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Drive to the top of the world

Drive to the top of the world

The Beartooth Highway was the brainchild of Dr. J.C.F. Siegfriedt, a local doctor who wanted to lure tourists to the Red Lodge area that was financially suffering from a waning coal industry. To obtain federal aid, Siegfriedt teamed up with O.H.P. Shelley, founder of Carbon County News, and Congressman Scott Leavitt. Together, the men successfully lobbied for the passage of the Park Approach Act in 1931. The act allocated funds to build roads to national parks. The pass was opened in 1936. The Beartooth Highway begins in the mountain town of Red Lodge and quickly starts climbing steep switchbacks. After winding 20 miles through 50-60 million-year-old mountains, you come to a pullout that provides excellent panoramas of the Beartooth Plateau. From here you can see the Hell Roaring and Silver Run Plateaus to the north. Glacier Lake is also visible, and if you look hard enough, you might even spot a mountain goat or other wildlife. From here, the road keeps ascending and reveals magnificent canyons carved by the Clark’s Fork River. Thirty miles from Red Lodge, you reach the summit of the pass at 10,974 feet. Shortly after, you come upon the only service area along the entire highway at the tiny settlement of Top of the World. The descent provides views of many mountain lakes. Besides breathtaking landscapes, look for wildflowers and wildlife. Wildflowers grow below treeline in the summers. Indian Paintbrush, monkeyflower, senecio, buttercups, lupine, arrowleaf, balsamroot, beardstongue, and forget-me-nots are among the wildflowers that carpet the country along the Beartooth Highway. Drive with caution and keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bears, grizzly bears, and moose. When you decide to drive the Beartooth Scenic Highway, take your time. There are many excellent recreational opportunities along the way. There are numerous hiking trails off the road, including some that lead to Island Lake and Beartooth Lake. You can take off for a short day hike or a long multi-day trek. The Beartooth Loop National Recreation Trail is an excellent 15- to 20-mile hike that goes past the original site of Camp Sawtooth, formerly an exclusive vacation retreat. Cross country skiing is also possible in early June and July. The pass is closed to cars in the winter but is groomed for snowmobiles. For Friends of the Beartooth All-American Road email: info@beartoothhighway.com

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