A few weekends ago I decided to go on a Sunday Adventure… to the Beartooth Mountains. I had never been on the Beartooth Highway and I heard it’s a Montana must! Since I moved to Billings later in the year, and was slacking on driving the Highway, I knew I had to go before it snowed. For those who don’t know the pass closes after the first few snow falls because it’s so high in elevation. I just looked and the pass is actually supposed to close this weekend so I just made it in the nick of time.
My plan for the day was to drive one way, over Chief Joseph Highway, to Cooke City, then over the Highway a different way, to Red Lodge and finally back to Billings. I really wanted to take a different way there and back to maximize scenic opportunities. The plan was a success. I left at about 8:30 am and was back by dark, and I stopped 1 billion times! I even had lunch in Cooke City (ps I wish I would have gone to a different restaurant) and stopped for a beer in Red Lodge.
Along the way I stopped at a bunch of little towns and took photos. I thought they were to so cute, the epitome of small town USA, Montana. Of course it was it was Sunday so all the businesses were closed and the main streets like a ghost town.
One of the things I loved most about the Beartooth Highway, after of course the beautiful views, were all the places to stop along the road. I wasn’t kidding above when I said I stopped a million times. I have done quite my share of road trips and a lot of the times beautiful views don’t have pull outs. So you have to park the car and walk back up the road which can be extremely dangerous. I would say, guesstimating of course, that maybe every mile or so there was a small turnout. The small waterfall below was along the side of the road and didn’t have a pullout. I had to walk maybe 20 yards from the closest pull out.
As I was driving I saw a car parked on the side of the road. I wondered what they were doing and, as I looked to my left, I saw it - a beautiful little waterfall. I almost drove by then decided to turn around. I parked, walked about 500 yards, and found a beautiful little waterfall that flowed under a bridge. It’s sad how many amazing things are just off the side of the road yet none of us take the time to stop and search for them. One of my goals for every road trip is to not only stop and enjoy the views but to also hike a little off the beaten path and see what I can find. If you are wondering about the photo of me I set my camera on a rock and used the self timer!
As I climbed the backside of the official Beartooth Highway I saw a sign for Beartooth Lake. And of course I had to stop. If you can’t tell or don’t know I am a freak for water - ponds, streams, lakes, waterfalls - I love it all. The wind was howling and it was quite cold at the lake, although less windy and cold than the top. The lake was beautiful and I definitely think it would be fun to go back in the summer and camp.
Surprisingly, and sort of unfortunately, the most beautiful views of the trip, at least to me, was the end. I went over the Beartooth Highway from the back side. And by the time I got to the most beautiful and epic views I was sort of exhausted. My lunch was NOT the thing of champions, I do not recommend The Bistro in Cooke City, MT, and I had run out of water. Because I was losing and gaining so much elevated in a short period of time I tried to drink as much water as I could to prevent my ears from hurting. I was able to drink a liter on the way there but there weren’t any gas stations or areas for water once I left Cooke City and headed to Red Lodge.
I was super excited when I was “on top of the world” as told by a sign and the name of the store below because it was snowing. Yes, that’s right, in September I stood on top of the world and it SNOWED! It was pretty epic and I danced around! I was VERY happy I also brought a winter jacket, hat, and gloves as it was very cold and quite windy on top of the world.