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September 1, 2009

The Most beautiful road in America: Beartooth Scenic Highway

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Filed under : General Green
The late Charles Kuralt, travel correspondent for CBS News, referred to the Beartooth Highway (US 212) as “the most beautiful road in America.” Most travelers who have driven its 67 miles and admired the spectacular vistas of rugged mountains and sweeping alpine tundra would agree with his ranking.

Completed in 1936, the highway runs through Montana and Wyoming, and meanders through Custer, Shoshone, and Gallatin National Forests until it reaches the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Through a series of switchbacks the road quickly rises into a world of giants—twenty of the surrounding peaks exceed 12,000 feet. Glaciers decorate most of the higher mountains, and colorful wildflowers adorn the velvety green alpine meadows.

The road reaches its highest point at the top of Beartooth Pass (10,974 feet in elevation), where expansive views showcase miles of wilderness. Near the pass, West Summit Overlook reveals the western slope’s striking blue jewelry of lakes. While driving, travelers may spot one of the jagged rock formations resembling a bear’s tooth that give the highway its namesake. Or a real grizzly bear may wander into sight as it searches for forage.

The scenery viewed from a car is breathtaking–and also inviting. I parked along the Beartooth Plateau and took a short hike on the alpine tundra to a nearby ridge. I passed an array of wildflowers, including my favorite: the delicate sky pilot. While resting on a rock, I heard the unmistakable call of a pika and watched with delight as it scurried across the boulders.

Recreational opportunities abound in the Beartooth, with miles of hiking and horsebackriding trails, plentiful fishing streams, and numerous campgrounds. In the winter, heavy snowcover renders the road impassable, but the gateway communities of Red Lodge and Cooke City provide skiing and snowmobiling access.

On your next trip to Yellowstone, be sure to include time for an excursion on the Beartooth Highway—no visit to the first national park would be complete without driving on America’s most beautiful road.

Watch a video of the breathtaking views of the Beartooth Highway below:

credited to and youtube

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