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The Greater Yellowstone Resource Guide

I have spent thousands of hours researching for, and creating content to create a market for my photography, for 35+ years I have been roaming this land for landscape and adventure photos and content for this effort. although this was the  greatest of adventures exploring every corner of the Greater Yellowstone and sharing it some compensation would be greatly appreciated.

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Beartooth Pass Mountain Goats
Beartooth Pass Mountain Goats

Beartooth Scenic Byway 

Beartooth highway, The long and winding road and roadster
The long and winding road and roadster

One of the most breathtaking routes to Yellowstone National Park is from Red Lodge, Mont., to Cooke City and Silver Gate via the 68-mile stretch of the Beartooth Highway. When the late Charles Kuralt from the famed television show On the Road calls a route “the most beautiful drive in America,” you had better pay attention… He was America’s most authorities voice on American travel; once you’ve driven it you’ll understand why.  I as a photographer enjoy every trip over this photographers nirvana.

Cresting at 10,947 feet in Beartooth Pass, Beartooth Scenic Byway is Wyoming’s highest paved primary road. The Beartooth All-American Road passes through what is known today as the Beartooth Corridor. Surrounded by the Custer, Gallatin, and Shoshone National Forests, traveling parallel to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, and abutting Yellowstone National Park, the Highway sits in a million-plus acre wilderness. Visitors have the rare opportunity to experience and explore pristine, untouched alpine and mountain landscapes, lush forests, and alpine tundra in the space of a few miles.

Opened in 1936, Beartooth Scenic Byway roughly follows the old Sheridan Trail, laid out in 1882 by Yellowstone Gen. Phil Sheridan.  It achieved national attention with an official designation as a National Scenic Byway. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, to be designated as a National Scenic Byway a road must possess at least one of six intrinsic qualities and be regionally significant: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic.  To receive an All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and have one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere.  The road or highway must also be considered a “destination unto itself.”  It was a no-brainer designation for the Beartooth Highway.

Tundra Flowers, Beartooth Pass
Tundra Flowers

The spire known as the Bears Tooth along Beartooth Highway was carved in the shape of a large tooth by glacial ice gnawing inward and downward against a single high part of a rocky crest. Beartooth Butte is a remnant of sedimentary deposits that once covered the entire Beartooth Plateau. The actual Beartooth Peak seems rather diminutive ornament atop the massive escarpment of the Beartooth front.

Winding through this alpine wonderland drivers will find vast mountain landscapes, massive glaciers and alpine meadows full of wildflowers, In the surrounding mountains, glaciers are found on the north flank of nearly every mountain peak over 11,500 feet high. The common flowers found below the timberline in wet meadows are Indian paintbrush, monkey flower, senecio, and buttercups, and in drier areas are lupine, beardtongue, arrowleaf balsamroot, and forget-me-nots. Mid-July is generally the optimum time for wildflower viewing.  Wildflowers at this elevation are dwarfed and this adds to the wonder. Wildlife abounds, marmots are common, pika if you know where to look, and mountain goats if you are lucky.

Don’t forget your skis; Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area is a locally owned and operated recreation destination near Red Lodge, Montana.  Every year from late May to early July the mission of Beartooth Basin is to keep the spirit of skiing alive with two surface lifts atop the iconic 10,000 foot elevation Beartooth Pass, MT-WY. Beartooth Pass, is a truly unique setting – high alpine views, a plethora of ski routes, and like minded folks that enjoy the simplicity of skiing and exploring the mountains with friends.  Beartooth Basin offers patrons access to an experience that has been quoted as “the spirit of skiing “ or “skiing’s soul”. Any skier that drops in to Twin Lakes Headwall is a caretaker of that spirit.

Bearthooth Basin skiing
Bearthooth Basin skiing

After dropping off the west side of the pass, Long Lake, Little Bear Lake, Island Lake and Beartooth Lake have some easy fishing for small trout, they also provide great photo opportunities.  Dropping down the Clarks Fork River there are many good photo opps of the impressive 11,522-foot Pilot Peak towering above the valley.

Check the weather before tackling this drive: Reaching 10,977 feet at Beartooth Pass, and surrounded by 20 mountain peaks that reach over 12,000 feet, the Beartooth Highway crosses some of the most extreme country in the world. There are sheer drops virtually along the entire route and enough hairpins to make a whirling dervish dizzy. It’s not recommended at nights.  Snowstorms can occur even during summer months, and heavy winter snowfall means that the pass is usually closed from October to May. The road is normally plowed by Memorial Day, but closures are common through June due to spring snowstorms. From the opening near Memorial Day, the road is seldom closed more than one day to remove the snow. It is not uncommon to experience blizzard type conditions both in the spring and the fall, especially at higher elevations. When these events occur, travel is slowed considerably or the highway is closed until it can be reopened by maintenance crews.

Camping along the Beartooth Highway
Camping along the Beartooth Highway

If you are a camper, twelve national forest campgrounds are scattered about but be ready for any kind of weather when camping at these elevations. If camping remember you are in Grizzly Bear country.

Plan to spend about three hours driving this beautiful road, and leave plenty of time for stops at numerous trailheads and lookout points along the way. This amazing scenic byway remains an amazing feat of engineering expressly created to please the eye and commands top billing as a must see item during any Yellowstone visit.

When you reach Cooke City and Silvergate, stop and take in the views of these little mining communities, their pioneer heritage is still on display, at the bottom of their deep valley below the towering mountains.

Cook City, Red Lodge Montana, hotel advertising opportunity
Little Bear Lake Clay Butte, Beartooth Lake
Beartooth Falls Scott Hunter releasing small trout to Little Bear lake on the Beartooth Pass
Beartooth Falls Scott Hunter releasing a small trout on Little Bear Lake
Pilot Butte, Cook City Wyoming Wildflowers, Beartooth Highway
Pilot Butte on the south end of Beartooth highway near Cook City Wildflowers at overlooking Twin Lakes, Beartooth Highway
Beartooth Pass photos for sale, click through slideshow
Wyoming Landscapes, Fine Art Prints
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