The Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, is a 67 mile stretch of US Highway 212 with breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains, in Wyoming and Montana, USA. The road climbs up the Beartooth Pass, at an elevation of 10,947 ft (3,337 m) above the sea level.
This section of U.S. Route 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Cooke City, Montana, is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies.
Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October. Snowstorms can happen even in summers, and strong winds and severe thunderstorms can be usual. The expected driving time to complete the 69 miles (111km) is around 2 hours. Avalanches and heavy snowfalls can sometimes block some sections of the road and can be extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area.
The Beartooth Highway it’s an easy access to Yellowstone National Park at its northeast entrance. This infamous road is tightly hairpinned and bumped, an exquisite winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks leading the traveler over the mountains. The road includes some steep sections, without market central lines, is very narrow, barely wide enough for 2 cars at the same time and it has not protections or guardrails. The surface of the road is asphalt, and chains or snow tyres can be required anytime. This stretch of road should not be attempted by novice drivers.
The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. The weather conditions at the Beartooth Highway can be harsh, because it crosses some extreme parts of the country, reaching 10,977 and surrounded by 20 mountain peaks that reach over 12,000 feet. But summertime temperatures can range from the 70s on sunny days to below freezing during sudden snowstorms. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging.
The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. The Beartooth Highway was opened on June 14, 1936. Any barriers along the edge afford little more than token protection; large stretches should be taken at a snail's pace and a lookout kept for vehicles coming from the opposite direction! The road is certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation.
The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. A quick glance at the map, at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. The drive is definitely worth it. Heralded as one of the most scenic drives in the United States, the Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, features breathtaking views of the Absaroka and BeartoothMountains, and open high alpine plateaus dotted with countless glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife. Don’t forget your camera!
The experience of using this road is very impressive. The road's winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. In the surrounding mountains, glaciers are found on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet high. The Road itself is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming (10,947 feet) and Montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. Exercise extreme caution when passing on-coming traffic, over-taking and around corners. Drive with your headlights on at all times as it is easier for oncoming vehicles to see you.