In the western Wyoming mountain ranges, at a safe
distance from Yellowstone National Park, it is nearly
impossible to find a road that is not worth bicycling.
The highest paved pass of this corner of the west,
Beartooth Pass, has another advantage. It is not plagued
by the traffic of a large adjacent metropolitan area.
Other potential crowds, the summer vacation tourists,
head straight for Yellowstone. This leaves Beartooth
Pass to be enjoyed by cyclists who appreciate a good
climbing work out and unparalelled scenery. The pass
across the high rolling Beartooth Plateau above treeline
is surrounded by the Absaroka, Beartooth and other
ranges. Good weather is a prerequisite for this ride.
This pass is a personal favorite and a description of a
ride in the "touring stories section" is on this
, under the heading "my first Rocky
Mountain Bicycle Pass"
START-END NORTH: Red Lodge (jct 9th street,
02.(mile10+1/2,6690ft) Lake Fork dirt road
leaves on right
03.(mile12+1/2,7120ft) FR421 leaves on right
04.(mile27+1/2,10880ft) first summit
05.(mile29,10600ft) intermediate low point
06.(mile31,10940ft) Bear Tooth Pass
07.(mile50,7050ft) START-END SOUTH: jct with
Chief Joseph Highway (Dead Indian Pass) on
08.(mile52,6870f) START-END SOUTH ALTERNATE:
low point towards Coulter Pass.
From East. The long distance tourist approaching
from Billings will notice the shallow slope to Red Lodge.
That's where the Beartooth Highway and the pass road begins.
After an extended forest climb, passing many camping
opportunites (public land as well as National Forest
campgrounds), the road turns into a series of ramps climbing
the plateau. But this plateau is anything but flat. The road
has two summits, and spectacular scenery separting them.
From West. The western approach begins at the
junction of three paved passes, Beartooth Pass, Dead
Indian Pass and Colter Pass.
The character of this side is quite different, drier,
more sage and fewer pines, more varied colors and less
green. Pilot Peak, keeping watch above Colter Pass is sure
to get attention because of its shape from this vantage
Dayrides. An out and back roadride from Red Lodge
to the eastern summit measured 53 miles. The measured
elevation gain of 6710ft overshoots the real value,
either because of a week battery or a passing weather front.
Two or Three Day road Tour. The pass can be
cycled in a circle combined with Chief Joseph Highway over
Dead Indian Pass, completing the circle over Wy120 between
Cody and Red Lodge. In order to sleep somewhere halfways
civilized on a three day tour it is necessary to add on an
out and back section to Cody. The other overnight stop is
Red Lodge. An additional out and back section to Cooke City
or West Yellowstone over Colter Pass is also worthwhile. A
two day version of this ride, starting in Silver Gate (
located between Cooke City and West Yellowstone ) and
skipping the detour to Cody, measured 112 miles over Colter
Pass, Dead Indian Pass and Wy120, between Silver Gate and
Red Lodge, 70 miles between the same endpoints over
Beartooth Pass and Colter Pass again (no measured altitude
data available). It is described further in the
touring stories section, linked in the first paragraph on
Extended Tour. This pass is also in a prime
location for an extended tour, right on the way to
Yellowstone and the Tetons. Therefor it is not surprising
that I have met long distance tourists every time that I
have cycled this pass. It was also a highpoint on my first
long distance bicycle tour from New York to California.