Saturday, July 3, 2010

Traveling the Beartooth Highway -- The top of the world

We took a trip from Cody to Red Lodge, MT and then took the Beartooth Highway which is rated as one of the most spectacular in the country. Our first stop was Red Lodge which is located on the banks of this beautiful river. After a quick stop for coffee, we headed to the Beartooth.

The Beartooth is an amazing highway that was built in the 30's after the coal industry in Red Lodge ended. Designed as both a scenic highway as well as a route to Yellowstone Park's Silver Gate entrance, this road reaches some 11,000 feet in elevation and offers spectacular vistas.

Here, Cody and Orinda enjoy a quick stop at one of the lower (8,000') vistas on the road.

Soon after, we began to near the top of the 50+ mile road and began to hit snow. Since this was in early July and there was plenty of snow remaining, we wondered how much snow is here in the winter -- must be a bunch!

We passed this very heavy duty snow thrower parked along the road and it gave mute testimony to the work of keeping the road open in the spring. The road is totally closed in the winter.

Wow, we turned a corner and saw what the snow thrower was doing, probably not too much earlier. The snow was still over the roof of the car by quite a bit!

We kept climbing (and climbing) and soon passed the tree line. Finally, our trusty GPS showed us to be over 11,000' -- the summit at last! We have not seen this elevation before! We were also about 25 degrees cooler than the bottom of the road.

The summit offers a grand view and as you can see, not much grows up here. There was quite a bit of snow and some hardy grass; other than that, rocks were the dominate species.

We really at the top of the world here and it was very interesting to travel here. We were also surprised to see that the level of traffic was not very high. Certainly, this road was every bit as magnificent as the famous Road to the Sun in Glacier Park, but had far fewer vehicles on it.

Cody was delighted to get out for a quick stretch in the snow. This snow was still about 3' deep and was as hard as ice in most places.

As we descended, we started to come across a number of beautiful snow melt lakes. At about 9,500', we started to run into trees again, which became larger as we descended. This is a great trip and one of the best scenic highways we have ever traveled. Just outside Cooke City, MT, we turned south on the Chief Joseph Highway (which we traveled a few days before) and returned to Cody after about 175 miles. A great day.

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