Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Road Trip Report: Beartooth Highway

Suzuki SX4 on Beartooth Highway - Subcompact Culture
As you may have read, our latest road trip took us from Oregon to Wisconsin in our 2009 Suzuki SX4 AWD. One of the most amazing parts of the trip was driving Beartooth Highway into Yellowstone National Park.

SwitchbacksBeartooth Highway, aka U.S. Highway 212, was opened in 1936, and runs from Red Lodge, MT to Cooke City, MT across the Beartooth Mountains, located on the Montana/Wyoming border. It is an incredibly twisty, turny road that reaches an elevation of 10,974 ft. via numerous switchbacks. There were places in which you could count four switchbacks if you look up. In the picture above, you can see a couple of them. You can also get an idea of the grade on some of these stretches.

There are a number of scenic turnouts that allow you to take in the incredible landscape. Towering mountain tops; snow fields; alpine lakes; wildflowers, etc. One of the turnouts had a bunch of undoubtedly rabid nearly tame chipmunks that'd come right up to you (albeit, begging for food). There were also some outhouses; one of only a handful of places to do your business if needed.

chipmunk Keep in mind: This is not a place for high-speed or "spirited" driving. The pavement can be broken, there is the occasional dirt/gravel section, and steep drop offs. Then again, with the amazing scenery, you wouldn't want to zoom through, anyway.

Things to remember
There are definitely some things to remember if you're going to drive this amazing road:

- Beartooth Pass is closed during the winter. Even during the summer, there can be some heavy-duty weather—both thunderstorms and even snow storms.

- Be sure to have plenty of fuel. This is not the place to run out of gas! Keep in mind there are a lot of elevation gains, so you'll be working the engine. Get fuel in Red Lodge if you're coming from that direction.

- Bring your camera. Allegedly, Beartooth Highway has been described the most beautiful drive in the U.S, and I can see why.

- All-wheel drive is not necessary, but I'd hesitate to drive a "slammed" vehicle up there. With the frequent possibility of fallen rock, the uneven pavement, and the propensity for inclement weather, it may be best to leave the lowered car at home if possible.

- This is grizzly bear country, and there are intermittent signs that will tell you so.

None of the words I type here or any of the photos I've posted will do this drive justice. This is a place that has to be experienced first hand in order to truly appreciate it. If you're looking for an amazing drive and you're in the area, Beartooth Highway is a must. You will not regret it.

Beartooth Highway - Subcompact Culture

Suzuki SX4 Beartooth Highway - Subcompact Culture


sleeksilver said...

Beautiful pictures!

I've always wanted to do a roadtrip like that...

Anonymous said...

I a split. It is not bad at all for an AWD car to get 28 MPG mixed, but our Forester 2.5X never get's under 32MPG on 600 mile road trips, I consider it quite a bit more car than the Suzuki. The only way we get 27-28 is if we mostly drive in the city.

Nice post!