Photo Merv ColemanKnown as one of the most scenic drives in the U.S., the Beartooth Highway holds one of the prestigious designations of All-American Road. This National Scenic Byway sits on a million plus acres of wilderness area nestled between the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountain ranges. The 68 mile corridor isn’t just for autos, it’s also a favorite for motorcyclists, RV’s and even road bikers, and while the views from the highway itself are unbelievable, getting off the beaten path is where the real adventure begins. We’ll get you started, but fair warning— you may need to take the summer off to get it all in.
Photo Merv ColemanFlora and Fauna As part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the area is home to wildlife such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, mountain goats and at least 115 species of birds. The best time to be on the lookout is early morning or late evening when the animals are most active. Keep in mind, wildlife are just that, wild. Be safe and respectful and stay a good distance away.
Photo Merv ColemanOften times overlooked by plant enthusiasts, the area comes alive with a variety of flowers that bloom in both high elevations and rolling meadows. You’ll find buttercups, primroses, columbine, forget-me-nots, mountain clematis, delphinium, lupine, poppies, pasqueflower, orchids, indian paintbrush…you get the picture. Wildflower Viewing
Photo Pat ClaytonFishing Over 10,000 high mountain lakes riddle the area around the pass. You’ll find clear rivers and streams as well as the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River. Much of the fishing is accessible on lakes close to the road, but if you venture out a bit, you’ll be casting in the midst of such unparalleled beauty you may get a bit distracted. Lakes and Rivers
Photo Dolan PersonkeHiking While experienced backpackers will find the Beartooth mountains a backcountry mecca, there are day hikes for all levels. Pack a lunch, plenty of water, a camera and hit the trails. (Don’t forget the bear spray.) Hiking Trails Camping There are over 200 campsites along the highway, some nestled around beautiful lakes. Some campgrounds accept reservations, but the majority are first come, first served, so get there early and be ready to nab a spot. Don’t worry about the location, there’s not a bad seat in the house. Camping along the Beartooth Highway
Photo Dolan PersonkeBiking While some people love the challenge of road biking over the pass, just beyond the road you’ll find hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails. Biking Trails Climbing One of the highest and most rugged areas in lower 48 states, there are 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. Here are a couple of the most notable…
- Bear’s Tooth Spire: The namesake of the highway and the mountain range, the jutting peak looks just like a tooth. The name comes from the Crow Indian tribe, “Na Piet Say,” meaning, “The bear’s tooth.” Though not the highest peak, it’s one of the more difficult summits to climb. The peak, located on the east ridge of the Beartooth Mountains can be seen from the highway. Climbing Bear's Tooth Spire
- Granite Peak: Named for glacial sculptured granite, Granite Peak is the highest point in Montana at 12,799 feet above sea level. Due to highpoint ascents, it’s known as one of the most difficult climbs in the U.S. The ascent is a 10-12 mile, 6300’ hike leading to exposed level 3 and 4 rock climbs. It’s not for the novice climber, but there are many smaller, but just as beautiful peaks in the area. Climbing Granite Peak
Photo Donnie SextonGuided Horseback Riding For a truly western experience,view the backcountry on horseback. You can opt for day rides, but for a real adventure, take a guided pack trip where you’ll see areas not easily accessible. The views will be spectacular, the rides relaxing and the cowboy coffee strong. Horseback Riding and Pack Trips Skiing On good snow years, expert skiers can ski the Twin Lakes Headwall, a lift-served area which hosts an International Ski and Snowboard camp. Red Lodge International Summer Racing Camp. For those in the know, you can also take turns right off the road. Boating For the boaters out there, pack up the kayak, canoe or drift boat and head to the lakes. Accessing the other side of many of these areas brings a whole new meaning to the word, “solitude.” You can fish, hike, camp or simply cruise around the water. Good food, good people and great conversation. At either end of the Beartooth Highway, you’ll find the quaint mountain towns of Red Lodge and Cooke City. We highly recommend you stay in either or both and really nestle in to the culture. At the end of every adventure, you’ll find great restaurants, unique shops and entertaining events. Red Lodge, MT, Cooke City, MT We recommend the long way home… Beartooth Highway Wayfinding Map
Photo Donnie Sexton