The region we live in had an especially large amount of snowfall over the winter. We had heard that Beartooth Pass had some very impressive snow walls on the sides of the road. This pass is between Red Lodge, MT and the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Recently, when we were in Billings, Montana for a Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood concert, we decided to take the pass home. It would add extra time, but were hoping it would be worth it. The concert ended a bit later than we thought it would, so we headed straight for the pass.
Due to the elevation of the pass, it is closed during the winter. The typical driving season is Memorial Day weekend until snow flies in the fall. Beartooth Pass road is located on US Route 212. Charles Kuralt, a CBS correspondent, called it “the most beautiful drive in America”. There are very few places where you drive on top of the mountain. Not just to the top, but across the top. It was originally explored in 1872, by Philip Sheridan when his troop was returning from Yellowstone. The road was constructed in the 1930s and opened in 1936, primarily following Sheridan’s route.
The lone deer was the only wildlife we saw on the pass.
The north side of the pass is the steep side. There are numerous rock slide nets, steep ravines and flowing streams.
Rock Creek Vista is normally a great place to view the valley, looking back toward Red Lodge. Not today, as there is still too much snow on the path.
But we had great views of the valleys on either side of the parking lot.
We then caught site of the first significant snow along side of the road.
We were beginning to worry that we had missed the large snow walls as they had already melted.
We were pretty excited when we came upon this 8 foot snow wall.
More beautiful views and a lake still frozen.
Near the top, there is a ski lift known the Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area. It opens when the road opens. It was started in the 1960s as a private ski club, but is now open to the public. It is known as “back country skiing with a lift”. It is not a chair lift, but more like a seat lift. When the lift is operating, there are ski patrol members on site. The ticket office is awesome, but you are not there for the amenities, but to ski in summer like conditions.
The snow walls were getting higher!!
The pass’s namesake…across the valley.
More views from the near the top of the pass.
We stopped to take a picture, it was a fast picture, as it was COLD!!!
Then we hit the extreme snow walls. They had shrunk about 5 feet from when the pass opened 2 weeks earlier due to extremely warm weather, but they were still impressive. My crazy family posing for pictures.
The southwest side of the pass, is a more gentle road, versus the steepness of the northeast side. With the setting sun, the landscape was gorgeous.
There was a thundering waterfall and a beautiful sky opposite of the setting sun.
The actual sunset was pretty impressive as well.
The road enters Wyoming for about 15 miles, before going back into Montana. There are 2 small towns just outside Yellowstone NP Northeast entrance, Cooke City and Silver Gate. When Beartooth Pass is closed for the winter, the only way to drive to these towns is through the North entrance of Yellowstone near Gardiner, MT. The Lamar Valley road is kept open all year, so that the towns are not cut off.
It was well after midnight by the time we got to Henry’s Lake in Idaho. This is one of the premiere fishing lakes in Northeast Idaho. We have a friend who let us use his cabin for the week-end. The next morning we had a great view of Mt Sawtelle. During the winter you can drive the road to the top, where you will find an FAA long-range radar dome. That adventure will have to wait for another day.
Watch for our up-coming video of our most recent outdoor adventures, including our drive over Beartooth Pass.