Top of the World – The Beartooth Highway

Red Lodge, MT

The number one reason we wanted to do a return visit to Red Lodge was the opportunity to drive the Beartooth Highway, one of the most beautiful roads in the country.  We have driven the road twice before on motorcycles around the same time of year, but we wanted to see what this heavy snowfall this past winter looked like.

The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Wyoming just north of the town of Cody.  It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border to the 10,947  foot high Beartooth Pass. The approximate elevation rise is from 5,200 to 8,000 feet in 12 miles in the most stunning of landscapes.  The late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt called the road “the most beautiful drive in America.”  Most of this blog is made up of pictures, as words cannot describe the beauty of the Beartooth Mountains.

Heading south out of Red Lodge

Snow cover increasing with elevation gain

Looking down at the highway below

About half way across the 30 mile drive is the state line.  Crews on the Wyoming side just finished clearing the snow off the highway two days earlier.

The highest point on the road is in Wyoming, so the snow is deeper there.  We saw many spots where skiers were hiking up hillsides to enjoy a ride back down.

The dot on the left is a snow boarder heading up the hill

A zoom of the snowboarder

Cross country skiing across the meadow

Drifts are a bit high on the Wyoming side

A local poet in contemplation

There is a single tow line for skiers on the Wyoming side.  Since the road just opened, allowing travel to the tow line, it wasn’t operational yet but they were working on it.

Heading down the south side of the drive the snow decreased, but the scenery maintained its beauty.

We turned around and headed back north to re-cross the pass.  At one point we could see the road ahead zig-zagging in front of us in a series of switchbacks.

Friends Steve and MonaLiza (Lowes Travels) visited the pass a few years ago during  July.  We looked at their blog from that visit and found a very cool photo of the elevation sign at the high point on the highway.  MonaLiza gave us permission to include the photo for comparison.

The scenery we observed driving over the Beartooth was stunning!  The trip will undoubtedly be the highlight of our visit to Wyoming and Montana.

We’ll be in Red Lodge for a few more days and have a couple of hikes planned during that time.  More on those later . . .

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27 Responses to Top of the World – The Beartooth Highway

  1. I never tire of the Beartooth Highway.

  2. Nancy says:

    Beautiful views and that snow is incredible!

  3. Nancy says:

    I’m amazed of how deep it was with the comparison to your friend’s picture!

  4. Wow! What an amazing drive! The views are breathtaking. I think that snow is the deepest I’ve ever seen.

  5. exploRVistas says:

    It’s wild to think most of that snow will be gone in another month or so. We visited Beartooth in 1994 and really enjoyed it. So cool to see it with all that snow!

  6. Laurel says:

    What a difference a couple of months makes! ML standing under the sign, Pam standing above it…that is a LOT of snow. Driving the Beartooth Highway is on our list for our next trip to Montana. I doubt we’ll be there in the snow, so it’s fun to see it through your beautiful photos!

    • placestheygo says:

      It worked out perfectly to have ML’s photo without snow and this year’s extra deep snow fall. We were really surprised when we came home and checked ML’s photo. This road should be on everyone’s list for any time of the year.

  7. Jim and Barb says:

    That is so cool, I cannot believe all that snow!

  8. Beautiful, but too white for me…

  9. What a trip to see the area with snow!

  10. Wow! We’ve done Beartooth Parkway twice also, but never so early in the season! Makes me crave huckleberries. In fact, I woke up and ordered a pie today from The Huckleberrry Patch in Hungry Horse, two-day delivery to Palm Desert, CA. Have some huckleberry pie while you’re there and think of me!

  11. Definitely a big WOW! I wished I can experience that so I can have first-hand experience in seeing a huge difference without snow and with snow. Hmm, it just goes to show just how short I am 🙂 The wildflowers will probably be out profusely in July!
    Love that red on the white photo, quite a contrast!

    • placestheygo says:

      There certainly is a big difference in the area with all the snow. Each season has something different to offer. Glad you had the perfect comparison photo. John did choose the right color for the day.

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    Have to agree that is one beautiful drive! Can’t believe how deep that snow is – great comparison pic from ML and Steven’s visit. Wonderful to have all that snow pack in the west, but I bet the locals are ready for summer 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      It is a spectacular drive and one not to missed if in the area. ML took the perfect photo for comparison. The problem with all this snow melt is where it is headed. John realized that all this snow is headed to the Missouri River where they don’t need it. Darn that Continental Divide.

  13. That is a mind boggling amount of snow… It doesn’t even look real. And thanks for taking me on this beautiful drive. I don’t think we’ll be heading anywhere with that much of the white stuff for quite a bit, so this is a nice way to see the sights without dealing with the trauma of snow. 🙂

  14. Joe Taylor says:

    WOW…cant believe all that snow! I just know the fields will be incredible this summer with beautiful wildflowers!

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