06.04.2018 - 06.04.2018
Bearthooth Highway from Red Lodge to the Pass
Beartooth Pass is one of the most epic drives I've ever done. This was at least the third time I've done it but it took A LOT of patience to finally get through it with Scott this time. We had intended to take it from Big Sky over to Red Lodge, passing through a part of Yellowstone on our way. Unfortunately, this area had the most snow in ages this year and although Montana got their side open to the border by the target of Memorial Day Weekend, Wyoming didn't...and didn't...and didn't. They finally got their side open on June 1st. In their defense, there was a lot of snow on their side!
The road starts out pretty benign, traveling into the valley. But then you start to climb...and climb...and climb through switchback after switchback.
I think it was about here where I had to turn the wheel over to Scott. I had intended to drive so he could take it all in but it seems I've developed a fear of falling off the side of a cliff!
See those switchbacks down there! Those were the EASY ones!
Vista Point and the Hell Roaring Plateau
Finally, you reach the first real stopping point at Vista Point to look out over the Hell Roaring Plateau.
And you are welcomed by these cute little guys scampering around the rocks! "Hell roaring you say? We call it home!"
After reaching the high alpine plateau at the state line, and having found some of all that snow everyone is talking about you reach the 45th Parallel.
Halfway between the North Pole and the Equator is an obvious "selfie moment".
Gardner Lake is the first of many alpine lakes to come. It's a beautiful spot and our first chance to get out and walk around and of course the first thing I notice is all of the wildflowers! The tenacity of these little alpine gems is amazing! Especially given the temperature had dropped to about 50 degrees and the wind was whipping about 20 miles an hour!
The Bear's Tooth
Did you know there is actually a Bear's Tooth Mountain on the Beartooth Highway? I didn't. See that pointy peak? That's the one most people agree is "the tooth".
West Summit - 10,947'
The road keeps climbing and the snow gets deeper and deeper, the wind blows harder and harder, and the temperatures get colder and colder and then you reach the summit! At this point I do still have my travel dress on but also a t-shirt, leggings, a wool sweater, and a Goretex jacket!
Starting down the other side, the land opens up a bit, the switchbacks are gentler, there are people skiing down the slopes between switchbacks and taking advantage of the open snowy areas for kite boarding.
Then you pick up the Upper Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River as you near Top of the World store with Beartooth Butte rising in the distance.
Beartooth Lake and Beartooth Butte
After passing another frozen alpine lake, you reach Beartooth Lake with the Butte rising behind it and the river rushing out from it. It was awesoemthe sun came out and the temperatures rose, I shed a few layers after this stop!
Pilot and Index Peaks
As you keep moving g down the Wyoming side, the Absarokee Range comes in to view and it's breathtaking stretching out before you for ever. Especially wonderful are Pilot and Index Peaks. They tower above and you can pick them out from the rest. In my opinion, these are the best peaks - the ones that are instantly recognizable.
Being who we are, we saw a dirt track heading off the highway and had to take it.
Good thing we did because this was out reward!
See if you can pick out Pilot and Index Peaks at the beginning of this video and later when we are almost to the lake.
Lake Creek Falls
Finally, just before our turn off, we came to Lake Creek Falls. It was a short walk so LOTS of people did it and it was pretty crowded but it was a pretty falls rushing with snow melt.
Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Dead Indian Pass
We decided rather than going back across Beartooth to head out on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway back to Red Lodge and see some other sights. I'm glad we did; it was yet a whole other ecosystem and land form to see. Another set of switch backs to get over Dead Indian Pass, a deep gorge, and even towards the end some badlands-like formations.
It was a great day of driving!
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