Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, also known as Wyoming 296, is a 46-mile scenic highway in northern Wyoming. It stretches from just north of Cody Wyoming to the junction with the Beartooth Highway near Cooke City, Montana. Named for the Nez Perce Chief Joseph, the highway roughly follows a portion of the route taken by Chief Joseph and his followers fleeing the US Calvary in 1877. Along the route there are views of the Absaroka Mountains, the Beartooth Mountains and Plateau, plus the canyon of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River.
Photographing the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
The highway runs atop some ridges, but mostly follows a broad valley or high mountain park, as we call them, called the Sunlight Basin. And, it is a lovely counterpoint to the alpine switchbacks of the Beartooth Highway. But, unlike the Beartooth Highway, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is open all year-around. However, due to unpredictable weather conditions at high altitude, it is alway good to check on road conditions if the weather seems a bit iffy. Here is a link to the Wyoming Department of Transportation with the current road conditions: https://wyoroad.info/pls/Browse/WRR.RoutesResults?SelectedRoute=WY296.
There are many pull-offs along the highway where you can stop and soak in the scenery. And these pull-offs are large, making it easy to park and spend time photographing the magnificent views. Now, if your mission is primarily photography, plan to drive the road twice–it is roughly 46 miles one way. Head west in the morning and east in the afternoon. And, if you happen to travel the area in fire season, you will battle haze. All I can say is, embrace atmospheric perspective! If you can go in May, you may be luckier and see crystal-clear views. Plus, do not fail to stop at one of the many wetlands along the route. The colors and textures against the mountain background are stunning.
Combining the Beartooth Highway with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
Combine the Chief Joseph Byway with the Beartooth Highway for a spectacular day of sight-seeing and photography. Read this post about the Beartooth Highway to learn more about it. And, if you are heading to Yellowstone, the Beartooth and Chief Joseph highways are the way to go. You will encounter views that do not disappoint.
More information …
Enjoy Your Parks provides an informative Web resource for sights along the highway: https://enjoyyourparks.com/wyoming/top-things-to-do-in-wyoming/chief-joseph-scenic-byway/.
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