Beartooth Scenic Byway

Entire Byway: 47 miles (to Montana border)
Travel time: One hour to half a day

Cresting at 10,947 feet in Beartooth Pass, this scenic byway is Wyoming’s highest paved primary road. The traveling CBS journalist Charles Kuralt once called it “the most beautiful drive in America,” and once you’ve driven it you’ll understand why. The only national scenic byway in Wyoming, this two-lane route was the first and most substantial road to be constructed under the Park Approaches Act of 1931.

Winding through Shoshone National Forest, drivers will find vast mountain landscapes and alpine meadows full of wildflowers leading up to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Although Beartooth is closed to automobiles in the winter, it still offers snowmobilers spectacular paths to explore.

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The Beartooth Scenic Byway is accessible from the south via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (State Highway 120). The Wyoming section is 47 miles in length and requires a minimum drive time of one hour.

Along the Way

Opened in 1936, Beartooth Scenic Byway roughly follows the old Sheridan Trail, laid out in 1882 by Yellowstone protectionist General Phil Sheridan. Coming up from the south, you’ll hit the route almost dead center. And while you may be tempted to turn west and head immediately for Yellowstone, don’t cheat yourself out of some of the most spectacular panoramas in the country.

Just a few miles east and you’ll come to Clay Butte Lookout. A four-mile side trip over a dirt road (not recommended for RVs or tow-vehicles) and a mile hike upward will take you to a 360-degree view of dozens of mountain peaks. In the summer months you can step inside the lookout tower for a talk with forest service volunteers and exhibits of the 1988 Yellowstone wildfires. Back to the main road and a winding drive east will bring you to the literal high point of the drive — Beartooth Pass. The scenery is spectacular, but take any lightheadedness seriously. Nearly 11,000 feet of elevation makes altitude sickness a real concern.

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