The Beartooth Highway, also known as US-212, is a scenic mountain highway in Montana and Wyoming. It stretches from Red Lodge, Montana to the junction with Wyoming Highway 296. Designated as an All-American Road, it is ranked as one of America’s most striking highways. Charles Kuralt once called it “one of the most beautiful drives in America.” For us, the Beartooth Highway is very reminiscent of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Photographing the Beartooth Highway
The highway straddles the Wyoming/Montana border. The high point of the highway is Beartooth Pass at an elevation of 10,947 feet (3270 meters). The highway is only maintained by the National Park Service; therefore it is open only when snow-free. The road typically opens in late May and closes mid-September. Due to unpredictable weather conditions at high elevations, there can be temporary closures throughout the summer. Expect moderately heavy traffic if the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park near Cooke City, Montana, is open.
Here is the good news: there are numerous pull-offs along the highway where you can stop and soak in the scenery. Plus, these pull-offs are large, making it easy to park and spend time photographing the magnificent views. If your mission is primarily photography, plan to drive the road twice–it is roughly 70 miles one way. That is, in the morning drive west from Red Lodge. Then, have a nice leisurly lunch in Cooke City. In the afternoon, slowly return to Red Lodge and catch the late afternoon glow along the way.
If you happen to travel the Beartooth Highway in fire season, you will battle haze. All I can say is, “Embrace atmospheric perspective!” If you can go in May, you may be treated to crystal-clear views.
Combining the Beartooth Highway with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
If you are planning a drive along the Beartooth Highway, I suggest you also include the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Read this post about the Chief Joseph Byway to learn more about it,
More information …
Red Lodge, Montana, has a nice website that includes information about traveling the highway, with a link to a map and marked turnouts. Go to https://www.redlodge.com/beartooth-highway.asp. Red Lodge also has a Facebook page for the highway at: https://www.facebook.com/beartoothhighway/.
The National Park Service also publishes updates about the Beartooth Highway at: https://www.nps.gov/search/?affiliate=nps&query=Beartooth+Highway&sitelimit=%2F.
Purchasing our other photographs
If you are interested purchasing other photographs in our portfolio, they are available as fine art prints or licensed digital negatives. Use the contact form to the right to get more information. Or, go to our Fine Art Print page to learn about various pricing options.