I love planning trips, and at this time of year, I'm dreaming about them! Last year Andy wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park for his Senior family trip. When I made the plan, I mapped our route to stop at Mount Rushmore, and then stop for a couple of days at a remote cabin in Montana before we made it to Yellowstone. What I didn't know is that the only road connecting the two locations was the Beartooth Highway. Boy was I in for a treat!
This 68 mile highway rising to 10,947 feet at its peak. It's generally open from Memorial Day weekend in May through October. Always check the current road conditions to see if it's open before you go! Prepare to spend 3-4 hours enjoying the views and taking your time on all of the turns!
1st Stop: Rock Creek Vista Point
If you're traveling from Red Lodge (a city in Montana) like we were, you start off with 14-22 miles of switchbacks to get you up into the mountains!
These are not my favorite, but once you make it to the first vista, you'll forget all about it! Make sure to bring some sunflower seeds for the friends you'll meet at the Rock Creek Vista!
2nd Stop: Snowball fight in June?
There are pull outs all along the Beartooth highway to stop and take in the views. We saw a pile of snow on the side of the road, and since in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, we haven't seen much of that in a while, we stopped for a snowball fight!
After our excitement with the small bank of snow that you northerners are rolling your eyes at, we looked over the other side of the road and caught a glimpse of a frozen lake and skiers at the Beartooth Basin. Keep in mind that this was the end of June, and again, my Texas brain was struggling to process the winter/spring transition I was experiencing!
This was only the beginning of the snow we were to see!
3rd Stop: Gardner Lake Pullout
At this point, you've climbed to about 10,536′. Everywhere you look is simply stunning. The Rocky Mountains need to be experienced from this perspective.
You can actually see the mountain that the Beartooth highway is named after at this point as well. Do you see the peak that looks like a bear tooth?
4th Stop: Beartooth Highway Summit
At this point, you're at the highest point of the drive with an elevation of 10,947'. The air is pretty thin up here, and it is COLD! My daughter was in heaven though! She'd never seen that much snow in her life. I'm pretty sure she would have spent the day at the top of the world if we would have let her!
The pictures really do not capture the majesty of the views. This was such an unexpected experience and it felt like a glimpse into the glory of God.
Everyone was just soaking it in! I was so thankful that the road was open. It had been closed just a couple of days before due to wind gusts that had blown snow over the roads. I could understand why at this point!
5th Stop: Top of the World Store
As you weave down the other side of the summit, the views just keep on giving. There isn't a dull angle.
Just a little way beyond the summit, you will find a welcome rest spot: The Top of the World store. They sell souvenirs, snacks, and gas if you need it! We appreciated a restroom break after spending longer on the road than expected.
Final Stops: Waterfalls
We had 25 miles remaining to make it to our destination: Cooke City, MT. At this point, our beautiful-sights tank was full! We couldn't imagine seeing anything better, and then we came across waterfall after waterfall.
I don't know about you, but waterfalls are one of those geographical features that just rock my soul. The power of the water pounding the rocks, and the sheer volume of it in the spring thaw was overwhelmingly beautiful.
So basically, we were blown away before we even reached Yellowstone. If you happen to be planning a visit to that incredible national park, don't miss this scenic drive. It should be on your bucket list of places to see.
Truly, there is nothing like being surprised by God's creation.
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