Thursday, September 4

America's most beautiful roadway

Wow! It’s the first word that comes to mind when describing the Beartooth Highway. This stunning route into the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park has been called “the most beautiful roadway in America.” Garry and I think the accolade is well deserved. I must admit I was rather skeptical before we set out from the town of Red Lodge. We’ve driven many scenic routes in our time, descriptions of which were sometimes a little prone to hype.

However, the Beartooth Highway didn’t disappoint. The road begins by entering the impressive Rock Creek Canyon. Imagine if you can, a broad canyon, framed by granite peaks with a floor shaped into a graceful arc by long vanished glaciers. The road then steadily ascends through seven miles of breath-taking switchbacks, offering ever more stunning views of the valley below. At 9,190 feet the road reaches an outcrop aptly named Vista Point.

 Garry and I stopped here to soak in the view and watch friendly chipmunks beg for food. From here we rose up onto Hellroaring Plateau, an awesome wind-swept expanse of alpine tundra. The route was dotted with snow drifts, ragged canyons and meltwater lakes. Our drive was also blessed with blue skies and sunshine the entire way.

The road continued climbing until we reached a staggering 10,947 feet above sea level. Soon after cresting Beartooth Pass we found ourselves winding through more picture perfect meltwater lakes. One lake in particular was magic. I begged Garry to stop long enough for us to pause and soak in the view. We later learnt that the road is closed for seven months every year as snow drifts up to 20 metres deep make it impassable.

The largest lake in the area is Beartooth Lake. This alpine lake sits at 8,901 feet, its waters reflecting Beartooth Butte, a towering red-banded sandstone mesa. Incredibly, at 10,541 feet, the Butte’s summit lies below that of Beartooth Pass. The route then took us past two eroded volcanic peaks before finally reaching the entrance to Yellowstone.

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