Touring The Byway
68 Miles | 7 Days / 6 Nights | Gateway City: Billings, Montana
Even though the Beartooth is only 68 miles long, the amazing drive will hold your attention throughout the entire journey. We recommend beginning your trip in Billings, where we suggest spending two days exploring the multitude of heritage locations in the city. Start your visit at the Visit Southeast Montana Visitors Center for a brief introduction to the city, followed by the Historic Walking Tour of Downtown Billings. On the tour you’ll also discover locations on the Billings’ Public Art and Billings Brew Trail. After lunch, it will be time to visit the Western Heritage Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, before checking into the Northern Hotel. On Day Two, the Moss Mansion, Yellowstone Art Museum, and Yellowstone Country Museum await.
Leaving Billings on Interstate 90, you’ll be taking the exit at Columbia, home to the Museum of the Beartooths and the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive. At Absarokee, you’ll have the option to take the Absarokee Scenic Loop that will bring you to the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, considered one of the five best museums in the Billings area (the other four you will have already visited in Billings). Additionally, you can also take the Luther-Roscoe Scenic Drive off the Beartooth Front Loop.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
The creation of Yellowstone National Park and protection of the astounding resources here was not without challenges. At first, the Park Act called for administration with no cost to the United States. Unfortunately, this did not protect the land and the wildlife from poaching, squatters, and more. When the second superintendent was appointed in 1877, he was able to begin constructing roads, appoint a “gamekeeper,” and campaign against hunters and vandals. When that still didn’t work, the U.S. Army arrived in 1886 to develop and enforce regulations, evict troublemakers, and patrol park lands. Finally, recognizing that America’s National Parks needed cohesive management, the National Park Service was established in 1916.
When Preston Boyd Moss built the Moss Mansion in 1903, he influenced the entire culture of the city. Designed by the architect of the Waldorf Astoria and the Plaza Hotel in New York, the mansion showcases unrivaled craftsmanship. Amazingly, original fixtures, including heated indoor plumbing on each floor, call buttons for servants, and other impressive feats of technology for the period, remain intact. Exhibits include the history of early Billings interpreted in letters, diaries, and interviews. At the start of your tour, be sure to watch the 13-minute video which describes the activities of the Moss family in the development of Billings.
The collections of the Western Heritage Center, located in the Richardson Romanesque Parmly Billings Library tell the story of life in the Yellowstone River Valley. Over 16,000 artifacts fill several permanent collections including a Yellowstone River Cultural Inventory, American Indian Tribal History, Native American Collection, Regional Western Art Collection, Harry Farhm Collection, Thomas Molesworth Collection, and the James Kenneth Ralston Collection. Exhibits include the Dude Ranch Lobby, Parading Through History, Montana’s Black Gold, Blackfoot Tipi Legends, The Real West: Farming, The Southsiders, Women Ranchers, and more.
As bison and other animals in Yellowstone National Park age and need care, they are moved to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, along with gray and red wolves, porcupines, owls, black bears, and more. Take the 60-90 minute guided tour to learn more about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the species represented at the sanctuary, and how the animals arrive here.
The Yellowstone Art Museum hosts a unique collection of Western art focused on preserving the living artistic heritage of the region. The Visible Vault (one of only a few in the country) allows guests to observe art collection, storage, and preservation. In 1991, there were 609 objects in the collection and today, over 7,300. Major gifts from prominent artists including Bill Stockton, Isabelle Johnson, and Edith Freeman, and the Virginia Snook Collection, the largest public gathering of the drawings, paintings, books, and memorabilia of cowboy illustrator Will James. The collection also includes paintings and drawings by J.H. Sharp, Charles M. Russell, and other regional artists.