Suce Creek offers hiking, mountain biking and cross country skiing access into the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness near Livingston, MT. The primary hiking attraction is a 6 mile loop trail that takes you from stream bottom to a scenic ridgeline. For those seeking more, the trail continues past Livingston Peak toward Elephanthead Mountain and connects with the backcountry trail system heading deeper into the wilderness.
Suce Creek is just south of Livingston in the scenic Paradise Valley. To get there take US 89 south from Livingston for about 2 miles to Rt 540 (East River Road) which branches off to the left (east). Take 540 for about 2 miles to intersection with the Suce Creek Road. Turn left and take this road east into the mountains. At about 1 mile the access road turns off to the right (south) and continues on until it ends at the picnic area.
The graveled Suce Creek Road is normally in good condition. The picnic area is on the Custer Gallatin National Forest but the access road is almost all private land. Always respect the private owners and make sure you stay on public land.
Suce Creek Picnic Area
The trailhead is the main attraction at Suce Creek but the Forest Service does operate a small picnic area. The Suce Creek Picnic Area has 3 picnic table areas and a pit toilet but there is no water or trash removal. Although this is not a heavily used picnic area, it’s not unusual to find people enjoying the natural setting.
The trailhead is located right off the parking area and a small information kiosk has a few signs and postings. There is only one way to head out and that is past the sign and up the hill
Suce Creek Trail System
While only a single trail leads away from the parking area, hikers have several options. Although it is not shown on the accompanying map, the North Fork Deep Creek trail splits off from the Suce Creek Trail just a few hundred yards from the trailhead. This trail heads to the interior of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness.
The main trail leads on until it splits about 2/3 of a mile from the trailhead. The main trial #44 heads to the right and follows along the creek. This trail is closed to mountain bikes. The left fork (trail #450) is open to bikes and heads across the creek and up the hill. The two trails join together in a few miles to form the loop trail.
If you are planning to visit the area a great map to have is: Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness West [Gardiner, Livingston] (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map (721))
Into the Wilderness
The loop makes a great hike in either direction. These directions will follow the route counterclockwise, heading up along the stream and back along the open hillsides. When the trail first splits take the right fork and stay on trail #44. before long you will reach the sign for the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. The trail through this section is delightful. It’s not too steep and amazingly free of the rocks and roots that are so common in the area.
The trail continues for a short distance until it crosses Suce Creek. There is no regular bridge so exercise great care when/if you make the crossing. After crossing Suce Creek the trail continues on following Lost Creek which is a tributary to Suce. The trail continues to be good and it climbs steadily but never too steeply. After crossing Lost Creek several times the trail begins a very long shallow climb away from the creek and up the hillside.
This is the last section of the hike and the trail continues on until it reaches the top of the hill. This is where it intersects trail #450 to make the loop. Although most hikers are making the loop, this area has a couple of other trails. Trail #44 does not end here but continues o a short distance to a USFS trailhead parking area for hiking to Livingston Peak. Also, the Livingston Peak Trail (#449) takes off from here.
Great Views in all Directions
The trail junction area has great views of the mountains and valleys. To the east Livingston Peak dominates the view. Looking southeast the Absarokas stretch into vast wilderness and the Paradise Valley runs as far as the eye can see to the south/southwest. Finally, looking to the north rolling hills drop down toward the Yellowstone Valley east of Livingston.
From here you can continue on trial #450 to complete the loop. This trail is very different that the trail through the stream bottom. Open meadows and wooded hillsides lead you gradually back toward Suce Creek. This leg of the loop (trail #450) is shorter and steeper than the trail #44 portion of the loop.
Mountain Biking Suce Creek
Trail #450 is a fairly new trail that was completed in 2017. One of the reasons for adding this trail was to allow bike access to the area. There seem to be very few conflicts between mountain bikers and hikers. It’s likely that the limited options for bikers will keep this from ever being a very popular trail. However, it’s a close-to-town options for those seeking a quick getaway.
Cross Country Skiing
Suce Creek is a favorite trail for skiing and snowshoeing in the Livingston area. For most of the winter the road to the picnic area is impassable so skiers park along the main Suce Creek road where the forest access road splits off. This makes for a couple of miles of skiing before reaching the picnic area. Fortunately, this section of road is excellent skiing and many don’t go any further than the picnic area.
Once you’re on the Suce Creek trail you find the same conditions that are common to most Paradise Valley ski trails – they climb steeply and are usually too narrow to ski down safely. Suce Creek can provide good skiing when the conditions are right but watch for thin snow under trees and some steep icy turns.