THERE ARE FAVORITE MOTORBIKE ROADS ALL OVER THE WORLD. And within North America, there are countless roads that speak the language of motorcycles, luring riders far and wide, year in and year out.
One such road that truly bears the description “spectacular,” is the Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming. This road has few peers. For North American motorcyclists, and for visiting bikers to this continent, this ride should be on your short list of excursions-of-a-lifetime.
Since its completion in 1936, the Beartooth Highway winds its way up, and up, and up and up, to the 10,947 ft high Beartooth Pass, while following a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border, before ultimately taking you down to the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park (when heading east to west).
Officially, the Beartooth Highway comprises a section of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Cooke City, Montana. (However, in between those two points, you’ll spend a lot of time in Wyoming.).
The Beartooth Highway is designated as an All-American Road and as a result of heavy snowfall in the higher elevations, the pass is typically only open from late May through early September.
Plan on at least two hours of saddle time for the 69-mile long ride from Red Lodge to Cooke City. It is a good idea to check with the Ranger station beforehand in case of road closures.
Beware: It can get chilly along the top, even in August! And the weather can be unpredictable up in those mountains. I experienced sunshine, light rain, extremely heavy rain, and there was snow off to the sides in some parts. I was wearing a heavy, one-piece riding suit with an electric vest, as well as my winter gloves, and was still cool at the top, which was just about 11,000 feet above sea level. The good news was that it got warmer, as I started to go down in elevation, before I hit a sheer grey-out of pouring rain as part of an intense mountain thunderstorm, which, apparently is not unusual. (The grey in the photo above was part of the light rain).
I was inspired to take a photo of a large snow removal truck, that looked like it had just been parked that week, which was near an open gate with a sign that cautioned the Beartooth Highway can be closed at any time due to storm conditions.
The whole Beartooth region is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states. As part of the Rocky Mountains, there are 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation. Some of the last glaciers in the lower 48 can be found on the north flank of many of the tallest peaks.
The first recorded travel across the Beartooth Pass area occurred in 1882, when General Sheridan, with the help of an experience local hunter, pioneered and marked a route across the mountains from Cooke City to Billings.
If you are a motorcycle camping rider, there are 12 National Forest campgrounds in the area.
For an experience of majestic natural wonders, no ride delivers like the Beartooth Highway.
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