Top of the World – The Beartooth Highway

Gardiner, MT

Wednesday morning we fired up the Harley and headed east across the northern part of Yellowstone.  Going through the Lamar Valley we were treated to a sight last seen by Indians and settlers crossing to the west.

Bison in Lamar Valley

Yes, all those dark creatures are Buffalo.  This is just a part of the large heard that spread for miles across the valley.

We exited the park at the Northeast Entrance and continued east to where the road splits.  Take the right turn and you go over the Chief Joseph Highway to Cody, WY.  We took the left turn and headed up into the Beartooth Mountains on the Beartooth Highway.

The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Cooke City, Montana. It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border to the 10,947 ft. high Beartooth Pass. The approximate elevation rise is from 5,200 ft.  to 8,000 ft. in 12 miles in the most daring landscapes.  Late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt called it “the most beautiful drive in America.”

In August 1872, the pass was crossed by Civil War General Phillip Sheridan and 120 men returning from an inspection tour of Yellowstone. Rather than take the long detour down the Clarks Fork River to return to Billings, Sheridan took the advice of an old hunter named Greer, who claimed intimate knowledge of the Beartooth Mountains. When the road was opened in 1936, it essentially followed Sheridan’s route over the pass.  Most of the rest of this blog is made up of pictures, as words cannot describe the beauty of the Beartooth Mountains.  Kudos to the photographer, who took most of the pictures from the back of a moving motorcycle.  The first pictures were taken as we went up to the top, where we were at 10,947 feet.

At the top of the ride we crossed into Montana and started down the mountains.  The narrow strip in the trees at the base of the valley is where we are headed.

At the base of the mountain we rode through a valley for about ten miles to the small town of Red Lodge.  As we approached, we were surprised at the number of people along the main street and the traffic, until it dawned on us that it was the Fourth of July.  They had a parade, which was just ending, and a rodeo to follow.   Apparently there were many horses in the parade, as they left their calling card all over Main Street.  After lunch at the local hotel we headed back up the mountain.

The road back up the mountain

Looking back down the valley. The small line at the bottom is the highway.

Back on top of the Beartooth

Mountain goats enjoying lunch

On one large patch of snow we spied someone climbing up the bank.  What are they doing?

Someone was pulling a small sled up the snow bank.  Once at the top they turned around  and took a ride down the hill.  Sledding on the Fourth of July!

After coming down the hill, we were stopped on the approach to Yellowstone by highway workers.  A fire had been burning on the hillside for over a week and they were moving more equipment in to fight it.

Fire near Cooke City, MT

We returned back to the motorhome after 250 miles very tired but satisfied after a great ride.  Tomorrow we’ll head back into Yellowstone to check out the geysers.  More on that later . . .

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2 Responses to Top of the World – The Beartooth Highway

  1. Deb says:

    The next to last picture is amazing. Kudos to the photographer! Were you tempted to play in the snow?

  2. Marsha says:

    I cannot image crossing that area in 1872. I don’t want to cross it today in a car.
    I am with Deb. You two got such awesome photos of the scenery. Isn’t it so interesting that there is still snow that deep with all the hot sun shinning? I find that amazing.
    I love the valley photo. Such contrast!
    How cool that you got a great shot of that Mountain goat. Aren’t they just amazing?
    What a hoot. Sled riding on the 4th. Wonder how they even thought to bring a sled or was it just a piece of cardboard? What a sight.
    We thought we heard there was a fire in the Park. I hope they have it out by now!
    I am going to send a link to this blog to Carrie. I can’t believe she even thought about driving this. She would have died. We will just live the drive through your FABULOUS photos.
    I hope you two dressed warmly. Great job you two. Wonderful post.

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