Beartooth Highway ~ America’s Most Beautiful Drive (Part 1)

July 10th ~ Beartooth Highway (Day 1 of 2)

View from Pilot-Index Overlook ~ Beartooth Highway

Tim and I are continuing on our 3.5 month epic RV road trip through the western USA and Canada. 

The 68 mile long Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road. It runs from Cooke City to Red Lodge, winding in and out of Wyoming and Montana. Charles Kuralt considered it America’s most beautiful drive.

To get to the Beartooth Highway, you can depart Yellowstone National Park through the north-east exit. Crossing the top of Yellowstone took us through the Lamar Valley, where we witnessed large herds of bison far below us, followed the Yellowstone River and admired more of the brilliant wildflowers.

Herds of bison along the Yellowstone River in Lamar Valley

My favorite color

Pronghorn Antelope

Surprise #1 ~ We had barely departed Yellowstone when the heavens opened up. First it poured, and then much to our surprise, it hailed! The pavement started to turn white. We simply pulled off to the side of the road and waited it out. We sure did feel sorry for the motorcycle riders that were caught out in it, and thought fondly of our motorcycle riding friends back home.

So glad we were not on a motorcycle

The hail was about the size of marbles. Large enough to give a bruise, or a dent.

For maybe the first five to ten miles of the Beartooth Highway, honestly I was feeling a little let down. Yes, it was pretty, but so are many other roads we have traveled over the years. I was having a hard time justifying the lofty title it had been bestowed.

Pretty scenery, but certainly not award-winning in my book.

Things started to improve when we came to a beautiful waterfall that cascaded in front of two bridges. We hiked to the second bridge to get a closer look.

View of falls from the first bridge. Second bridge in the background

View from second, closer bridge.

I was starting to warm up to the route a little by now

Brilliant tiny yellow petals

The road was becoming more curvy and narrow as we climbed higher

And then BAM, I had to start eating my words as it became clear why this has long been a favorite of many.

Small lakes and patches of snow started to appear along the way

Surprise #2 – The roads were by now very narrow, no shoulder and only an occasional guard rail, with steep drop offs to the canyon below. We were climbing our way steadily to a lung-popping altitude of 11,000 feet and believe me this was the LAST thing I thought I would see…

Yes, that is a man riding a unicycle up the mountain!

He honked his horn in greeting as we passed by

OK, I’m sure that I have not seen it all, YET, but this one sure was a first.

The road continued upward with ever more switchbacks

Small lakes appeared around many corners

And finally we reached the summit!

Ellie Mae handled this like Super Woman!

Coming down the backside, as we closed in on the town of Red Lodge we stopped at another scenic overlook, Rock Creek Vista Point, at only 9190 feet in elevation. The view was superb, and the chipmunks were friendly.

They have obviously learned that begging pays off

Baby chipmunk, learning the ropes.

We completed the drive into Red Lodge, where we had made reservations at the Red Lodge KOA, just on the outskirts of town.

Then we made an executive decision…

We really did not have a set time-table, and the lighting had been so dismal for photography, that we decided to stay over an extra night and drive the Beartooth Highway AGAIN.

I’m so glad we did.

Please check out our next post to see a couple of my favorite pictures from this trip – so far anyways.

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that I can still be surprised! I mean really, a UNICYCLE in the middle of nowhere, riding by himself to an altitude of 11,000 feet! I’m thinking that is one for the record books.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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42 Responses to Beartooth Highway ~ America’s Most Beautiful Drive (Part 1)

  1. vivian meade says:

    Totally amazing, probably a trip I will never be able to make. It is such a joy to share your excursions and adventures and your surprises… Thank you SO MUCH. My blessings for continued good health and love on this journey.

    Like

  2. Jet Eliot says:

    The glorious scenery, the joy of finding some new mystery around every corner is great fun; and the unicycle is pretty funny. Great adventure, and safe travels to you both.

    Like

  3. Thank you for sharing your photos on this. We backed out on doing this road, concerned our 4-cylinder sedan couldn’t handle the grades. Well, I guess if a man on a unicycle can make it….we should of given it a try. Can’t wait to see part 2!

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  4. DRF says:

    This post brings back some good memories. I ride my motorcycle over the Bear Tooth Passs a couple of years ago. I had snow flurries at the top ( no hail thankfully). That was a nice ride.

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    • We have several dear friends who ride regularly. I know they would LOVE doing the Beartooth. Hopefully on a nice sunny day though. Wet, icy or snow on the pavement would be too scary for me on a motorcycle.

      Like

  5. I love this post….the glorious scenery and the surprising Unicyclist….great stuff. So glad you are having a good time. Xx

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  6. joylennick says:

    So much variety for you two! And fancy seeing a guy on a one-wheel bike so high up?! All credit to him. Such sights are the icing…Novel weather conditions, and, obviously, from the proof of your photographs, a memorable trip. Punch on! x . .

    Like

  7. Camie says:

    Definitely some twists on this drive! And it did live up to its name after all. Sweet!

    Like

  8. I actually wrote a post a few months ago comparing the Beartooyh Highway, Going-to-the-Sun Road, and the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies. I’m guessing you’ve seen all 3 now. Which is your favorite?

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  9. Aunt Beulah says:

    It is a beautiful highway, and you recorded it well. And the unicyclist! Wow!!

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  10. neihtn2012 says:

    Your post made me determined to see this some day, maybe next year. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  11. So beautiful. I haven’t been to that area yet and it’s on my bucket list. Great photos!

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  12. Just beautiful! I can see why you decided to stay an extra day.

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  13. Terry says:

    These are great photos, can not wait to see the next installment.

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  14. Anabel Marsh says:

    We loved this road too, as I think you spotted. We saw no unicycles though!

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  15. Great post. That area is so beautiful! We enjoy it so much when we see post by others that have traversed that area and the routes they took and the views they found most exciting. Its a place we’ll be visiting again for sure. Thanks for taking us along with you. We kept looking for moose too but weren’t fortunate enough to see one.

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  16. OMG the hail! And the unicyclist! But gorgeous scenery! I bet it felt good to have your own cosy home with you.
    Alison

    Like

  17. leggypeggy says:

    Great photos. That hail was a shock.

    Like

  18. Great photos, beautiful area

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  19. Thanks for these two posts. Very useful information. And great pictures!

    Like

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