Beartooth Highway is an epic 68-mile byway that stretches through southwest Montana and heads right into Yellowstone National Park. Wilderness, mountain landscapes, and heavily-forested areas await you on this scenic road trip. Mountain goats, lions, moose, bears, and wolves are among the wildlife you will encounter on your journey. Here’s a quick glance at some of the things you won’t want to miss just off of Beartooth Highway.
Scenic Beartooth Highway – What You Need To Know
I drove the Beartooth Highway from Yellowstone National Park into Billings Montana. This allowed me to drive the famous Lamar Valley of Yellowstone and see some amazing animals.
Beartooth Highway Tips
Keep in mind the Beartooth Highway is normally closed from sometime in the end of September to Memorial Day weekend.
Time it Right – When I drove through the first weekend in September I was hit with snow at the top part of the mountains. It was heavy snow that a few times I had to pull off to the side of the road for safety until I could see better.
Bring Hand Sanitizer – All the bathrooms I found along the highway were no more than a little room with a hole in the ground and no sinks.
Bring Water and Snacks – There are so many long stretches of no exits and no places to stop for something to eat or drink.
Fill up the Gas Tank – The same way there are few places to stop to eat and drink, there are just a few to fill up with gas. So do it before you start the highway and every chance you get.
Related: Visiting Pompeys Pillar National Monument – Billings Montana
How long does it take to drive the Beartooth Highway?
This depends on how many stops you make and of course the weather but the average is 2 hours one way.
Is Beartooth Highway dangerous?
Yes, it is labeled as one of the most dangerous roads in America because of the climb and switchback. This is why you must take your time. Don't be afraid to pull over and let cars go by you so you can go at a slower pace.
Where does Beartooth Highway start and end?
The Beartooth Highway starts in Red Lodge Montana and ends at the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
For this post, I started my drive in Yellowstone so if you starting in Red Lodge read from the bottom up!
How tall is Beartooth?
The Beartooth Mountain that the highway got its name from it 10,947 feet high.
Related: 14 Amazing Free Things to do in Billings MT
So let's take a look at a drive along the Beartooth highway starting at the Yellowstone National Park North East Entrance.
Silver Gate and Cooke City
When you leave Yellowstone you first enter Silver Gate and shortly after that is Cooke City. Here is a great place to stop using the restroom, get gas, and eat.
There are also many local shops and trading posts to take in and a visitor center.
As you leave the town behind you will start to get your first glimpses of the Beartooth mountain and the drive ahead.
Crazy Creek Cascade
With only a short hike from the highway, you will come across the roaring Crazy Creek Cascade. There’s also plenty of parking at this pitstop.
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Clark’s Fork Overlook
Clark’s Fork Overlook will get you an up-front and personal look at the Clark’s Fork River Valley. Later on, in the summer you will enjoy yellow aspen trees that pair nicely with the dark hues of the mountains in the backdrop.
There are several stops along Beartooth Lake to stop and take it in. It's an alpine lake backed up to some of the smaller mountains before you start to make the steep climbs.
This is also where I was able to watch the clouds roll in over the lake and where it started snowing on my drive!
After passing Beartooth Lake the climb really starts with going up the mountains and the switchbacks. Take your time and drive slow and take it all in.
Related: Ultimate Guide to Little Bighorn Battlefield
Top of the World Store
Need gas, a snack or a place to stretch your legs? Top of the World Store is a great destination for that. It is 25 miles from Cooke City and 38 miles from Red Lodge.
This is also one of the few places to take a bathroom break but bring hand sanitizer the ‘bathroom' is no more than a wood room with a hole in the ground and no sinks.
I was sad I couldn't get a clear view of Beartooth mountain until later on in my drive but if you are lucky this is where you will get an up-close shot of the mountain that the highway takes its name from.
There are so many unnamed stops along the Beartooth Highway that have amazing views and are worth the stop. The picture above is one of my favorite of those stops. It's right above the Rock Creek Vista Point.
Related: Top 10 Things to See at Big Horn County Museum – Hardin Montana
Garner Lake Pullout and Trailhead
Here you can view the Bear’s Tooth and discover how this highway got its name. You can hike the Beartooth Loop National Recreation Trail at this point. If you’re visiting during mid-July, keep your eyes out for alpine flowers and other wildflowers in the prairies.
Rock Creek Vista Point Rest Area & Interpretive Trail
Here at this rest area, you will find jaw-dropping views of Rock Creek Canyon and an easily accessed trail that is wheelchair friendly.
This is also the only decent bathroom stop on the highway. Take advantage of it!!
Now if you are coming from Yellowstone heading towards Red Lodge then this will also mark your descent down the mountains.
After Rock Creek Vista Point you will hit the biggest part of the switchbacks on the drive. There are many places along with this point where you can stop and take in views of the road. Take your time the views are amazing.
Beartooth Mountain Base
HAs you head down the switchbacks you get to see Beartooth Moutain from the base and it's a sight to see. You can see where the rock slides have been as well to do be careful on your drive!
Shoshone National Forest
While driving on the Wyoming side of the Beartooth Highway you will be in the Shoshone National Forest. This forest covers nearly 2.5 million acres in northern Wyoming.
Custer National Forest
As you cross into Montana you enter the Custer National Forest. This forest was named after General Custer who did at the Battle of Little Big Horn just outside Billings Montana.
Custer National Forrest has 10 different sections around Montana and covers over 1.1 million acres.
Red Lodge Montana
This is where the Beartooth Highway starts or ends depending on which direction you drive. Every Memorial Day weekend there is a celebration here to mark the opening of the highway again for the summer.
On the west corner of the Beartooth Highway, you will find a lot of information about early mining history and the Beartooth Mountains to introduce you to the region.
These are a number of places to stop while visiting along the Beartooth Highway. Which spot do you plan on stopping to see some incredible views of Yellowstone?
Friday 11th of June 2021
Love this post as a Non-American I get to see and travel through others!
Tuesday 13th of April 2021
Being from Nebraska, the Beartooth highway is well out of our way to or from Yellowstone. However, after driving it the first time and seeing how beautiful it is, we've been over it several times over the years. It's really a wonderful scenic drive that is well worth the extra time to take. You have some nice photos. Brings back memories. A few years ago we went through hail and then snow in mid August. You never know.
Sunday 27th of September 2020
super and great highway reacted out to share with here