Why should I drive the Beartooth Highway?
The first 15 miles out of Red Lodge takes you from the canyon floor and climbs almost 4,000 feet in elevation, taking you past Precambrian rock slides and red and yellow rock outcroppings. Expect hairpin curves, U-curves, and sinuous S-curves in the road as you climb to the canyon rim past forests, rugged cliffs, pristine lakes, mountain peaks, alpine tundra, and snow banks even in August. You'll reach the highest point of the Beartooth Highway at 10,947. Here, you leave Montana and enter Wyoming. The descent takes you along switchbacks which meander through rolling hills saturated with lakes, forests, and wildlife. There are a dozen worthwhile viewpoints along the way that are worth a stop. Here are some additional attractions to check out along the way:
- Summer Ski Area: Just before reaching the summit you'll see a very small ski area drop just below the road. This is home to one of the oldest ski and snowboard training camps. It's open for skiing from late April to early July.
- Gardner Lake Trailhead: Follow the Beartooth Loop National Recreation Trail and check out sites like the Bear's Tooth and spectacular wildflowers.
- Top of the World Store: On the west side of the summit stop at the Top of the World Store for some unique gifts and snacks.
- Beartooth Lake: From the Beartooth Recreation Picnic Area, take a quick side trip to Beartooth Lake, well known for fishing, canoeing, and great views of Beartooth Butte.
- Lake Creek Falls: Follow a short hike to a bridge for an up close look at these falls.
Where does the Beartooth Highway begin and end?
The 68 mile road begins on the east side just outside of the mountain town of Red Lodge, Montana. On the west side the Beartooth Highway ends just before reaching the small towns of Cooke City and Silvergate, just outside of Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance.
How long does it take to drive the Beartooth Highway?
The drive takes at least 2 hours but can take up to a full day if you stop to hike and take in the sites.
When is the Beartooth Highway open?
This highway may have the shortest season around. It's typically open to vehicle traffic from Memorial Day to early October (weather dependent). In the winter months, however, you can access the Beartooth Highway on snowmobile. Start from either Cooke City on the west side or Pilot Creek Trailhead on the east side (along Chief Joseph Scenic Byway) and link up these snow covered 7 miles.