The Pass is Open!!!

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.




This year, however, the snow was sooo high, and there was no place to park, so we had to take our photos through the windshield.

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? 






About Karen

While loving the wizardry of words, I also love to travel because of that present-moment sense that each day is a gift to unwrap that the experience of travel conveys so well. Other passions include hiking, gardening, photographing, movies and documentaries, reading, writing (I've finished my first novel .... and seeking an agent) and entering recipe contests. Michael and I are both fascinated with factory tours, literary landmarks, and seeking restaurants mentioned in novels - just to see if they exist. Our favorite restaurant we've found this way is the Nuevo Latino-style Yuca ( in Miami.
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4 Responses to The Pass is Open!!!

  1. Barbara says:

    the wildflowers are AMAZING! as, of course, is the snow. on thursday i was sitting in the immigration office here waiting to renew my visa and started talking to a fellow next to me. he’s from maine but has been living down here for 12 years. he told me that in maine, they had two seasons: winter and the 4th of july. so i commenced to tell him about your neck to the woods. wish i could let him know about this post!

    • Karen says:

      I remember mosquito season in Maine – it rivaled the Everglades!

      • Barbara says:

        one of the scariest things i ever saw at flamingo in the summer was a fly stalking a spider….and the spider was not little. and one evening some geologists came to the front desk at flamingo to check in. they told me they had just returned from the amazon rainforest and that the mosquitos in flamingo were worse. teeny tiny claim to fame, and i refuse to give it up!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barb, When Karen and I moved here a local told me–“Here in Montana we only have two seasons. Winter and getting ready for winter.” Michael

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