The incredible Beartooth Mountains are one of our great views (unless it’s cloudy/misty or snowing) every day of the year, and it’s a view that still amazes me, even after close to 20 years of living in their shadow. Depending on the time of day (and the time of year), the mountains can loom large, glimmer like gold in the morning sun, shimmer (so it seems) as the setting sun dusts them with a peach, apricot, or pale magenta hue, or even appear to disappear on a cloudy day.
The Beartooth Highway, that goes over these mountains, was built in 1936, and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The Highway connects the town of Red Lodge, MT with Cooke City, MT, and then funnels into the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Designated as an All-American Road in 2002, this highway has been described by Charles Kuralt as “‘the most beautiful drive in America,” and you’d get no argument from us on that description ….. although the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park certainly comes close to the splendor of the Beartooth Highway.
Because this road traverses alpine tundra – the highest point of the drive is at 11,000 feet – it’s not open much of the year. Traditionally, it opens Memorial Day weekend, closes a few times over the spring and summer due to heavy snowfall, and usually closes for the season by mid-October, at the very latest. It’s become our spring tradition to go up over the Beartooth Pass every year on opening day, and be amazed, all over again, at how very beautiful it is ….. and how very much snow collects there during the winter.
This year, though, tradition was broken. There was so much snow that the Pass didn’t open until June 10 because the plow crews were busy clearing snow in Yellowstone. So, we were just a little later than usual. Most years there are places to pull off, park the car, and get out and take goofy pictures of ourselves up against the walls of snow …… like this one from a previous year.
To help the snow plow drivers know where the road is, there are tall poles placed along the highway, so the drivers can maneuver between the poles. Here’s a pole example at a lower elevation:
But, at the top, where the snow was the deepest, I’m sure the poles were buried. It would be great to know how the drivers found the roadway. Here are a few more pics:
Avid skiers, snowmobilers, and snowboarders continue their wintertime passion on the Beartooths far into the spring and summer. We even saw a new (to us, anyway) sport, where a snowboarder appeared to be sailing across the snow at hyper-speed, with the aid of a (para?)-sail:
It looked like fun ….. even if it wasn’t my kind of fun.
When the snow melts, the wildflowers bloom in riotous carpets of colors across the mountains, and we love to go hiking through the fields and around the lakes. Here are some summer views from a previous year:
So ……. hopefully …. the snows will melt, and the wildflowers will bloom even better his year, and we’ll have Beartooth pictures and adventures to post in the future.
Until then, here’s a sign we saw in Yellowstone the same weekend we went up over the Pass:
Apparently ….. there’s a hula hoop zone in the Park?