The Beartooth Scenic Highway
June 14, 2019
The All-American Road
This Memorial day weekend the Beartooth Highway, dubbed an “All-American Road,” opened to Montanans eager to get back up to the range to explore. The winter here in Montana was long and our spring season has been rainy, so we were itching to get out of town and experience the beauty and wildness of the Beartooth Mountains.
The Beartooth Highway is a section of the U.S. Route 212, between Red Lodge and the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It is surrounded by the Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National forests and is the center of a vast wilderness filled with soaring peaks, glaciers and lakes, alpine plateaus, forested hillsides, epic waterfalls and amazing wildlife.
The drive to Red Lodge was beautiful with overcast skies and mama cows with their calves frolicking in the fields. Hawks were soaring and hunting for prey and a gorgeous view of the Beartooth and Absaroka ranges promised that our trip would be worth the time.
We stopped in the quaint ski town of Red Lodge for some coffee and bagels at the Honey Café, and then jumped in the car for the winding drive to the top. Snow gradually appeared on the ground the higher we went, and there were schoolkids sledding on the sides of the road. Downhill skiers and snowboarders were trying out some of the slopes, and we even saw some paraskiing.
We made our way to the top, pausing occasionally to take in the sights, breathe in the fresh cold air, and dream of coming up later in the summer to do some hiking and trout fishing. We reached the end of the road (Montana plows the road to the border, but there was no going any further with the snow at least 6 feet high), and then turned around to make our way back down again. Later in June, the drive will take you all the way to Cooke City, Montana and then on to Yellowstone Park, but for now we were content with the short trip, a few photos and a renewed passion for all that the range has to offer.
In the summer months, the Beartooth Highway is the perfect place to view wildlife, including mountain goats, moose, elk, deer, grizzly and black bears, and those furry little marmots, as well as hike, camp, fish, or take a horseback ride. There are many pullouts for taking photographs of the epic mountain peaks and untouched landscapes of alpine forests and tundra. This All-American road offers access to the one of the most rugged areas in the lower United States and the highest peaks in the Northern Rockies.
As we headed back down the long and winding road, we were reminded of why we love Montana so much. Locals that wave as you drive by and small towns that offer great flavor, whether it’s the food or the culture. Tourists that are thrilled by the vast Montana sky and awe -inspiring peaks, much like watching children open presents on Christmas morning. And of course, nature itself and all that it has to offer - the promise of starlit nights around a campfire, catching that elusive trout as it rises, or discovering a hidden lake on a mountainside jaunt. Adventure begins and ends right here - at Montana’s Trailhead.