The Beartooth Highway has often been called the most beautiful drive in America. Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, weather conditions permitting.
The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Route 212 between Red Lodge, Montana and Cooke City, Montana. It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border to the 10,947 ft. high Beartooth Pass. The approximate elevation rise is from 5,200 ft. to 8,000 ft. in 12 miles in some of the most daring landscapes.
When driving from the east to the west, the highest parts of the Beartooth Highway level off into a wide plateau near the top of the pass, and then descend to where the Beartooth Highway connects to the Wyoming Highway 296 (Chief Joseph Scenic Byway) near Cooke City, which forms the northeast gateway to Yellowstone National Park. En route, one passes numerous lakes typical of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area which borders the highway along much of its route.
The highway officially opened June 14, 1936.
Because of the high altitudes, snowstorms can occur even in the middle of the summer and the pass is also known for strong winds and severe thunderstorms. Drivers should plan on a driving time of at least two hours for the 69-mile long trip from Red Lodge to Cooke City. It is a good idea to check with the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce or the Beartooth Ranger District beforehand in case of road closures. Montana Traveler Information and Wyoming Travel Information Service both provide online information on Beartooth Highway travel conditions for their respective portions of the highway.
The Beartooth Highway passes through portions of Custer National Forest, and Shoshone National Forest and near the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
Westbound I-90 travelers can access the Beartooth Highway from US Route 212 in Laurel, Montana (exit 434). Eastbound I-90 travelers can access the Beartooth Highway from US 89 in Livingston, Montana (exit 333)