Beartooth Highway - Bozeman CVB
Itinerary

Beartooth Highway

Driving the Beartooth Highway is something everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. This epic 68-mile stretch of US Highway 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park at Cooke City is one of the most scenic drives in America, offering breathtaking vistas, dramatic ascents and descents, and a chance to experience some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the nation.

Completed in the 1930s during the Great Depression, this National Scenic Byway is only open to travelers from May through October, when the road is mostly clear and the conditions are most likely to be navigable. The stretch of Highway 212 known as the Beartooth Highway begins and ends in Montana, dipping down into Wyoming and the majestic Shoshone National Forest. On winding switchbacks through alpine forests, you’ll gain nearly 11,000 feet as you reach Beartooth Summit. Once you pass the treeline, don’t be surprised to find snow and chilly temperatures, even in summertime.

Take your time and be sure you have someone that’s comfortable with winding roads and mountain driving behind the wheel. You might get a glimpse of cows, horses and other wildlife--don’t forget the bear spray if you decide to venture out on one of the area’s many hiking trails. Here are a few places to stop and explore along the way as you enjoy one of the most beautiful roads in America.

BREAKFAST:

Cooke City & Silver Gate

At the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park, you’ll find Cooke City and Silver Gate, two super small towns with big personalities ready to welcome you, feed you, and help you prepare for the day ahead. There’s a variety of lodging in this area, too, so it can make a great base for outdoor adventure and excursions into the Park. Start your morning with a stroll to stretch your legs before hitting the road, grab a coffee and a breakfast sandwich from the charming and cozy Cooke City Coffee, ⸺plus maybe a freshly baked cinnamon roll for the road⸺and start your journey on the “highway to the sky.”

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Destination 1:

Crazy Creek Falls

About 11 miles from Cooke City and only a short distance from the road, Crazy Creek Falls is a unique, massive waterfall that many visitors describe as “more of a cascade” because of the unusual angle at which the water comes down the mountain. Either way, it’s a gorgeous and peaceful place to stop for a moderate morning hike and a fantastic view of the Shoshone National Forest.

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Destination 2:

Yellowstone Overlook

As you wind through the mountains and begin to gain elevation, take a moment to pull over at the Yellowstone Overlook, where you’ll get an expansive, dramatic view of the Absaroka Mountains, including Pilot Peak and Index Peak. Just make a left on Forest Road 139 to find the pullout that will make you feel that you’re on top of the world.

Destination 3:

Clay Butte Fire Lookout Tower

This fire lookout was in operation from the 1940s to the 1960s, and since its purpose was to get a bird’s eye view of the landscape below, the views are, of course, incredible. Now a visitor’s center on the National Register of Historic Places, the Lookout Tower off of Forest Road 142 is the perfect place to take in the mountains, trees and lakes at 9800 feet.

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Lunchtime:

Beartooth Falls and Beartooth Lake

As the sun climbs higher in the sky, you’ll probably be ready for a break from the car and get moving or at least stretch your limbs. If you’re traveling during the warmer months, the Beartooth Lake area offers every type of summer recreation you can imagine, from boating, fishing and swimming to hiking and camping. Easily accessible from the highway, this gorgeous, high-elevation lake is a fantastic place to stop for a few hours to relax, cool off and explore. Just be aware that this area is pretty popular, so be prepared to share the land and plan ahead if you have any desire to camp⸺spots are on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Destination 4:

Visit the Top of the World Store

It’s nice to have someplace to stop for gas and snacks when you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the views at the Top of the World Store aren’t too shabby, either. Located at roughly the halfway point between Red Lodge and Cooke City, the Top of the World Store offers cold drinks, a visitor display, and a wide array of eclectic souvenirs sure to delight any traveler.

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Destination 5:

Beartooth Pass Summit

Just like with any mountain journey, when you make it to the top, you owe it to yourself to pause, take in the view and congratulate yourself for getting there. At almost 11,000 feet, the panorama from Beartooth Pass Summit is absolutely epic, so be sure to pull off the road, grab your camera, and appreciate the fact that you made it to the top.

Destination 6:

Rock Creek Vista Point

When you think you’ve seen the most spectacular view on the Beartooth Highway, well, think again: it’s not quite over yet! As you wind your way back over the Wyoming border into Montana and towards Red Lodge, you’ll find a few more stunning places to stop. At about 9,000 and on an easy pullout, Rock Creek Vista Point boasts stunning, 360 views of Rock Creek Valley and the surrounding Custer National Forest, including Montana’s famous Big Sky.

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Dinner and Relaxation:

Red Lodge, Montana

Whether Red Lodge is the beginning or end of your Highway 212 adventure, this historic Western town has so much to offer. Check out the Carbon County Depot Gallery or the Historical Society, explore the town’s charming Main Street, or get out for a beautiful hike before settling in at the old school Pollard Hotel.

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Once you’ve experienced this “highway to the sky” in Yellowstone Country, we know you’ll need to see more of Montana. Find out why Bozeman is the best place to start your adventure at www.visitbozeman.com.

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