Beartooth Pass ‘All American’ Scenic Highway

Continents crashed 75 million years ago forcing granite rock thousands of feet into the air. Fast forward through a few glacial sculpting periods to today’s Beartooth Range in Northern Wyoming and Southern Montana with hundreds of alpine lakes, steep headwalls, horns, cirque, and hanging valleys.

35-55 million years later neighboring volcanoes massively erupted spewing over 4,000 feet of ash and lava.

Millenniums of wind and water erosion in the soft volcanic rock created the Absaroka Range with steep slopes and stunning shapes amid long valleys.

Combined these ranges create one of America’s most stunning visual masterpieces with infinite breathtaking vistas.

That is if you have any breath left after driving the thrilling twists and turns with steep drop offs on Chief Joseph Scenic Drive and the Beartooth Pass!

The epic Beartooth Scenic Byway is one of the highest highways and in the country. With elevations at 10,000 feet the Beartooth is a top ranked engineering marvel and builder’s art.

Imagine this – it was actually constructed on time and in budget from 1931 to 1936!

There are three national forests in the region expanding access through forest service roads, trails, campgrounds and boondocking sites.

The Custer and Gallatin are on the Montana side and the Shoshone National Forest is in Wyoming.

Be sure to take the Clay Butte Fire Lookout station gravel road turn off of Beartooth Byway for a spectacular 360-degree view of the ranges and valleys. I might actually work in an enclosed office if it looked like this one!

While there, step back in time and experience how firefighters used the lookouts to fight fires in earlier days. Tools, maps, charts, and displays share the historical fire stories of these mountains.  National Fire Service volunteers teach visitors about everything from fires to the oceans that once covered the region.

You can sure see the smoke in my story photos. I hoped to hold off on this blog until I could get clear photos of Beartooth Pass but I’ve never been to Montana when the skies were clear.

I’ve learned that folks in the West talk about  five seasons, the four we all know and Fire Season. Last year was a brutal record breaking fire season in Montana. So far in 2018 over 55,000 acres have burned  in Montana and half of the counties are under air quality alerts.

That’s far better than last year’s million acre fire season.

Experiencing the clear, big skies of Montana is still on my list. I’ve barely scratched the surface! Friends suggest rainy season in April and May. Winter is good but it’s a bit chilly with no heater.  Rocky is a nice little heater but not that good!

What’s your advice about prime time in Montana? It’s an amazing state I could spend a lifetime exploring!

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Cindy Cason has been a print and broadcast journalist, magazine writer, communications director, and consultant. At home, she was a single mom to four busy and amazing kids. In a blink, they launched and she faced a quiet, empty home and another decade until retirement. She opted to sell the farm and embarked on a solo journey into the American wilderness, traveling in a tiny, offroad teardrop trailer pulled by a Subaru Outback. Today she spotlights the beauty of life in nature, hoping to inspire you to passionately live every phase of your own authentic life. Especially retirement...

7 thoughts on “Beartooth Pass ‘All American’ Scenic Highway”

    1. Yes! Thanks! I bet that’s before “Joe” starts up? A friend is teaching me the vernacular for weather related conditions like fire, rain, wind. 🙂

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