Crossing Wyoming and Montana is always an adventure. Whether you’re battling high winds, snowstorms, or simply taking in the incredible views, you might encounter something completely different every time you hit the road. One of the most famous highways there is also one of the scariest: the Beartooth Highway is considered by many to be the most dangerous highway in the region.
Where is Beartooth Highway located?
Beartooth Highway is a US highway on the stretch of US Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming between Red Lodge and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park, passing through the Beartooth Pass in Wyoming. It is classified as an All-American Road as it is a very scenic route. It links the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park and the city of Red Lodge.
You can situate the road on the map below:
Enlarge the map
Some pieces of information about the Beartooth Highway:
Beartooth Highway description:
This scenic road was called “the most beautiful drive in America” by a CBS correspondent. Indeed, the road is quite awesome and you will find many photo spots on your drive or ride.
In fact, many bikers or even cyclists really enjoy the road, its landscapes, and hairpins.
The Beartooth Highway is a 150 kilometers (93 miles) segment of Highway 212 with amazing landscapes on the Beartooth and the Absaroka. It is located both in Wyoming and Montana. The road climbs at 3337 meters (10950 feet) above sea level. The road is a two lines highway that is in good condition.
In the area, you will find many mountain lakes, more than 20 peaks that are over 3650 meters (12000 feet), and 12 national forest campgrounds. All these, make the Beartooth Highway as one of America’s most scenic drives.
The drive will take approximately 2 or 3 hours depending on your stops. Indeed, you will make several stops on your way to take some amazing pictures!
History of the Beartooth Highway:
In August 1872, Civil War General Philip Sheridan passed the Beartooth pass with 120 men that returned from a discovery tour of the Yellowstone National Park. Instead of taking a long trek down the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River to return to Billings, Sheridan took the advice of an old local hunter, who claimed to have a deep knowledge of the mountains in the area. They kind of open that way.
Then, when the Beartooth Highway was officially opened in 1936, it mainly follows the Sheridan route through the pass.
In 2005 there was a large mud and rockslides that destroy a part of the road. It took more than a year and more than 20 million dollars to rebuild that segment.
How to get to the Beartooth Highway ?
If you are coming from the south, for example from the Yellowstone National Park, you should take the highway number 20, then take the Grand Loop Road that is near the Yellowstone river in order to come to the Tower Junction. There, follow the 212 highway.
If you are coming from the north, for instance from Billings, take the Interstate 90 in the south direction until Laurel. Then just follow the 212 highway.
You can visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:
Things to do nearby the Beartooth Pass:
Near this scenic road, you will find many activities to do in the area. Here are the most famous ones:
- Ski during Summer! Just before the summit, there is a small ski area drop just near the road. This is one of the oldest ski and snowboard training camps in the region. You can ski there from April to July. You can check their website for opening or ski pass details: Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area.
- Shop at the Top of the World Store: On the west side of the mountain, you will find the only shop on the road, situated at 2860 meters (9400 feet) above the sea level. You can find there some snacks and souvenirs. There is also a little hotel, but only with 4 rooms! So don’t forget to make your reservation in advance.
- Visit one of the multiple Alpine lakes in the area where you can fishing, hiking, or even canoeing with amazing views! You can visit for example the Beartooth Lake.
- See some waterfalls: follow a short hike to the Lake Creek Falls.
- See the Bear’s tooth: Hike the Beartooth Loop National Recreation Trail and enjoy the view.
- Cross the 45th Parallel: It is located on the road, just use your favorite map app to check when you will cross it!
We also suggest planing your trip in advance as it is a quite wild area and there are not a lot of accommodation possibilities on the road itself.
A preview of the road:
If you don’t have the possibility to travel to these US states, or you just want to watch a dope road drive video, just take a look at this YouTube video:
Is the Beartooth Highway Open?
The road is usually open from mid-May to mid-October. But it’s depending on the weather conditions. In fact, there can be Snowstorms even during summer months. Indeed the temperature can go from more than 20°C (70°F) to negative one very rapidly.
Some years the layer of snow can reach over 6 meters (20 feet)! In winter you can access to the road only with a snowmobile.
As with every mountain road, it has a lot of hairpins and some non-protected segments. So, you should avoid driving the Beartooth Highway at night.
Also, this a very touristic road and if you want to avoid the crowd you should consider starting your drive early in the morning and on weekdays!
Before your trip, you can always check the road condition at the official website of the Montana Department of Transportation.
If you are planning a road trip to Wyoming or to Montana you should definitely drive on this mythic road. Many travelers come from other states or even other countries in order to have the chance to drive this scenic US road! We are sure that you won’t regret it!
Pictures sources: TimothyJ and Alex Ranaldi on Flickr.com
Discover other scenic roads around the world: click here or see our road trip map!