The Beartooth Highway, often referred to as the “most beautiful drive in America,” is a breathtaking scenic byway that winds through the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. Driving the Beartooth Highway and Beartooth Pass is a scenic route to Yellowstone as well as a destination in its own right.

When driving the Beartooth Highway from Cooke City and the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone to Red Lodge (68.7 miles), you’ll pass through sylvan stretches, fragile tundra, alpine lakes, hanging valleys, and a landscape that normally takes a day of hiking to get to.

blue lupines in the foreground and rainbow lake in the back from a hike on the Beartooth Highway

Offering stunning vistas, alpine lakes, and rugged wilderness, this stretch of road leads travelers to Beartooth Pass, the highest-elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. 

This blog post will guide you through the must-see attractions and answer common questions about driving this remarkable route.

Where is the Beartooth Highway?

The Beartooth Highway begins in the small mountain town of Red Lodge, Montana, and ends near the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, just outside Cooke City, Montana. Or vice versa.

Beartooth Highway with snowbanks more than two times as high as a car

When is the Beartooth Highway Open?

The Beartooth Highway is typically open from late May to mid-October, depending on weather conditions. It’s best to check the Beartooth Highway status and road conditions before planning your trip.


Things to Do and See Along the Beartooth Highway

Where to eat on the Beartooth Highway

Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 4.1 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 64 miles

Start your journey in the charming towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana. These small mountain communities exude a rustic and welcoming atmosphere. Surrounded by majestic peaks and pristine wilderness, Cooke City-Silver Gate is an excellent place to grab last-minute supplies, enjoy a delicious meal at a local eatery, or browse through unique shops.

You could spend a week discovering the things to do in Cooke City-Silver Gate.


woman sitting by frozen Crazy Creek Falls on the Beartooth Highway

Crazy Creek Falls 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 15.1 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 53 miles

 

(1-mile round trip)  A short hike from the highway will lead you to the picturesque Crazy Creek Falls. The waterfall cascades down a series of rocky ledges, creating a mesmerizing spectacle of rushing water. Take a stroll along the well-marked trail and feel the refreshing spray of the falls. What I like most about it is all the rock along the edge where you can sit, soak in the sunshine, and watch the water tumble. 

The parking area is on the north side of the road, right across from the Crazy Creek Campground. Follow the Crazy Lakes Trail through the woods and within a few minutes you’ll see Crazy Creek Falls. If you continue up the trail a bit and then head to the left, you get to the top of the cascades. It can be slick and the water is fast, so be careful as you walk around up there. The Crazy Lake Trail continues 3.5 miles to Ivy Lake and to many other lakes beyond.


Lake Creek Falls is a popular stop on the Beartooth Scenic Byway

Lake Creek Falls 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 18.9 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 49.1 miles

 

Lake Creek Falls is easy to miss as there aren’t any signs to indicate its presence, but it is right off the highway and worth a stop. 

The original concrete bridge that crosses the waterfall (not the one that is part of present-day Beartooth Highway) was built around 1932 and then bypassed in 1974 when the new bridge was built. It is one of five original bridges left on the Beartooth Highway.

Standing on the original bridge, you can watch the cascade tumble down a rocky gorge, pass under the bridge, and continue bouncing down the hill. 

Park in one of the pull-outs on either end of the bridge and walk up the trail on the north side of the road. It’s about a 200-yard walk to the bridge over Lake Creek and a view of the cascade.


view of mountains and Beartooth Highway from the Clarks Fork Overlook

Clark’s Fork Overlook 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 19.5
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 48.6

At this pull-through on the south side of the road, there is a lovely overlook of the Clark’s Fork River Valley and a vault toilet.


Pilot and Index Peak Overlook on Beartooth Highway

Pilot and Index Peaks Overlook 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 24.6
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 43.6

 

This viewpoint (called the Yellowstone Overlook on Google Maps) offers an impressive panorama of the Clark’s Fork River Valley and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area. There is also a great view of Pilot and Index Peaks – iconic mountains that can be seen from all over.

There are interpretive signs and a large parking area. The overlook is on the north side of the Beartooth Highway.


Clay Butte Fire Lookout on the Beartooth Highway

Clay Butte Lookout and Beartooth Butte 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 28 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 45.3 miles

 

Venture up to the historic Clay Butte Lookout tower, which sits atop a prominent peak. From the lookout, enjoy a 360-degree view of the majestic mountains and sprawling valleys below. 

The historic fire lookout gives visitors a glimpse of how fire lookouts functioned 60 years ago. Interpretive signs describe local wildlife, botanical areas, the effects of the Clover-Mist wildfire of 1988, and the geology of ancient seas that once covered the Beartooth Plateau. There is a vault toilet.

Beartooth Butte offers fantastic hiking opportunities for those seeking a little off-trail adventure with a big view.

Drive 25.4 miles from Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance to Forest Road 142. Turn north and drive 2.6 miles on a decent dirt road.


Interpretive signs in front of Beartooth Ravine stop on the Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Ravine Interpretive Site

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 25.9 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 42.2 miles

 

The Beartooth Ravine pull-out offers visitors an opportunity to delve into the geological and natural wonders of the region. This site serves as an educational oasis, providing insightful information about the area’s rich geological history, the processes that shaped the stunning landscapes, and the diverse ecosystems that thrive in this alpine environment. 

The interpretive signs provide a deeper understanding of the Beartooth Mountains’ natural beauty and the forces that have crafted this remarkable terrain over millions of years.

There is also a great view of a new section of the Beartooth Highway – a 420-foot bridge that wraps around the mountain and traverses the ravine.


Beartooth Falls 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 26.4 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 41.7 miles

On the south side of the Beartooth Scenic Byway, this signed pullout offers a view of Beartooth Falls rushing down the side of the heavily forested mountains.


Beartooth Lake in front with Beartooth Butte in back on Beartooth Scenic Highway

Beartooth Lake 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 27.3 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 41.6 miles 

 

One of the many serene alpine lakes along the route, Beartooth Lake is a hidden gem tucked below Beartooth Butte. Take a leisurely stroll around the lake’s shore, enjoy a tranquil picnic, or try your hand at fishing in its crystal-clear waters.

There is a campground and a day-use area. The day-use area has picnic tables, a bear box, a boat ramp, and vault toilets.


Top of the World Store sign on the Beartooth Highway

Top of the World Store

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 28.7 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 39.3 miles

 

 

As you approach the Montana/Wyoming border, don’t miss the chance to visit the Top of the World Store. This unique establishment offers a few refreshments and snacks, and a large assortment of souvenirs to commemorate your journey. The store’s location, perched high in the mountains, makes it an ideal spot to take in the stunning vistas.


Island Lake Trail with Beartooth Mountains in back

Island Lake 

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 30.3 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 38.5 miles

 

Accessible via a short hike from the byway, Island Lake is a true gem of the Beartooths. Surrounded by rugged peaks and verdant meadows, the lake’s emerald waters reflect the surrounding alpine scenery, creating a postcard-worthy view.

This is a great spot to stretch your legs and wander the trail alongside Island Lake. The Beartooth High Lakes Trail continues on to Night Lake and into the wilderness of the Beartooth Plateau. 

There is a campground, boat launch, vault toilets, and trailhead. Read more about hiking at Island and Night Lakes.


Beartooth Highway near Beartooth Pass

Beartooth Pass

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 37.3 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 30.8 miles

 

The crown jewel of the Beartooth Highway, Beartooth Pass sits at an elevation of 10,947 feet, making it the highest point on the route. 

As you traverse the pass, prepare to be awestruck by the panoramic vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. The breathtaking beauty of this high-alpine landscape is a sight to behold.

A short road on the north side of the highway takes you to the pass and a sign that makes for a good photo opp.


Overlooking Gardner Lake in mist on the Beartooth Highway

Gardner Lake Overlook and Trail

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 39.4 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 28.7 miles

 

Another beautiful alpine lake along the route, Gardner Lake is a 24-acre tarn at the base of the Gardner Headwall. Surrounded by a pristine wilderness backdrop, the lake invites you to take a moment to bask in the tranquility of nature.

From the parking pull-out on the south side of the Beartooth Scenic Byway, you can look down on the lake and beyond it into the mountains. You can also hike down to the lake on the Beartooth Loop Trail (1.6 miles round trip).


Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Map

Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 40.5 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 27.6 miles

 

If you visit during late spring or early summer, you might be lucky enough to catch some summer skiing at Beartooth Basin. This unique ski area utilizes the remaining snowfields well into the warmer months, providing a novel skiing and snowboarding experience in the midst of summer.

There isn’t a lodge or ski rentals, so come prepared!


Twin Lakes in the Beatooth Mountains

Twin Lakes

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 42.2 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 25.8 miles

 

Aptly named, Twin Lakes consist of two stunning lakes nestled between rugged mountain slopes on the Montana/Wyoming border. The sight of the mirrored waters, mirroring the surrounding peaks, is an idyllic scene for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

The pullout is 1/4 mile south of the winter gate and on the northeast side of the road. The view is great from the overlook, but it’s even more fun to hike to the lakes. It’s about 4 miles round trip to walk to the end of the second lake or 2 miles round trip to reach the start of the first lake.


Quad Creek Scenic Overlook

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 45.5 miles 
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 22.6 miles

Pause at Quad Creek Scenic Overlook to soak in the panoramic views of the valley below and the surrounding mountain ranges. This overlook provides an excellent opportunity to appreciate the vastness and grandeur of the Beartooth Mountains.


Overlooks of the Rock Creek Valley from the Beartooth Highway. Snowcapped mountains and treed hillsides

Rock Creek Vista Point

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 47.6 
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 20.4

This viewpoint is called Vista Point Observation Site on Google Maps and provides an incredible perspective of the Rock Creek Valley and its surrounding beauty.

 

A short stop here allows you to capture more stunning photographs and take in the vastness of the wilderness.

It’s a short walk on a paved trail to get to Rock Creek Vista Point. There are 6 vault toilets and aggressive chipmunks. Do not feed them. 


brick buildings and US flags in Red Lodge, Montana

Red Lodge, Montana

  • Distance from Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone: 68 miles
  • Distance from Red Lodge, Montana: 0 miles

 

At the end of your memorable journey, explore the welcoming town of Red Lodge, Montana. Nestled at the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, Red Lodge is known for its hospitality and picturesque setting. 

Spend some time wandering through the downtown area, filled with charming shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. 

Additionally, Red Lodge offers various outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and fishing, making it an ideal base to continue your exploration of the stunning landscapes in the region.

More Red Lodge Trip Planning


Where to Stay Along the Beartooth Highway

Yellowstone cabin at night with lights on inside and lots of stars outside

Hotels and Vacation Rentals Along the Beartooth Highway

Most of the hotels, lodges, cabins, and campgrounds along the Beartooth Highway are in Cook City – Silver Gate and Red Lodge, Montana. Staying in Red Lodge or Cooke City allows for easy access to the scenic route and nearby attractions.

In Red Lodge, we like to stay at the historic and charming Pollard Hotel or in a Red Lodge vacation rental. Find the best deals and availability on all Red Lodge hotels here.

In Cooke City and Silver Gate, my favorite place to stay is the Lamar Valley Cabin. See all the Silver Gate and Cooke City vacation rentals. And find hotels in Cooke City-Silver Gate.

The Top of the World Resort is the only lodging on the Beartooth Plateau. They have cabin rooms and RV camping sites. It’s fairly rustic.


trees, a camper, and a vault toilet at the Beartooth Lake Campground

Camping Along the Beartooth Highway

For travelers seeking an immersive wilderness experience, camping along the Beartooth Highway is an excellent option. 

Numerous campgrounds are dotted along the route, offering basic amenities and a chance to sleep beneath the stars. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance during peak summer months.

Most of the campgrounds are close to Cooke City or Red Lodge, but there are a few up on the Beartooth Plateau along the highest part of the route.

Campgrounds Near Cooke City

  • Soda Butte Campground: Nestled near the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Soda Butte Campground offers a convenient base for exploring the park’s wonders while enjoying the surrounding wilderness. Hard-sided only (no tents)
  • Colter Campground: Situated at the foot of the stunning Absaroka Mountains, Colter Campground provides a serene camping experience with its tranquil atmosphere and proximity to outdoor activities. Hard-sided only (no tents)
  • Fox Creek Campground: Tucked amidst the beauty of the Beartooth Mountains, Fox Creek Campground offers a peaceful and primitive camping setting for those seeking solitude in nature.
  • Pilot Creek Dispersed Campground: Providing a rustic camping experience, Pilot Creek Dispersed Campground invites adventurers to immerse themselves in the backcountry beauty of the Beartooths.
  • Crazy Creek Campground: Located near Crazy Creek Falls, this campground provides easy access to the waterfall and a peaceful setting for camping.

Campgrounds on the Beartooth Plateau

  • Beartooth Lake Campground: Located near Beartooth Lake, this campground offers beautiful views and easy access to the lake for fishing and boating.
  • Island Lake Campground: This campground is close to Island Lake and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a great spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts.
  • Limber Pine Campground: Situated along the Beartooth Highway, this campground is surrounded by pine trees and provides a serene camping experience.

Campgrounds Near Red Lodge 

  • Rock Creek Road Campgrounds (four campgrounds): Nestled along the scenic Rock Creek Road, these campgrounds offer diverse camping experiences, from the tranquil setting of Limber Pine to the enchanting waterside sites of Greenough Lake, providing nature enthusiasts and campers with a range of options to explore this picturesque area.
  • Parkside Campground: Conveniently located near the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, Parkside Campground offers a comfortable and strategic base for travelers to immerse themselves in the wonders of both the park and the Beartooth Highway.
  • Greenough Lake Campground: Set against the backdrop of the majestic Absaroka Mountains, Greenough Lake Campground beckons campers to relax by the serene lake, indulge in fishing adventures, and soak up the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.
  • Limber Pine Campground: Nestled in the heart of the Beartooth Mountains, Limber Pine Campground provides a rustic camping experience, allowing visitors to reconnect with nature and bask in the peaceful ambiance of towering pine forests.
  • Rattin Creek Campground: Offering a secluded retreat in the midst of the mountains, Rattin Creek Campground invites intrepid campers to embrace a backcountry camping experience, immersing themselves in the unspoiled natural beauty of the region.
  • Sheridan Campground: Positioned in the heart of the stunning Beartooth Mountains, Sheridan Campground offers a serene escape for nature lovers, with its picturesque surroundings, crisp mountain air, and access to nearby outdoor activities.
  • West Fork Rock Creek Road Campgrounds (three campgrounds): Situated along the captivating West Fork of Rock Creek, these campgrounds offer a unique opportunity to camp in close proximity to the calming sounds of the creek, creating an idyllic setting for relaxation and exploration.
  • Palisades Campground: Nestled amidst towering peaks, Palisades Campground provides a peaceful and picturesque setting for campers to unwind, enjoy the embrace of nature, and witness the grandeur of the surrounding mountain landscapes.

Please note that availability and amenities can vary at each campground, and it’s advisable to check for updated information, reservations, and campground status before planning your trip. Most of these campsites can be reserved through Recreation.gov.

Additionally, the camping season along the Beartooth Highway typically runs from late spring to early fall, depending on weather conditions and elevation.

For those who prefer more indoor accommodations, nearby towns like Red Lodge and Cooke City offer various options, including lodges, cabins, hotels, and bed and breakfasts.

metal mountain goats in front of the Silver Gate General Store

Wildlife Viewing on the Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway and the surrounding wilderness provide abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing. Keep your eyes peeled for various animal species that call this area home. 

Among the wildlife that you might encounter are marmots, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, and even the occasional moose. 

If you’re fortunate, you might spot some of the more elusive inhabitants, such as grizzly bears or wolves. Remember to maintain a safe distance from the animals, respect their natural habitat, and refrain from feeding or approaching them.

Always hike with bear spray and know how to use it.

Teen hiking away from camera with backpack toward Beartooth Butte

Hiking and Outdoor Activities on the Beartooth Highway

Hiking enthusiasts will find an array of captivating trails along the Beartooth Highway. From easy strolls to challenging backcountry treks, there’s something for every skill level. 

Consider embarking on the Beartooth High Lakes Trail, Beartooth Lake National Recreation Trail, or Twin Lakes Trail, each offering its own unique vistas and natural wonders. 

Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck at one of the many alpine lakes, such as Beartooth Lake or Island Lake, where trout abound. You will need either a Montana or Wyoming fishing license depending on where you plan to fish.

Additionally, camping is a popular option for immersing oneself fully in the natural splendor of the area. (See the camping section above.)

Photography Tips for the Beartooth Highway

For photographers, the Beartooth Highway is a paradise of picture-perfect opportunities. To make the most of your photography, plan your day around the golden hours of sunrise and sunset when the light is soft and flattering. 

Carry a wide-angle lens to capture the sweeping panoramas and a telephoto lens for close-up shots of wildlife and alpine details. Don’t forget to bring a sturdy tripod to steady your shots in the mountain winds. 

Lastly, be patient and allow the changing light and weather conditions to create dramatic and awe-inspiring photographs.

two boys facing camera with frozen lake behind on Beartooth Scenic Highway

Weather and Safety Tips Along The Beartooth Highway

The weather in the Beartooth Mountains can be unpredictable, even during the summer months. It may be warm and sunny in Red Lodge or Cooke City and chilly, wet, or windy once you start to climb to the pass.

Dress in layers to adjust to changing temperatures, and bring a waterproof jacket in case of rain or snow showers. 

Carry essential supplies such as water, snacks, a first-aid kit, and a map of the area. 

Cell phone coverage may be limited, so it’s advisable to inform someone of your travel plans before setting out. 

Be cautious while driving on steep and winding mountain roads, and obey posted speed limits to ensure a safe journey.

Interpretive signs describe the geology of the Beartooth Mountains

Geological and Historical Significance

The Beartooth Mountains boast a rich geological history, shaped by ancient volcanic activity and glacial erosion. 

The region’s geological diversity contributes to its stunning landscapes, from rugged peaks to deep valleys and glaciated lakes. 

Additionally, the Beartooth Highway has historical significance.

The First crossing was made by General Phillip Sheridan on an inspection tour from Fort Washakie (near present-day Lander, Wyoming) to Billings, Montana where he would catch a train to Chicago.

An old hunter named Geer convinced Sheridan that traveling over the Beartooth Plateau was a quicker route from Cooke City to Red Lodge than the four-month journey up the Clark Fork River.

Sheridan and his company arrived near Red Lodge two days after leaving Cooke City despite forest fires and forty-foot snow drifts settled into the many depressions in the tundra.

In 1936 the Beartooth Highway was built along the route Sheridan took.

In 1989 the highway was designated a National Scenic Byway.

You cant talk about the Beartooth Highway without mentioning that Charles Kuralt called it “America’s most beautiful road.” Everyone needs their claim to fame, I guess.

Beartooth Mountains with yellow aspens in fall

Beartooth Highway in Fall

The Beartooth Highway takes on a new enchantment during the fall season. As the deciduous trees change colors, the landscape transforms into a breathtaking display of red, orange, and gold. 

The crisp autumn air enhances the overall experience, creating a romantic and peaceful ambiance. Fall is an ideal time for photography and capturing the vibrant hues of the changing foliage.

However, the road closes when it starts to snow, which could be anytime in October.

geyser erupting in Yellowstone in winter

Additional Attractions Near the Beartooth Highway

While the Beartooth Highway alone offers a wealth of natural wonders, consider extending your trip to explore nearby attractions. 

Yellowstone National Park, with its geothermal wonders and diverse wildlife, lies just south of Cooke City. 

Additionally, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, located near the northern end of the Beartooth Highway, provides another exceptional scenic drive through the Absaroka Mountains.

Scroll down to see all my posts about things to do in Red Lodge and Cooke City – Silvergate, Montana.

Local Events and Festivals

Keep an eye out for local events and festivals that might coincide with your visit. Cooke City and Red Lodge occasionally host art fairs, music festivals, and community celebrations. Participating in these events provides a chance to connect with the local culture and community, adding another layer of enjoyment to your journey.

lake in the Beartooth Mountains with yellow flower in foreground

Ecological Conservation Along the Beartooth Highway

As you embark on your Beartooth Highway adventure, remember the importance of preserving the fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Practice Leave No Trace principles, disposing of waste responsibly and refraining from disturbing wildlife or plant life. Respect posted signs and regulations to protect the natural beauty of the area for future generations of travelers to enjoy.

Do not drive off marked roads.

Driving the Beartooth Highway and Beartooth Pass is an unforgettable experience that offers unparalleled natural beauty. From the stunning vistas at Beartooth Pass to the serene alpine lakes, this scenic route promises an adventure like no other. 

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or simply looking for a scenic road trip, the Beartooth Highway will leave you in awe of its breathtaking landscapes and majestic wilderness. So, grab your camera, hit the road, and immerse yourself in the beauty of this incredible byway!

FAQs About the Beartooth Highway

Q: Where does the Beartooth Highway start and end?

A: The Beartooth Highway starts in the town of Red Lodge, Montana, and ends near the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, just outside Cooke City, Montana. Or vice versa.

Q: How long does it take to drive the Beartooth Highway?

A: The driving time for the Beartooth Highway can vary depending on several factors, including traffic, road conditions, and how often you stop at viewpoints or attractions. Generally, the drive takes around 2 to 3 hours without stops, but it’s recommended to allow at least 4 to 6 hours (or more!) to fully enjoy the scenic route and take in the breathtaking views.

Q: What is the best time of day to drive the Beartooth Highway?

A: The best time of day to drive the Beartooth Highway is early morning or late afternoon. During these times, the lighting is softer, the road is less crowded, and you can witness stunning sunrise or sunset views over the mountains, enhancing your overall experience.

Beartooth Highway switchbacks

Q: How long does it take to go through Beartooth Pass?

A: Beartooth Pass itself is about a 12-mile stretch of the Beartooth Highway. The drive through Beartooth Pass usually takes around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on road conditions and how frequently you stop to admire the vistas and take photos.

Q: Is it worth driving the Beartooth Highway?

A: Absolutely! The Beartooth Highway is renowned for its extraordinary beauty, offering some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery in the United States. Driving this highway is an unforgettable experience, and it’s often considered one of the best scenic drives in the country.

Q: Which direction is better to drive Beartooth Highway?

A: Both directions of the Beartooth Highway offer stunning views and unforgettable experiences. Some travelers prefer starting from Red Lodge and ending in Cooke City to experience the abrupt ascent into the high alpine landscape, while others prefer the opposite direction. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preference and the direction of your travel plans.

Q: How long does it take to drive the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge to Cooke City?

A: The distance between Red Lodge and Cooke City along the Beartooth Highway is approximately 68 miles. The drive usually takes around 2 to 3 hours, but it’s advisable to allow more time for stops and exploration.

Q: Is the Beartooth Highway open between Cooke City and Red Lodge?

A: Yes, the Beartooth Highway is open and accessible between Cooke City and Red Lodge during its typical seasonal opening, which is from late May to mid-October. However, it’s essential to check the Beartooth Highway status and road conditions before planning your trip, as weather and maintenance may affect the road’s availability.

Q: What is interesting about the Beartooth Highway?

A: The Beartooth Highway offers travelers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the pristine beauty of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains. The highway reaches elevations of over 10,000 feet, providing breathtaking panoramic views, alpine lakes, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife sightings.

Hauser Lake on the Beartooth Highway

Q: How steep is Beartooth Highway?

A: The Beartooth Highway includes several steep and winding sections as it climbs to high elevations. Some portions have grades of up to 10%, which might be challenging for large vehicles or those unaccustomed to mountain driving. However, the highway is well-engineered and maintained, and as long as drivers exercise caution, it can be navigated safely.

Q: Why is Beartooth Basin only open in summer?

A: Beartooth Basin is a ski area located along the Beartooth Highway. It’s only open in summer because the area receives heavy snowfall during the winter, making access and operations challenging. During the summer months, the snowpack melts enough to allow for skiing and snowboarding on the remaining snowfields.

Q: Is Beartooth Highway a scary drive?

A: For many travelers, the Beartooth Highway is a thrilling and awe-inspiring drive due to its high elevations, steep grades, and dramatic scenery. While the road might be intimidating for some, it’s generally well-maintained and safe to drive with proper precautions. Drivers should pay attention to road signs, drive at a safe speed, and be aware of weather conditions.

Q: Does Beartooth Pass close at night?

A: Beartooth Pass doesn’t have a specific night closure, but it’s not recommended to drive the highway at night due to limited visibility and potential wildlife hazards. The road is not lit, and there are no services available during the nighttime.

Q: When is Beartooth Pass open?

A: Beartooth Pass typically opens for the summer season from late May to mid-October. However, the exact opening and closing dates can vary depending on weather conditions and road maintenance. It’s essential to check the current status before planning your trip.

Q: Can you drive an RV on the Beartooth Highway?

A: Yes, you can drive an RV on the Beartooth Highway, but there are some considerations to keep in mind. The road includes steep grades and tight switchbacks, so it’s crucial to be comfortable with mountain driving and drive cautiously. Larger RVs may find some sections challenging, so it’s best to check with local authorities or experienced RVers for advice before embarking on the journey.

Beartooth Ravine pullout on the Beartooth Highway

Driving the Beartooth Highway and experiencing Beartooth Pass is an adventure like no other. With its awe-inspiring vistas, alpine lakes, and stunning landscapes, this scenic route offers an unforgettable journey through some of the most beautiful mountain terrain in the United States. 

Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking an unforgettable road trip, the Beartooth Highway is well worth the experience. 

Just remember to plan your trip according to the seasonal opening, drive safely, and allow plenty of time to immerse yourself in the natural splendor along the way.

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