When you hear about Montana, you usually hear about Glacier or Yellowstone. The Beartooth Highway is often overlooked as an amazing way to get into Yellowstone! This scenic byway is often referred to as one of the most scenic drives in America, and stretches 67 miles from Red Lodge to Cooke City. Naturally, since we have recently moved to the area, we had to try it out when it opened! We have our favorite tips and tricks, places to stop, and more!!
Prepping for your trip
- Pack for the weather! Yes, it might be 80 degrees in Red Lodge, but up at the summit of the Highway it could be 30 degrees and snowing! Remember to pack for the weather. This doesn’t only mean clothes, it could mean extra water, a tow rope in case you get stuck, extra food, etc! Also be sure to pack sunscreen, a rain poncho, and a sun hat. I mean it when I say you never know what the weather will be up here!
- GET GAS. Whichever end you’re entering the Beartooth Highway from, you’re going to want to get gas. I don’t care if you have a Prius or a Hummer, or if you have a nearly full tank, it’s always a good idea to set out on your Montana adventures with a full tank of gas. Like I said before, the weather up here can be unpredictable and you may need to use that full tank of gas before the day is done.
- Check the road reports. The Beartooth Highway can be somewhat unpredictable as far as weather goes, and if it starts snowing up there it’s usually enough to close the road. You can “like” and check out their Facebook page for updated information, and check out the road reports HERE.
- Don’t forget your camera! Or a phone charger. You’re going to be taking photos, videos, snap chats, and more on your way through this scenic highway! You definitely don’t want your phone to die in case of an emergency. Please remember to not text/snapchat/take photos while driving!
How to See the Beartooth
- By car – Yes, the most obvious way of how to see this amazing place is by car! Cars are fast, warm, and easy to use. If you have a Jeep or convertible and can stand the weather, that’s even better! Later in the summer might be a better time to cruise with the top down!
- By Motorcycle– Now, I’ve never been on a Harley or anything, but judging by just how many motorcycles there were up here makes me think it’s an amazing way to see the Beartooth Highway! Remember to dress warmly if this is how you’re going to cruise the Beartooth! And- remember motorcycles can be difficult to see on highways, especially this one with how many switchbacks and pullouts there are. Drive slowly and be aware of your surroundings!
- Biking- This is a whole new ball game, let me tell ya! Just you and your mountain bike cruising the Beartooth. Not something I ever picture MYSELF doing, but it’s another popular way to see it! This is not only great exercise, but you also go a bit slower so you can really appreciate and take in your surroundings. I would recommend this for only experienced pedal bikers and seriously in shape folks.
- Snowmobile– Early in the season, I can’t imagine how fun it would be to snowmobile around this place! This is proven true by just how many “sleds” (I think that’s what people call them!) we saw up towards the summit! If anyone has a snowmobile and wants to take me along, let me know!
- Skiing/Snowboarding– Not only is there a “Summer Ski Area” because the snow here lasts forever, there are also a bunch of great hills that are awesome for skiing! If you’re willing to hike up them that is. So there is potential for cross country skiing as well as downhill if you’re up for it! So don’t put those skis away for the summer just yet!
- Snow shoeing– As we were driving along, both Coby and I wished we had a pair of snow shoes! Snow shoeing is relatively easy, and it would be great to get to some of the beautiful vantage points that you just can’t see from the Highway itself! It’s a great way to get out of the car for a bit, and there are plenty of places to park if you’d like to try an actual hike!
- Sledding- Like actual sledding! This is a super fun way for your kiddos to see and interact with the Beartooth Highway, and get out of the car for a bit!
Tips & Tricks
- PLEASE- do not feed or interact with the animals! There are many wild animals you’ll probably see, including: chipmunks, rock chucks, mountain goats, deer, and more. These are WILD animals. Yes, the cute little chipmunks will come right up to you and beg for seeds and nuts, even climb on top of your shoe to do so. Resist the temptation to feed them! They’re not cold, they can find food on their own, and even if a baby mountain goat appears to be separated from its family that does not mean you need to put it in your car!
- Drive slowly– Not only do you want to take in all the beauty around, but it’s really in your best interest to drive slow for other reasons! There are many very sharp twists and turns, animals are on the road, and many people are parking behind corners. Remember there are also motorcyclists and bikers along the road too, as well as slow moving campers and RVs.
- If you get car sick.... maybe you should drive or sit up front. It might be in your best benefit to take some medicine or pack some ginger ale with you too. My boyfriend does get slightly car sick some times, but this road about did him in. It could have also been my driving but I’m going to blame the road!
- Plan for a MINIMUM of 3 hours…. one way. The Beartooth Highway is 67 miles of 15-35 mph speed limits. Once that gets crowded it gets a lot slower. Coby and I spent 7 hours round trip exploring, taking photos, and looking around.
- Get Gas first!– I think I said this above, but it’s pretty important! You can stop at the Top of the World for gas, but I’d recommend that for emergencies only.
- Pet friendly!- We didn’t take our dogs on this trip because we thought it would be mostly all driving, and didn’t want them to sit in the car all day. There are many places to stop and explore though, and we saw many dogs hiking, skiing, and biking with their owners! As always we recommend a leash for safety (there are a LOT of cars driving around, as well as other dogs and wildlife). Please just remember to pick up after your pets!
Where to Stop
There are so many great places to stop and pull outs for all the popular ones! Every time you see a cool machine, a giant pile of snow, or a great view- there is most likely a pull out there for you! But- these were our most memorable stops along the Highway! Do be aware- many of these stops weren’t open when we visited because of weather. We can’t wait to go back and see what we missed! Find a full list of places to stop and descriptions HERE.
- Red Lodge, MT-Red Lodge is the starting point for most of the Highway travelers. It’s a cute little town with lots of restaurants, gas stations, fun shops, and more! It’s easy to get to the Highway from here, just keep following the road out of town. Any of the business owners or the rangers at the Forest Service building on your way will help you out with information about the Beartooth Highway! (Full Red Lodge guide coming soon!)
- Rock Creek Vista Point & Interpretive Trail- This is a great little stopping point from whichever direction you’re coming from! When we were there the bathrooms were clean, there was plenty of parking, and a great little trail to walk to stretch your legs. The view at the end of the little trail was so amazing!
- Summer Ski Area– Even if you’re not skiing, this is such a fun place to check out! It has a great view, and watching the skiers and snow boarders is so cool! If you’re interested in skiing the Beartooth Basin, you can find more information HERE. This place is cool because it actually has a lift, no having to hike up!
- Gardner Lake Pullout & Trail– This is another great place to stretch your legs, and even a good place for your dogs to swim! (There is a slight current here near the bridge, beware if pets/kids are swimming). You can even fish this lake, just remember you need to have a fishing license first!
- Beartooth Pass Summit– The summit is a great place to stop. There is a nice pull out with a few parking spaces and a little sign. That doesn’t sound like much, but the best part about the summit is the view! I can’t even explain it, it’s just a must stop!
- Top of the World Store- This place was so fun! There was a pressed penny machine, a little convenience store, a restroom, and even gas in case of an emergency. The store has snacks, books, drinks, clothing, stickers, literally anything you can think of! The people were very nice and it was so fun to get to talk to other travelers!
- Lake Creek Falls- We stumbled upon these falls by accident, we saw some people on a pedestrian bridge while we were driving by then saw the pullout further down the road! We got to walk down this gorgeous trail onto a pedestrian bridge that really got you up close and personal to the falls. Talk about a splash zone!
- Cooke City, MT– This is the little town at the end of the Highway, and it is so fun! There is gas, restaurants, and even a little museum describing the history of Cooke City. Just outside of this cute place is the entrance to Yellowstone National park! Full guide coming soon!
Have you driven the Beartooth before? We would love to hear your favorite stops, tips, tricks, and photos! Tag us on Facebook and Instagram! Make sure you use #TheMontanaGuide if you use our guide to help you out on your adventure!