It’s a dramatic drive! That’s the main calling card of this All American Road that famed writer Charles Kuralt termed “America’s most beautiful highway.” It’s named the Beartooth because, at the pass, at the highest point, there’s a perfectly formed glacially-shaped mountain which the Crow thought looked just like a bear’s tooth. Nearby, a whole mountainside looks like a full set of teeth.
As you climb over 5,000 feet through the mountainous terrain, the drive is punctuated by hundreds of glacial lakes, over 20 mountain peaks reaching skyward beyond 12,000 feet, waterfalls, and vivid wildflowers that bloom when the highway is open between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. Breathtaking views of the Beartooth Mountains accompany you on the entire route between Red Lodge and Cooke City, rewarding you with stunning views at every turn. Hairpin turns magically emerge as you travel to nearly 11,000 feet and into the clouds. The terrain is so rugged that only Native Americans traversed the pass until General Sheridan took the route in 1882. In 1936, when the road was built with tight switchbacks to get up and down the canyon walls, it was considered an engineering marvel. As you round corners, don’t be surprised if you spot a moose or grizzly bear among the wildflowers or on the glaciers. They’re used to having the land to themselves.