A while ago, I posted about a garden known as Pathway through the Bible. When we visited this attraction, we were actually on our way to Yellowstone National Park via Beartooth Pass. However, before we made it to Yellowstone, the charms of the pass were too much, and we stopped to enjoy its almost tundra-like beauty. You are really on the top of the world here, with only grass and rocks, and the clouds floating above you head. It was so lovely that, even though there’s no official trail, I thought I’d write about it for others to try. Another nice feature was the snow that we found there…in early August!
To get to Beartooth Pass, from Billings, MT take I-90 west. You will want to take Exit 434 (approximately 13 miles from Billings) and head south on Hwy 212 (Beartooth Highway) for approximately 67 miles. Actually, at 64 miles, there is a very nice parking area with great views (Vista Point). We stopped here for lunch before heading up to the pass itself. Anyway, around 67 miles there is a short dirt road on the left leading down to a dirt parking area. I’m not sure what this parking area is for, although I think a trail may start there. Park in the parking area, and then walk back up to the paved road. This parking area is about ½ mile northeast of the Montana/Wyoming border, and about 43 miles from the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Please note: Beartooth Pass and much of the Beartooth Highway are closed from mid-October to mid-May each year, although it may not open until June or early July if there is more snow than normal, and may close early if there is an early snowfall. Check current weather conditions on the internet before you try to go through the pass…I’ve known people who’ve tried to do it, only to find that the pass was closed. It is a long way out of your way if you drive all the way up there and then find it closed!
Cross the road and head up the hill on the other side. As I said before, there is no trail, so just stroll up the hill however seems best to you. You are walking in a field of short grass (and maybe wildflowers at some times of the year), with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. You really don’t have to go far for nice views, although I’d recommend going to the top of the hill or towards the far side of the hill if you want nice views of the valley (there are no guard rails, however, so use caution). If you veer a bit to your left on the road side of the hill, you will probably see a small pond at the bottom of a snowfield. We saw this on our way back, and had a grand time throwing snowballs. It’s not every destination that allows you to have a snowball fight in August!
One good reason to stop and admire the scenery around you is because of the elevation. You’re at nearly 11,000 ft. here (Beartooth Pass, right on the road below you, is 10,947 ft.), so those of us from the lowlands will probably be puffing and panting while exerting very little effort! Use your rest breaks to look around you and enjoy the views. Unfortunately, our pictures didn’t turn out very well…so don’t rely on them to show you just how pretty it really was.
We headed around the hill, and eventually found ourselves on a large pile of rocks at the top. These are quite unique, as there aren’t many rocks like this in the area and the rocks are interestingly shaped. We sat on the rocks and studied the landscape, took pictures, and generally enjoyed the views. You’re so much higher than so much of the landscape that it really gives you a top-of-the-world feeling.
After we had enjoyed the view for a while, we walked back to our vehicle, past the snowfield and small pond. There may be tiny ice caves under the snowfield, but we didn’t want to explore them—I’d imagine they’d be rather wet, especially on a sunny day. Anyhow, it’s an interesting feature, as is the little stream that flows out of the pond. Return to your car by crossing the road and walking back down the dirt road to the parking area.
If you continue on into Wyoming for a short ways, there is an awesome viewpoint of two lakes in the valley below. This is probably one of the prettiest pull-outs along the highway, so I highly recommend that you stop at it, if only to snap a few pictures.
A similar but slightly longer hike we did can be viewed here.
Round Trip Trail Length: Varies; we did it in less than a mile
Facilities: None at the parking area; the viewpoint at 64 miles has restrooms
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?