For 68 miles, between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, the Beartooth Highway winds through some of the most inspiring terrain in the United States. This road, one of the highest in the lower 48 states, passes 20 peaks that rise over 12,000 feet. Travelers experience pristine mountain landscapes, lush forests, and alpine tundra – all within a few miles. But is it a good idea to explore the Beartooth Highway with pets? Fasten your seat belt and we’ll show you how much this area has to offer pet travelers!
Weather is the biggest consideration when planning a trip on the Beartooth Highway. Given its high elevation and rugged location, the area can experience severe weather almost every month of the year and winter arrives on a moment’s notice. Typically, the entire route is open from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to mid-October. But the dates really depend on Mother Nature. When we arrived in early October, winter was right on our heels.
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We were hoping it would look like this:
Instead, we got this:
Without question, it was beautiful and peaceful. But the fresh snow made it impossible to reach the highest parts of the highway where glacial lakes dot the plateaus and waterfalls dance over the rocks.
Fall days in Montana are crisp and clear, making it an excellent time to visit. But, avoiding the summer traffic comes with it’s trade-offs. It was a spectacular, sunshiny day when we started out toward Cooke City. But something was clearly brewing on the horizon. Climbing to the higher elevations, we got an inkling of what awaited us.
It’s important to note that there is little cell phone coverage in this area, so visitors need to be prepared for an emergency. Though daytime temperatures can reach 70 degrees, when the sun goes down the mercury can quickly fall below freezing. Warm clothes, proper footwear, plenty of gas in the car, water, and a healthy dose of common sense are recommended.
By the time we reached the Beartooth Highway, the snow had already started to stick on the road. After a few more miles, we were driving in a winter wonderland! From the western end near Cooke City, 17 miles of the Beartooth was open to vehicle traffic, but the driving conditions were deteriorating quickly. Having no desire to put ourselves or the boys in harm’s way, we turned around well before reaching the gate.
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Back at lower elevations, the sun was still shining and the boys were happy to explore. Rorest roads, trailheads, picnic areas, and turnouts appear at regular intervals, so finding a place to stretch your legs isn’t a problem.
The Beartooth Highway runs through the Custer, Gallatin, and Shoshone National Forests, and parallels the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. The route provides travelers with access to more than a million acres of wilderness!
Leashed pets are welcome at all the turnouts, picnic areas, and trails as long as they are cleaned up after. Keep in mind that Grizzlies and wolves inhabit this area, and the land is also used for cattle grazing. So, for your pet’s safety, it’s important to abide by the leash law.
Pet Rules along the Beartooth Highway
- Pets must be leashed
- Pet waste must be picked up and disposed of properly
Since the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge was closed, we took an alternate route to this lovely mountain village. It was obvious there was a storm raging to the west, but it was a perfect day for a drive. And the weather made for some dramatic pictures!
From the eastern end near Red Lodge, the Beartooth Highway was open for twelve miles. The roads here were in much better shape. We drove along the icy creek, past the pine trees tipped with snow, all the way to the barricades.
There are several pet friendly hotels, campgrounds, and eateries in Cody, which gives you excellent access to the Beartooth Highway. You’ll also find a smaller selection of accommodations in Cooke City and Red Lodge. Primitive camping in the national forests is another pet friendly option.
From the Beartooth Highway, you’re just a hop, skip, and a jump to Yellowstone National Park. Though it’s pet policy is pretty restrictive, with a bit of planning you and your pet can enjoy it together!
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Even though we weren’t able to experience the entire Beartooth Highway on this visit, we still had a fantastic time! Adapting to the weather is part of the deal when you travel with pets. And now we have more to look forward to when we visit next time. Have you spent time on the Beartooth Highway? Share your tips in the comments below!
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