The Beartooth Highway is an All-American Road (meaning that it’s one of the most beautiful roads in America) that serves as a wilderness retreat for those looking to travel by car through the Custer, Shoshone, and Gallatin National Forests. As the Beartooth Highway climbs to 10,350 feet in Montana and 10,947 in Wyoming—the highest highway elevation in both states—passengers are treated to views of alpine meadows, sparkling lakes and year-round snow clinging to the Northern Rocky Mountains. Along the way, the road offers travelers the chance to hike, fish, camp, look for wildlife, or simply just sit back and admire the scenery.
WHAT MAKES IT GREAT
Since opening in 1937, the Beartooth Highway’s high altitude vistas, snow-capped peaks and bright blue alpine lakes have cemented its reputation as the journey of a lifetime. The road gives adventurous travelers a chance to explore the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountain Wilderness either by vehicle or by stopping, stepping out into the crisp mountain air, and hiking across a windswept plateau.
The Beartooth Highway can be traveled from either direction. Starting in Red Lodge, Montana, the drive makes for a breathtaking road trip through southwest Montana to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone in Wyoming. Make a stop at the Top of the World Resort where you can hike, kayak Beartooth Lake, or camp and watch the sunset from 9,400 feet. For a unique view, a dirt road just off of the Beartooth Highway provides access to the Clay Butte Lookout Tower, a refurbished fire tower with an observation deck. Other notable attractions along the Beartooth Highway include hiking trails, campsites and landmarks like the Bear’s Tooth, a jagged rock feature that resembles a bear’s sharp tooth. And speaking of bears, drivers and hikers alike often report sightings of both grizzlies and black bears, along with mountain goats, moose, elk, and wolves.
WHO IS GOING TO LOVE IT
For many, driving the Beartooth Highway is a bucket list item. For those lucky enough to actually make the trip, the route offers a little something for every kind of wilderness lover. For nature photographers, there’s the unparalleled views of more than 20 peaks towering above 12,000 feet. For hikers, there are opportunities to pull over and take in a high altitude stroll with views of glaciers and pristine lakes.
DIRECTIONS, PARKING & REGULATIONS
The Beartooth Highway can be accessed from either Cooke City or Red Lodge, Montana, two authentic western outposts that offer lodging, dining and entertainment. Travelers coming from Yellowstone will exit the park through the northeast entrance and travel the 68-mile Beartooth Highway, which is also marked as US Route 212, to Red Lodge. Visitors coming from Red Lodge can take the Beartooth Highway and continue on into the park. There are numerous pullouts along the way to stop and take pictures or go for an alpine hike.