This Montana Highway Might Be the Most Scenic Road You’ve Never Heard Of

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you and it helps support our future adventures.

What if I told you that there was a road to one of the entrances of America’s first national park (and fourth most visited with 4.5 million visitors in 2023) that takes you to an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet and past glaciated peaks that rival Glacier National Park in terms of sheer beauty.

You’d think that this road would be on everyone’s bucket list!

In fact, the Beartooth Highway, which takes drivers on a winding route from Red Lodge, MT, to the northeastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, is relatively unknown, even to most visitors to the park.

I guess in the age of Google Maps, and everyone’s hurry to get to the attractions inside the park, you can sometimes miss the journey along the way.

But it’s our job to change that, and we’re doing it today!

Beartooth Highway, The scenic road in Montana.
Photo Credit:

About the Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile road that was built back in the 1930s through some of the most rugged terrain imaginable. The switchbacks that you’ll find yourself climbing soon into the drive are a testament to the dedication of the crew who built this road, as they are some of the steepest you’ll find anywhere in the country.

Pilot and Index peak from Beartooth highway Wyoming
Photo Credit:

The road’s high elevation, topping out at 10,947 feet, means that it is only open for a few months out of the year.

So, if you’re planning on driving it outside of June – September, make sure you take a close look at an up-to-date road report as well as the forecast, as snow is common at these elevations starting in early September.

High Snow on roadside shoulder. A plowed street highway for travel. 10 foot tall snow bank during winter weather cleared of pavements for easy driving. Scenic travel destination on Beartooth highway.
Photo Credit:

Those who are willing to make the drive, though, will be treated to some of the most gorgeous views in the Rockies, which may even overshadow the upcoming trip to Yellowstone.

Sights to See Along the Road

Scenic Overlooks

The mountains rule the day on this scenic drive as you’ll pass up and over the continental divide and Beartooth Pass. The road here tops out at nearly 11,000 feet, yet you’ll still be able to gaze up at the mountains standing tall above the road.

Mountains view at Beartooth Highway
Photo Credit:

Along this stretch, the Rocky Mountains stand over 12,000 feet tall, including Granite Peak, Montana’s tallest mountain.

Luckily, there are plenty of scenic overlooks to stop at, and you’ll most likely make the most of them!

Charming Mountain Towns

This high mountain road to Yellowstone National Park starts (or ends) in the quaint town of Red Lodge, MT. Nestled at the base of the Beartooth Range, this town embodies the adventurous spirit of Montana and serves as a gateway for destinations to come.

On the other side of the pass, you’ll drive through the neighboring towns of Cooke City and Silver Gate.

American Bison Buffalo Graze on grass roadside near Pine Edge Cabins near Yellowstone National Park
Photo Credit:

These rustic mountain stops are a great place to grab some lunch and coffee or rent a cabin for the night before continuing into the park.

Because of their remote location along a seasonal road, you won’t find much open here during the offseason, so plan accordingly.


It’s no surprise that a remote mountain road leading into one of the most wildlife-rich parts of the country would have its fair share of animals to see along the way.

Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goat, elk, bison, marmot, bison, moose, and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot some of the wolves that roam these stretches.

Two Mountain Goats on a hillside near the Beartooth Highway, Montana.
Photo Credit:

Grizzly bears and black bears also roam these stretches from the lowlands during the early season to the high alpine meadows when the huckleberries are prime for eating.

Beartooth Pass

The pass where the highway crests the Rocky Mountains is a destination all to itself. This road is famous for being the highest in the Northern Rocky Mountains, and you’ll most certainly feel the effects of the elevation when you stop here.

On the way to the pass, you’ll also drive through one of the most unique ski areas in the country. Because of the massive amounts of snow this area receives, there is a summer-only ski area that runs, well, during the summer along the highway.

Beartooth Pass Summit sign along the Beartooth Highway
Photo Credit:

This isn’t exactly an Aspen-style skiing experience, as there are no amenities other than a couple of lifts, but if you’re looking to get some runs during the summer months, there aren’t many other options in North America.

Who would have thought you could bring your skis on a July trip to Yellowstone??

Trails, Lakes, & Rivers

Landscape of Gardner Lake, Beartooth Pass. Peaks of Beartooth Mountains
Photo Credit:

On the west side of the pass, you’ll find yourself passing by numerous lakes and rivers right alongside the road.

Beartooth Lake and Island Lake are two of the most popular, as they both have campgrounds nestled along their shores.

Here, you can paddle the lakes, fish for rainbow trout, or hike the trails that make their way to hundreds of backcountry lakes that dot this wilderness area.

Don’t miss the Top of the World Store, located alongside the road between Beartooth and Island Lakes. Here, you can stretch your legs and grab a snack at this high mountain outpost.

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest