Beartooth Highway

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

Those of you who know me well know that I’m an Ocean spirit.  The ocean brings me joy and peace and makes my spirit and soul happy.  When my toes are in the sand and the ocean waves are splashing against my legs, I know I’ve found the place I belong.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love the forests and the mountains and the deserts-I do.  The mountains make me feel like a child again, full of wonderment and excited to see what is around each bend.

Hayden Valley and sites along the way to the Beartooth Highway

No mountain place has brought out that wonderment more than the Beartooth Highway.  I think my eyes were as big as saucers with each turn around the bend we took.  I was breathless most of the time, overpowered by the beauty of the mountains and valleys.  Each time I said something similar to “oh my gosh, how gorgeous”, I didn’t think it could get any better but it did.

The road itself is amazing, straightaways bordered by pine forests; winding switchbacks that take you higher into the mountains.  By the time you are at 11,000 feet you feel like you are gliding through the clouds and over the peaks on an angel’s wings. So very magical.

There is one placed we hiked that was filled with beautiful glacier lakes and alpine flowers and mossy rocks.  As we walked I told Jim that I thought this must be what it feels like to wander the highlands Scotland.  The wind was blowing us along the pathway, the moss smelled like it had just been rained upon and the flowers glistened in the sun. A moment I shall always hold close to my heart.

A little highway information from the AARP website:

The Beartooth, open only between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, climbs to an altitude of almost 11,000 feet, where glacially deposited boulders dot the landscape; clear lakes stay frozen into July; little grows but lichens, mosses and pinky-nail-sized wildflowers; and rock formations up to 4 billion years old dot the horizon. As you drive, you’ll pass more lakes than you can count, including Beartooth Lake (elevation about 8,900 feet), some 23 miles up the pass from Cooke City. Here, you can stretch your legs on part of the 11-mile loop trail that connects Beartooth, Grayling and Beauty lakes; the trailhead is just off the highway. Covering the entire loop takes five to seven hours, so consider hiking a mile or so along Beartooth Lake itself (where the loop starts), then turning around. You’ll be hard-pressed to resist taking photos of this turquoise alpine lake with snow-covered peaks rising in the background.

If you hit the pass’s 10,947-foot summit — the Northern Rockies’ highest road — and do not yet appreciate the audacity of building a road in such a rugged and remote landscape, a stop at the Rock Creek Vista Point (at 9,190 feet in elevation on the Red Lodge side of the pass) should get you there. From the viewpoint, you can look 2,500 feet down, following the highway as it switchbacks, clinging to the side of the mountain, to the floor of Rock Creek Canyon.

With the Beartooth Scenic Highway’s many switchbacks and amazing scenery, it will take you most of the day to cover the 64 miles of this road, which the late journalist Charles Kuralt called “the most beautiful drive in America.”

Don’t let the 68 mile drive lull you into thinking, oh it will probably take about 2 hours to complete this drive, trust me, set aside the entire day and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. Make sure you stop at the Top of the World store for a delicious huckleberry ice cream sandwich!

If you want to learn a little about the amazing history and construction of the Beartooth Highway head over to the Beartooth Highway site .

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”-Leonard Cohen

I hope you enjoyed tagging along with us while we explored this incredibly beautiful highway. Safe travels and happy trails to all of you. Here’s a little Zak Brown road music for you, great Beartooth Highway music…

8 thoughts on “Beartooth Highway

  1. Sandy, these photos are absolutely stunning. Not sure if I will ever make it to the Beartooth Highway, since we sold the Roadtrek, so thank you for allowing us to be armchair travelers as you wander amongst these beautiful mountains, lakes and byways.


  2. Have you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? That book got me to the Beartooth Highway. That year they opened it in early June. There was too much snow. The bars in Red Lodge had carved bars out of the snow at the top of the pass and were offering free drinks as you got to the top. There were people skiing in shorts and bathing suits. It was a party. It was a moment I have never forgotten. This is an amazing road.


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