The Beartooth Highway is one of the most beautiful roads in the continental United States, if not the world.
A direct route to Yellowstone National Park’s Northeast Entrance, the Beartooth Highway has been taking visitors to the Park since 1937. A scenic summer route (the snow falls heavy and voluminous in this country), the Beartooth is arguably the most stunning road into Yellowstone. It’s worth seeing in and of itself.
This itinerary takes you down the Beartooth Highway and toward the town of Red Lodge, MT.
The Lower Jaw of Heaven: Lunch in Red Lodge via the Beartooth Highway
Suggested Starting Time: 9:30 a.m.
The Beartooth Highway demands adequate concentration, as the route is mountainous. There’s no point in speeding through it either; just follow the posted limit and take in the beauty of the landscape.
If you want a sit down mean, you should head to the Roosevelt Dining Room; otherwise, you can grab a quick meal from the General Store.
Hitting the Road
The driving is not particularly difficult between Roosevelt and the Northeast Entrance, though you should take care for wildlife, especially bison.
The Lamar Valley is a hub for wildlife in the Park, as well as a popular spot for roadside wildlife watchers. Take care when driving, and if you think you see some wildlife in the distance (bison, elk, wolves, bears, etc.) be sure and pull over, rather than roll slowly down the road.
A pretty peak visible from the road, this feature was the namesake of one of Yellowstone’s most notable wolf packs, before their decline and extirpation in 2010.
Soda Butte Creek
Named for an extinct geyser, this creek winds through most the Lamar Valley.
A stately peak named by Yellowstone’s second superintendent, Philetus Walter Norris.
At just over 10,000 feet, this stunning peak, just across from the Abiathar, this peak was named for Scottish prospector turned Yellowstone guide Collins John H. Baronnett. The misspelling was mistakenly approved.
Abiathar is a biblical figure, a priest who fled Nob before King Saul massacred the populace. He is also associated with the reign of King David; in the context of Yellowstone National Park, the name is associated with paleontologist Charles Abiathar White, who helped collect and classify fossils around the area.
The Northeast Entrance is one of the least-traveled entrances to the Park, though it’s nestled in some wonderful scenery.
Cooke City-Silver Gate, MT
Cooke City-Silver Gate, MT is small; officially, they’re called census-designated places. In spite of its size, Cooke City in particular sees a lot of snowmobile traffic in the winter.
The highest elevation highway in Wyoming and Montana, as well as a Nationally Registered Historic Place, the Beartooth Highway snakes through some absolutely gorgeous country, showing off vistas of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and the Shoshone National Forest, taking you past brilliant peaks and pristine lakes. Campgrounds, trailheads, and overlooks dot the roadsides.
If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, you will relish your drive through the Beartooths.
These peaks make for a unique pair in the landscape.
Top of the World Store
A staple of the Beartooth Highway since 1934—the original store was built on the shores of Beartooth Lake and later moved to its present location in the 1960s—The Top of the World Store sells everything you might need for the area: gas, groceries, clothing, souvenirs, and fishing licenses. For the most part, it’s open from the Friday before Memorial Day until Columbus Day.
Rock Creek Vista
This vista is well beloved; offering views of both Rock Creek Canyon and Hellroaring Plateau. Wheelchair accessible.
Lunch and Sightseeing: Red Lodge, MT
There is a range of options for dining in Red Lodge, from the Red Lodge Pizza Company to Bogart’s Restaurant (which serves Mexican). Most of the restaurants are found on Broadway Avenue (U.S. Highway 212).
Within and around Red Lodge there are several things to do if you’re in no rush to get back to Yellowstone. You can stop by the historic Pollard Hotel, for instance, which was built in 1893—originally as The Spofford Hotel. It was purportedly the first brick building built in Red Lodge, MT. Another popular attraction is the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, located near Coal Miners Memorial Park outside of town.
To the east, between Washoe and Bearcreek, MT on Highway 308 is a “ghost town” visible from the road: the site of the Smith Mine Disaster (February 27-March 4, 1943), Montana’s worst coal mining accident on record. The actual mine is closed and the buildings are unoccupied, but there is a large sign explaining the accident near the road.
If you’re looking for a place to kick back and head a drink, consider hitting up Red Lodge Ales, located up the road near the Sanctuary.
Hitting the Road
Nothing much will have changed on the route back to Yellowstone National Park, except (of course) the angle of light across the mountain peaks.
If you’re looking for a sit-down dinner, head to the Roosevelt Dining Room. Otherwise food is available from the General Store.