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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Spectacular Beartooth Highway

Labor Day weekend we took our one and only overnight trip away from the ranch. I had read about one of America's most beautiful scenic highways, the Beartooth Highway, a 68-mile long National Scenic Byways All American road in northern Wyoming/southern Montana. Its been dubbed "the most beautiful roadway in America", so we decided to head up there and see for ourselves :-). Our friends John and Carol Herr thought it sounded like a nifty excursion and made plans to join us as they had Monday off for the Labor Day weekend holiday.

We met on a rainy dreary Sunday morning around 10AM and headed north to Yellowstone. It was actually a later start than planned, but we ended up having a minor veterinary emergency with Casey, necessitating a Saturday evening trip to Jackson to have him checked out. I'll spare everyone the details, but he is fine...most dog owners will understand when I say he was a little clogged up and needed his glands expressed...and we were able to hit the road as expected.

Our course went north through Yellowstone to Fishing Bridge area, where we turned east and went out the east entrance of Yellowstone towards Cody. It was a pretty steady rain all morning, so I have no pretty pictures of our drive through east Yellowstone. We made a few leg stretch stops along the way, as we both had our pups with us...John and Carol have an adorable King Charles Spaniel named Jimmy. We stopped at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir...

where we saw these really interesting rock formations
I really liked the diagonal striations of the rock wall. It very much reminded me of our excursion in Colorado, the Morrow Point Reservoir.

It was just a short distance from here to the town of Cody, where we made a brief pit stop at WalMart....our first time near one in three months :-)! We did a brief tour around Cody, seeing the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and then looking for Buffalo Bill Village, as both couples have had offers of employment from them in the past. We thought it would be kind of fun to see what it looked like! But as we started heading north out of Cody to our overnight destination of Red Lodge Montana, trouble reared its ugly head again. John and Carol's car started having problems, and rather than head further away from a large town like Cody, we turned around to see if we could find a service station that could diagnose the problem. Remember, its now about 5PM on Sunday on Labor Day weekend; surprisingly, we did find an Exxon station with a service tech on duty, who was able to put the computer on the jeep and get a reading. Now I'm not mechanical or anything, so I don't remember what the issue was, but it was determined that they best stay put and take it to the Jeep dealer on Tuesday when they opened. Major bummer! Fortunately, we found a pet-friendly room at the Best Western, and once they got settled in for the night, we continued on up to Red Lodge. It was so sad seeing them stay behind! But I know if it were us (and I'm really surprised it wasn't!) I would have insisted they continue on as well. So we tracked our way northward through Wyoming, found a geocache as we entered Montana, and headed on to Red Lodge for our over night stay at the Yodeler Motel...seriously! It was an older establishment and pretty funky, but comfortable and reasonable which is what we looked for. After some pizza for dinner from Red Lodge Pizza Co (no we do not recommend, it was pretty awful), we collapsed into bed to rest up for our excursion along this most beautiful roadway the next day.
Breakfast the next morning was much better at the Red Lodge Cafe. An old-fashioned diner type of restaurant that looked like it had a good local draw...always a good sign. A hearty breakfast later and we were on our way to the BT Highway! I had downloaded several geocaches so we were planning on doing some caching along the way, but as I forgot the bear spray! there were going to be no longer hikes.

The Beartooth Highway (BT from now on) is the highest elevation roadway in the northern Rockies. It goes from a lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in just a few miles. The area boasts 10,000 mountain lakes, 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation, and 12 national forest campgrounds. This is one of the earliest overlooks, looking to the west.

Looking towards the east, where we came from. We're not close to being at the top yet!

Casey was having a stare-down contest with this chipmunk.

We stopped at this parking area and took a short hike down to the lake...easy viewing in case of bears...

and some pictures of the pups for those who have been missing them :-).

getting closer to the top...isn't it gorgeous?

It keeps getting more beautiful...

and as you can see, colder! The hats came out....

and gloves as well. This is at the actual Beartooth Pass summit, 10,947 feet high. The wind was blowing something fierce...

as you can see from Casey's ears blowing back! 

We started descending down towards Beartooth Lake, with a few short stops along the way to walk and let the dogs swim in the crystal clear lakes.

Beartooth Lake, with Beartooth Butte looking over it. The white-capped mountains were left in the far distance now.

We had an awesome view of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area from the top of...
Clay Butte Fire Lookout. There was a geocache up here we had to find :-).

Beartooth Falls was another geocache spot...

requiring a short "steep" walk up towards the rapids at the head of the falls....

with another short "steep" climb up to the top of the hill. Yes, we started out way down at the sidewalk!

The falls were spectacular though, well worth the effort to see.

As we wound our way out of the forest, we arrived at the west-end town anchoring the BT highway, Cooke City. I don't know why I was expecting more, but this was pretty much it ;-).

We had a late lunch here at the Bistro Cafe. It was ok, fairly pricey for what we had but you have to figure where we are...miles from anywhere! After lunch we continued our drive back to Moran through the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. 

It was a long drive, and a lot to pack in in just two days. There were so many places you could stop and go for a hike, have a picnic lunch, even in Cody there's a couple days of things to see and do (good because poor John and Carol were stuck there for a few days before they could leave!). I had read that even though the BT Highway was only 68 miles, to leave yourselves at least three hours to do it due to the switchbacks and slow speeds. I think it took us 6 hours by the time we stopped at all the points of interests, picture spots and geocaching. I truly loved this drive and rank it up there in the top three drives we've done since going out on the road, the others being our jeep trip in Ouray CO and our drive along the Cabot Trail on Nova Scotia. For anyone not in shape for backpacking into the wilderness, its the perfect drive to see the spectacular scenery generally obtainable only by some strenuous activity :-). It should be on all travelers' bucket lists!


  1. Bear Tooth Highway is fantastic! Did it on a motorcycle trip several years back. Your pictures bring it all back.

  2. Loved your photos of our backyard--the Beartooth is a must for anyone who comes to see us. So sorry your friends did not get to experience it! I don't think we've ever been at the top that the wind wasn't blowing!

  3. Well alrighty...it is on our TODOS list:o)))

  4. Your pictures were beautiful and your narration worthy of a scenic pamphlet. I swear Karen you could write for a travel agency!

  5. Didn't get to BT when we were in the area, looking forward to spending some time in that area one of these days.

  6. Great post and photos…oh for just one endless summer...

  7. I had never heard of bear tooth hwy "But it just went on my list" love the pics . Enjoy a little geo cashing ourselves takes you to some great places. .