Photographing the Beartooth Highway

Photo by Merv Coleman

The highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies, the Beartooth Highway (BTH), crosses Montana and Wyoming. Some of the most rugged and beautiful terrains in the west, the scale is so grand, the experience feels larger than life.

Fall is an especially lovely time to make the drive. The crowds lessen, the pace slows down, and the weather becomes dramatic, almost energizing. This isn’t just any drive; you’ll need to plan enough time to explore, contemplate, and choose your photo opportunities.

We asked three of our favorite photographers what they loved most about shooting the Beartooth Highway, including some of their shots!

Andy Austin

“I have lots of favorite things about photographing the pass. One of the big things is the diversity of what there is to shoot up there, from epic mountain scenes, to wildlife and wildflowers! And going just a few miles down the road can completely change the scene and make it so I can get a diverse collection of photos from just one evening of shooting.”

Photos by Andy Austin

Merv Coleman

“I like the variety of landscapes due to the geology, vegetative zones and elevation differences. I think it is also the closest experience that one can have of being in a wilderness-like setting and still be in your car. I like the fact that there is not one landscape or mountain that dominates the area, (Pilot and Index are great, though.) I like that Beartooths offer some of the oldest rocks on earth and even though most of the rocks are of metamorphic origins, that an anomaly of sedimentary rock is very visible in Beartooth Butte. I also like that the Beartooth Highway is still relatively free of congested traffic most of the time, so I can just doodle along at my own pace and stop whenever and wherever I want. I like that it can snow any month of the year. I like that it is closed for a period of time every year so that makes it even more special when it is open.

Favorite views:  Pilot and Index, of course. Twin Lakes. The view from first switchback west of Gardiner Lake is my favorite, looking down into Mirror Lake, Quintupple Peak, the Bear’s Tooth, Glacier Lake, Whitetail Peak, Mount Rearguard, Spirit Mountain and all of Hellroaring Plateau.

Photos by Merv Coleman

Donnie Sexton

“That feeling that you're on top of the world with epic views in every direction - for the entire highway!”

Photos by Donnie Sexton

Please remember, due to COVID-19, please review local public health guidelines before you arrive. Stay home if you are sick, and understand that some services and destinations may be limited.