Few would argue that this northeast route is anything other than the most spectacular drive into Yellowstone National Park. Beartooth Highway is one of America’s great routes, following long winding climbs up to high passes offering staggering views over snow capped mountains. The second stage makes its way through beautiful Lamar Valley towards Yellowstone’s Great Loop.
This route was first published in 2010 on RoadTrip America. To see this piece in its original form (together with interactive map) and hundreds of other route suggestions covering North America, visit www.RoadtripAmerica.com.
Here are a few highlights to look out for along the way:
Red Lodge (starting point)
Red Lodge is a lively and welcoming town, a center for just about every outdoor activity you can think of, from fishing and rafting to hunting and snowmobiling. As you’d expect there are plenty of motels, bars and good standard restaurants to choose from.
Red Lodge is also the northern terminus of the Beartooth Highway (U.S. Highway 212) – a quite breathtaking drive across high alpine plateau, past lakes, glaciers and craggy peaks. Note: the road is generally only open from late May until mid-October.
Rock Creek Vista Point (mile 21)
Rock Creek Vista Point is just one of a number of unforgettable overlooks along Beartooth Highway. There’s a short trail along a ridge which provides even better views – so don’t leave the camera in the car – plus rest facilities and interpretative displays.
Beartooth Pass (mile 30)
At an elevation of 10,948 feet, Beartooth Pass is the highest point on the highway and offers incredible views of the Beartooth Mountains.
Its height – 11,708 ft – is impressive enough but it is its perfect triangular ‘mountain’ shape that makes Pilot Peak so distinctive (and photogenic). Look out for it to your left as you approach Cooke City.
Cooke City (mile 65)
Cooke City is a charming town with an authentically old and western feel to it. Everything’s probably about 20% more expensive than it should be but it’s hard to blame them for trying to maximize their profit when this route into Yellowstone is only open to cars for about four and a half months a year.
Yellowstone National Park (mile 69 – 98)
The 29-mile drive from Yellowstone’s northeast entrance to Tower-Roosevelt makes its way through the scenic landscape of Lamar Valley. Make the journey at dawn or dusk and it’s one of the best places in the park to spot wolves, bears and other predators; bison and elk can usually be seen at any time.