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The Beartooth Highway: 2024’s Scenic Journey Delayed by Nature’s Winter Grip

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The Beartooth Highway (US-212), renowned for its stunning alpine views and challenging terrain, delayed its 2024 season opening due to a severe winter storm, highlighting its unpredictable weather and breathtaking beauty near Yellowstone National Park.


The Beartooth Highway, also known as US-212, is a marvel of engineering and natural beauty. Nestled just outside the northeastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, this highway offers breathtaking views and an unforgettable driving experience. Originally scheduled to open for the 2024 season on May 24, the highway’s opening was delayed due to a severe winter storm warning predicting between one and two feet of snow. Despite this setback, the allure of the Beartooth Highway remains undiminished.

Right now, only a section of the road is open. According to the Montana Department of Transportation, US-212 is open from Red Lodge to Vista Point near mile marker 49, but the road remains closed to all traffic beyond Vista Point to the Wyoming state line. The Wyoming government also reported that the highway remains closed through the state.

As of May 28, the highway will remain closed for the foreseeable future, according to the National Park Service.

The Beartooth Highway: An Overview

Stretching approximately 68 miles from Red Lodge, Montana, to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Highway traverses some of the most stunning landscapes in the United States. The highway ascends to an elevation of 10,947 feet at Beartooth Pass, making it one of the highest roads in the continental United States. This route is renowned for its panoramic views, diverse wildlife, and unique alpine terrain.

Destination Highway: The Beartooth Highway between Montana and Wyoming is designated both a National Scenic Byway and an All American Road.

A Road of Many Seasons

The Beartooth Highway is a seasonal road, typically opening from late May to early October, depending on weather conditions. The 2024 season was eagerly anticipated, with travelers from around the world planning to experience its dramatic vistas. However, nature had other plans. The scheduled opening on May 24 was postponed due to a winter storm warning that threatened to blanket the area with up to two feet of snow.

The Challenge of Snow and Ice

The delay of the Beartooth Highway’s opening is not an uncommon occurrence. The region’s high elevation and unpredictable weather make it susceptible to late-season snowstorms. The task of clearing the highway falls to the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), which works tirelessly to ensure the road is safe for travel. Snowplows and heavy machinery are employed to clear the snow and ice, but the process can be time-consuming and challenging.

The Beauty of the Beartooth Highway

Despite the occasional delays, the Beartooth Highway remains one of America’s most scenic drives. The route offers a variety of landscapes, from lush forests and alpine meadows to stark, rocky peaks and pristine lakes. Each twist and turn reveals new vistas, making the journey as rewarding as the destination.

Highlights Along the Route

  • Red Lodge, Montana: This charming town serves as the starting point for many travelers. Known for its historic buildings and vibrant community, Red Lodge is a perfect place to begin the adventure.
  • Beartooth Pass: The highest point on the highway, Beartooth Pass offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s a popular spot for photos and a testament to the road’s engineering marvel.
  • Top of the World Store: Situated at an elevation of 9,400 feet, this rustic store provides a unique stop for travelers. It offers souvenirs, snacks, and breathtaking views of the Beartooth Plateau.
  • Gardner Lake: Located near the summit, this glacial lake is a serene spot for fishing, picnicking, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the high country.
  • Cooke City, Montana: The endpoint of the highway before entering Yellowstone, Cooke City is a quaint mountain town with a rich history and plenty of outdoor activities.

Wildlife and Natural Wonders

Travelers on the Beartooth Highway often encounter a variety of wildlife. The region is home to grizzly bears, black bears, moose, elk, mountain goats, and numerous bird species. The diverse ecosystems along the highway provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography.

The Road to Adventure

While the delayed opening may have disappointed some travelers, it also serves as a reminder of the power and unpredictability of nature. The Beartooth Highway is more than just a road; it’s an adventure that requires flexibility and a spirit of exploration. The winter storm that postponed the opening is a testament to the rugged beauty and challenges of this high-altitude route.

Preparing for the Journey

For those planning to travel the Beartooth Highway, preparation is key. Weather conditions can change rapidly, and it’s essential to be equipped for sudden temperature drops and snowstorms, even in late spring and early summer. Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable trip:

  • Check the Weather: Before embarking on your journey, check the weather forecast for the region. Be prepared for sudden changes and possible snow.
  • Pack Essentials: Bring warm clothing, extra food and water, and emergency supplies. A full tank of gas is also crucial, as services are limited along the route.
  • Vehicle Readiness: Ensure your vehicle is in good condition, with appropriate tires for snow and ice. Four-wheel drive is recommended.
  • Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed the animals. Observe them from the safety of your vehicle or a designated viewing area.
  • Stay Informed: Keep updated on road conditions and closures through the Montana Department of Transportation website or local news sources.


The Beartooth Highway, with its awe-inspiring landscapes and thrilling driving experience, remains a bucket-list destination for many travelers. Despite the delayed opening in 2024 due to the winter storm, the highway’s beauty and allure are undiminished. As one of the most scenic roads in the United States, the Beartooth Highway offers an unparalleled journey through some of the country’s most stunning natural wonders. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer or a first-time visitor, the Beartooth Highway promises a memorable and breathtaking experience.

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