Beartooth Highway is a 60-mile road (US Hwy 212) running southwest from Red Lodge, Montana through northern Wyoming and then northwest to Cooke City, Montana. Four miles past Cooke City is the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. To call Beartooth "spectacular" would be an understatement. There are no words to describe this highway and photographs can't come close. Beartooth All-American road is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. It's open seasonally from May to October and we hit it just right. (We traveled it on September 30.) I talked to Brother Hawthorne about two weeks later. He had tried to go through and it was closed due to snow. This highway has been named "the most beautiful roadway in America."
Charles Kuralt, travel correspondent on the television segment "On the Road," first spoke those words on the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite. The road opened in 1936 and was built to provide Yellowstone National Park access from the Billings, Montana area, with approval and funding from the Park Approaches Act of 1931. See here for more info. It traces basically the same route Civil War general Phillip Sheridan took in 1882 when he followed a local hunter's advice about a shortcut on his way to Yellowstone. The Beartooth Range is home to 20 mountain peaks over 12,000 feet high and 10,000 mountain lakes. The highway itself climbs to an astounding 10,947 feet above sea level. There's a series of twisting switchbacks as we climbed higher and higher and Mr. Hawthorne was getting a bit antsy over the drop off on my side. He didn't want to know how far down it was. And it was waaaaay down. The scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. Mr. Hawthorne and I were trying to describe this highway and the astonishing views of one of the most rugged and wild areas in America. This is what we came up: Huge doesn't describe it. Words are inadequate. Pictures are inadequate. Extraordinary. Humbling. Exhilarating. Scary. We're just specks. Here's what we're doing today:
From Red Lodge to Yellowstone, Beartooth Highway traverses an impressive range of ecosystems - from lush pine forests to alpine tundra.
The brutal climate at this elevation deters the growth of trees and shrubs and the plants that do grow have adapted in remarkable ways. Some convert sunlight to heat. Many conserve water the way desert plants do.
At the summit, there's a sky-high world of glacial cirques, clear alpine lakes, and snow that lingers through the summer months.
Beartooth Highway officially opened this year at 8:15 am Friday, May 28. Check out the videos HERE to see the clearing progress. Check out the video for May 24. New snow.
Sadly, I didn't see the first grizzly. Now the whole time, I've been wondering why this highway is called Beartooth.
When I was in Red Lodge, Montana, I made a quick trip out to the truck, sans camera, and noticed a bird I'd never seen before. I determined it was a magpie. I found this one in a tree on Beartooth Highway.