The Beartooth Pass, part of US Highway 312, connects Red Lodge, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park creating a squiggly asphalt line sixty miles through some of the most rugged and beautiful landscape the USA has to offer. It is consistently ranked in the top ten best drives in America, and often number one by motorcycle publications. It is a Scenic Byways “All American Road,” meaning that just driving it is a destination in itself.
This nearly perfect collection of curves and peaks starts just an hour from my home base of Billings, Montana, so I’ve driven it a lot. I’ve driven the Pass at night. I’ve been caught in surprise snowstorms. I know every curve in the road and many of the trails that leave the road behind for the glaciated summits and lake-jeweled valleys. So, I’m kind of bored of it, right?
Um, no. But, after so many experiences on the Pass, including seeing massive wildfires blacken mountainsides and being chased by mountain goats trying to drink my pee, not much surprises me about the Beartooth Highway anymore.
A cabin stands in a field, just off the highway. Its doors and windows are gone, and sunlight filters through gaps in the thick timbers. Its roof sags under its own weight. Behind the cabin, Montana’s Tobacco Root Mountains rise like a painted backdrop. Brown foothills dusted with pine trees give way to jagged gray peaks in the distance. The road and a barbed-wire fence are the only other human structures in sight. Continue reading Trucks Like Tree Rings
There’s a reason the winding mountain road is an iconic image in our culture. Here are five roads that will induce a white-knuckle grip on the safety handle.
Beartooth Pass – Highway 312 Red Lodge to Cooke City, Montana
Highway 312 winds 60 miles from Red Lodge to Cooke City, Montana at the edge of Yellowstone National Park. Starting at 5,555 feet, the highway claws its way up 5,000 feet in less than 19 miles, switching-back on itself dozens of times before reaching Beartooth Pass, named after a spike of rock that looks like a massive canine tooth. Most of the drive is above treeline, with great views of towering granite peaks, hundreds of alpine lakes and snow all summer long. Keep an eye out for Grizzly Bears and Bighorn Sheep. Also, don’t forget to stop at “Top of the World” a tiny convenience store near the highpoint of the pass.