Beartooth Highway through the Pass

The great American road trip and we have miles of them!

One in particular is the Beartooth Highway a 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 high Beartooth Pass.

Beartooth Mountains

The Beartooth Mountains are located in south central Montana and northwest Wyoming, U.S. and are part of the 900,000 acre  Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, within Custer, Gallatin and Shoshone National Forests.  The Beartooths are the location of Granite Peak, which at 12,807 feet is the highest point in the state of Montana.  The Beartooth mountains are composed of Precambrian granite and crystalline metamorphic rocks dated at approximately 4 billion years old, making these rocks some of the oldest on Earth.


In August 1872, the pass was crossed by Civil War General Phillip Sheridan and 120 men returning from an inspection tour of Yellowstone. Rather than take the long detour down the Clarks Fork River to return to Billings, Sheridan took the advice of an old hunter named Greer, who claimed intimate knowledge of the Beartooth Mountains. When the road was opened in 1936, it essentially followed Sheridan’s route over the pass.

Highway Clearing

Because of the high altitudes, snowstorms can occur even in the middle of the summer and the pass is also known for strong winds and severe thunderstorms. Drivers should plan on a driving time of at least two hours for the 69-mile long trip from Red Lodge to Cooke City.  It is a good idea to check road conditions before you head in.

Video uploaded by U Tube user 

Beartooth Pass

Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, weather conditions permitting.

By the late CBS correspondent, Charles Kuralt.  “the most beautiful drive in America,”

Video uploaded by U Tube user 

opening day

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.

Video uploaded by U Tube user 

West Summit Ride Down

From here down is a 4,000 foot drop of switch back turns….a real bucket list road for all motorcyclist. It is so steep rock slides can take out the road for an entire season like the one you see in this video in 2005.

Video uploaded by U Tube user   


6 responses to “Beartooth Highway through the Pass

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