A way long time ago, I wrote about driving through Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. Next on the agenda: Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.
The Beartooth Highway is a…“…68 mile byway winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming and leads into Yellowstone National Park at its Northeast Entrance. Since opening to automobile travel in 1937 the Beartooth Highway has welcomed visitors from around the world – introducing them to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto in the United States.”
We drove east on the Highway, just to the top of the pass, and we we’re rewarded with incredible sweeping vistas of sawtooth mountains, fields of wildflowers (in late July!) and the eeeping of a pika! It’s a great jumping off point for recreation, and, with the right timing, wildlife abounds. Here are just a few of my (many) pictures:
The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway connects the Beartooth Highaway (and Yellowstone National Park) with Cody, Wyoming. You’ll travel through the Shoshone National Forest, between the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains, and across the Clark Fork River. The bridge over the high gorge of the Clark Fork was a highlight for me!
While not as iconic as Highway 1 or Route 66, I think that the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway drive deserve to be on the list of “must-do” American road trips.
A few weeks ago, I did an awesome trip through Montana and Wyoming with my parents. Check out my recaps of Glacier National Park and Gardiner, Montana.
The next section of my trip surprised me by being my favorite place we visited. I had traveled through the southern part of Yellowstone in 2009, and I had assumed all of Yellowstone National Park was like that: bubbling mud, alien landscapes and the occasional bison. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
We drove through the Lamar Valley in the north east portion of Yellowstone National park on our way towards the Northeast Entrance and beyond. The Lamar Valley is known as one of the best places to spot Yellowstone’s famous wildlife. This valley is habitat for bears, elk, pronghorn antelope, eagles, wolves, bison, bighorn sheep and more. In fact, Lamar Valley at dawn is the #1 place to spot wolves in Yellowstone!
Most of Yellowstone’s most spectacular wildlife are most active at dawn and dusk. Though we were a little late for dawn, we managed to see huge herds of bison, eagles and osprey, pronghorn antelope and elk. My phone camera isn’t up to snuff for wildlife photography, so I really only managed to capture decent pictures of the large, stationary bison.
In addition to the phenomenal wildlife, the drive from Gardiner, Montana through the northern part of the park has gorgeous mountain and river views. This part of the park was much less crowded than the southern sections, and we enjoyed the vistas in relative isolation.
Over the past few years, I’ve really expanded the number of US National Parks I’ve visited. I went from one in 2009 (North Cascades National Park) to my current count of twelve. Just last week, I was able to add another National Park to my list: Glacier National Park in Montana.
My parents and I spent a (too) quick day here on a drive through the park. I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay and more exploring!
We drove to Glacier National Park’s West Entrance and had to wait in a fairly long line to get in. We were there on a Saturday, so we definitely experienced the summer crowds. If you end up visiting in the summer, I encourage you to go midweek.
My parents aren’t huge hikers, so we didn’t get to experience much of Glacier National Park’s 700 miles of trails. In fact, in the couple of places we tried to go on short hikes, the trail head parking lots were so full we couldn’t park! We ended up just stopping at a number of little pull out areas along the way to stretch our legs, explore along the river, and take in the park’s amazing views.
One reason we chose to go in the summer was the opportunity to take the Going to the Sun Road over Lolo Pass. Glacier National Park describes Going to the Sun Road as
“One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.”
This drive is definitely worth fighting the summer crowds, at least once. We even got to see some great wildlife on the drive!
Despite the long lines and full parking lots, Glacier didn’t feel as crowded as Yosemite or Yellowstone often do. I can’t wait to come back and do more backcountry exploring. Go visit Glacier National Park soon, before all the glaciers melt!
Until next time, Glacier!