(Music: Land of Promise, Terry Devine King, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, YouTube Audioswap)
We camped for two nights at a campground just outside of Billings, Montana on our 2007 late summer trip. We hadn’t decided on what to do or where to go on our “non-travel” day. Looking at the map, the Beartooth Highway looked like it might be interesting. While it was a ways to go, we decided to check it out.
In hindsight, I have only one regret for taking the drive that day and it’s only that I wished we were camped closer to the beginning of the climb into the Beartooth Mountains, perhaps somewhere around Red Lodge, where the Beartooth Highway begins. Other than that, the drive, said by some to be “the most beautiful drive in America,” was well worth it.
The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Cooke City, Montana. It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border to the 10,947 ft (3,337 m) high Beartooth Pass. The approximate elevation rise is from 5,200 ft (1,600 m) to 8,000 ft (2,400 m) in 12 mi (19 km) in the most daring landscapes.
When driving from the east to the west, the highest parts of the Beartooth Highway level off into a wide plateau near the top of the pass, and then descend to where the Beartooth Highway connects to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway near Cooke City, which forms the northeast gateway to Yellowstone National Park. En route, one passes numerous lakes typical of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area which borders the highway along much of its route.
The highway officially opened June 14, 1936.
Beartooth Highway references: