do. We left, and eventually they retreated. We came back later in the dark using our headlamps to gather up what was left of our food, and hang it from a tree.


Horses across the meadow we camped on


My tent drenched in the rain

I've spent countless nights in grizzly country, laying awake listening to every noise intently, worried about bears. But this was the first time I worried about horses. They hung around our tent, frequently letting out a low growling sound. Once they stampeded off, causing both of us to jump up inside the tent. Eventually, the horses went to sleep.

In the morning, we set off for Brooks Lake. According to Ryan's phone, which tracks your steps, we had hiked 20 miles the previous day. And it looked to be about the same back to our car. We ran into the outfitter who owned the horses, and he showed us a short cut route that wasn't on the maps. We weren't to sure we trusted him, since the outfitters in the Teton Wilderness tend to not always like hikers/backpackers. We followed the trail to several beautiful lakes, which included Rainbow, Golden, Bertha, and Mackinaw Lakes. We saw several trout swimming around, and Ryan rigged up his go pro to his trekking pole with cord, to film them swimming by.

Setting off along the trail on day 3

Trout swimming in Mackinaw Lake


Bertha Lake

Bertha Lake

Golden Lake. We had to cross the lake to follow our "short cut" trail

Mackinaw Lake

At Golden Lake, we followed the drainage up to Mackinaw Lake, and continued along the "short cut" trail our outfitter buddy had told us about. It was actually in great shape, and ended up cutting some time off our day. We reached the Angle Lakes Trail, and followed that around the western side of Cub Mountain. At first we were mostly hiking through fire burn, but later encountered open vistas and beautiful meadows. The prettiest spot of the trail is right were it drops down to Cub Creek.


Meadows along the trail

Ryan crossing Trail Creek


Where the trail drops down into the Cub Creek drainage

Overlooking the Cub Creek drainage

Another video from along the trail dropping into the drainage

Me crossing Cub Creek, using my tripod for support

We continued on back up to Bear Cub Pass, and then down past the Brooks Lake chain, making it to the car just before 8pm. I was completely exhausted, and had no energy to fight off the mosquitos. According to Ryan's phone, our trip was just over 46 miles.


Looking down at Upper Brooks Lake

Reaching Upper Brooks Lake, just outside the wilderness boundary


View as we hiked out


Me somehow managing to smile near the end of the trip

The end!

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Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
May 15, 2013
Very cool. The trout swimming was pretty sweet to compliment the great scenery of the area. Horses, I swear, are carnivorous. My wife, cousin, and I have been chased by horses. They're skittish, and mildly unpredictable. I guess that's why they're so exciting. Do you have a map for this trip? It sounds awesome enough to mimic.


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
Very cool. The trout swimming was pretty sweet to compliment the great scenery of the area. Horses, I swear, are carnivorous. My wife, cousin, and I have been chased by horses. They're skittish, and mildly unpredictable. I guess that's why they're so exciting. Do you have a map for this trip? It sounds awesome enough to mimic.

Thanks! It was pretty cool how my friend filmed the trout. If we only had our fishing poles.

No maps yet, but I plan to add a trip map to this report in a few weeks when I can access software for it.


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
Wow. That is crazy about the horses. Did you say anything to the outfitter about it?

Yea, we just mentioned that they approached us pretty close. He said "yeah, they do that. They're a curious bunch."


I walk
Jun 25, 2012
Holy smokes! Great report. I would have read the outfitter the riot act. I have never heard of tame horses doing that but I do have a friend who was cliffed (no trees to climb) in the San Rafael Swell when a herd of wild horses charged him. Yikes, they are big.. and like to gang up. I will stick with my moose charges...


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
I would have read the outfitter the riot act.

He had guns. We didn't. I didn't want to pick a fight. This guy ended up being quite nice, and helpful after talking to him a bit. And for the most part, outfitters are nice. But that's not always the case. Outfitters run the show in this region, and sometimes can be confrontational. Some of them don't like backpackers that much. They really view it as their turf. They pull up trail marker signs, and don't want people hiking on "their" trails. So we were just happy to be done with it.


Dec 23, 2013
Love the time of year you backpacked this with all the deep greens in the vegetation. Definitely worth putting on my bucket list for say 2025! :) Seriously though, I might be able to work it in on a Columbus Day trip in the future.


Mar 3, 2013
Man, 2025....... I have to go sooner than that.


Mar 13, 2012
Looks like some neat country with some interesting to say the least crossings. We did a hike a number of years ago in New Mexico in the Gila Wilderness - thought the stream was a "small" stream. Well we had 2 inches of rain the day we got there and it was waist deep everywhere with like 30 crossings going up the canyon. Great report.


walking somewhere
Apr 1, 2014
The Gila Wilderness is a place I really want to visit soon. Looks pretty awesome.


Mar 13, 2012
The Gila Wilderness is a place I really want to visit soon. Looks pretty awesome.
We did a short loop hike up the Gila river from the national monument ruins and then back over a ridge. Camped one night at one of the prettiest little meadows. We did cut it a bit short because of the high water. There are some nice day hikes out of a little almost ghost town named Mogollon - is actually the beginning of the Mogollon rim which then runs thru Arizona up to the Grand Canyon area.
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