Breathtaking Bear Tooth Highway

Ellen and I set out on our journey across America with a few simple goals: connect with long lost friends and family, visit National Parks and landmarks, fill in any baseball parks we haven’t seen, keep ourselves and those around us alive and take lots of photos to document the journey.

We have added a couple of wrinkles along the way, such as exploring urban bicycle trails (Boise, Austin, Waco, Eau Claire, WI), finding local festivals and landmarks (e.g. a Renaissance Fair, battle re-enactment, a famous outdoor musical venue).

Then adding a motorcycle to our repertoire and practicing with it a bit, I decided to choose one of the “top 10” motorcycle route lists and add this to my bucket list. Since I chose that goal, we have done the top motorcycle rides in South Dakota (Needles Highway), Texas (Twisted Sisters), and Arkansas (Pig Trail). And this week we added the fourth journey, by far the most beautiful.

Bear Tooth Highway (US 212) runs from Red Lodge, Montana, down into Wyoming and along a high mountain ridgeline before crossing back into Montana at its terminus in Cooke City, MT, although some say the route is not complete until you travel the additional four miles into the Northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Starting at the valley floor, the road follows a dizzying series of switchbacks up the mountain, with some of the most gorgeous vistas I have ever seen. Motorcycles make up approximately 50% of the traffic.

Since most of the route runs along an elevation of 10,000 feet, the road is snow-packed and closed most of the year, generally open from late May until sometime in October. This year, they opened on Memorial weekend, closed again due to a June storm, then re-opened in late June. In addition to this narrow seasonal window, severe weather can further limit possible travel. Severe rain for most of the week before we arrived turned away most riders. So when we arrived on July 5, there had probably only been a half dozen good travel days on the highway all year.

But we found the perfect travel window. For one day of our four-day stay in Red Lodge, we had splendid skies and fabulous 70 degree weather. The weather combined with the scenery to make the most spectacular motorcycle day we have yet experienced.

Unlike most of my blogs, this one has no captions. I think the pictures speak for themselves.