The Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway panorama
Beartooth Highway panorama

A candidate for the most scenic highway in America? I think so. When planning our 2016 Yellowstone vacation we hadn’t originally intended to continue north into Montana, but when I read this claim in Lonely Planet I knew we had to travel the Beartooth Highway. 64 miles of mountain pass from Cooke City to Red Lodge – what’s not to love?

Cooke City

Northeast Yellowstone
Northeast Yellowstone

We still had a large and beautiful chunk of Yellowstone to drive through before reaching the Northeast Entrance Gate, so by the time we got to Cooke City we were ready for an early lunch and a wander. It’s not exactly what I would call a city, but just look at those vistas!

We discovered that the town had a lovely little museum dedicated to the early miners in the area, Cooke City being the major camp for prospectors from 1869, so we looked at that too before heading back onto the highway to continue the adventure.

Clay Butte

Pilot and Index Peaks
Pilot and Index Peaks

After Cooke City, the road dipped back into Wyoming. These two peaks beguiled us all the way and we paused in several places to photograph them. Our next major stop was Clay Butte Tower which involved a three-mile drive on a gravel road. The tower used to be a fire lookout but now functions as a visitor centre.

Top of the World

Back on the main highway, we made slow progress because there were just so many beautiful places to stop, for example Beartooth Lake followed by a welcome visit to Top of the World Store for coffee.

After this, the road began a serious climb, until we reached Beartooth Pass, the highest point on the road at 10947 feet. It was blowy!

Summit to Red Lodge

Then it was all downhill with another couple of stops at Gardner Lake and our second Montana State Line of the day. This one claims to be the highest state welcome sign in the US.

At the end of the day we arrived in Red Lodge, another charming old town, which was to be our base for the next couple of nights. More about it next time!