Beartooth Pass


The Absoraka-Beartooth Wilderness Area contains 30 peaks above 12,000′ elevation. As an integral part of the 20 million acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, it borders Yellowstone National Park’s eastern side, straddling the Wyoming-Montana line and encompassing two distinct mountain ranges: the Beartooth Mountains, named after the likeness between a jagged mountain peak in the range and a bear’s tooth; and the Absorakas, named after the Crow Indians (Absoraka being the Indian name for crow).

Along the eastern side of the wilderness area, The Beartooths have the largest unbroken area of land within the lower 48 states in excess of 10,000 feet elevation. Comprised almost entirely of beautiful but fragile, high, treeless, bald granite plateaus interspersed by glacial lakes, the Beartooths include Montana’s highest mountain, the 12,799′ Granite Peak.

North of the Beartooths lies the Absaroka range’s stratified volcanic rocks, forested valleys and rugged peaks forming a chain of mountains that includes spectacular peaks east of Paradise Valley, beginning in Wyoming, including the Absoraka’s highest mountain, Francs Peak (13,153′), and continuing north into Montana.

Heading west from Red Lodge, Montana, (5,500′), US Route 212 goes up, down, and up again, for 70 incredibly tortuous miles along the Montana-Wyoming Border through the Beartooths; winding south into Wyoming just before the 10,947′ Beartooth Pass, (the highest road in the northern Rockies) and then back north into Montana over the 8,100′ Colter Pass, through Cooke City (6,400′), and finally climbing to Yellowstone’s NE entrance at 7,500’ elevation, once again in Wyoming.

The views along the Beartooth Pass are spectacular and unnerving. Whether the high tundra mountain tops, or deep down in the incredibly steep valleys, the views are difficult to fathom.

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