This post is part of a series on The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip, our 10-month, 15,000 mile tour of the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states.
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 reach over 12,000 feet in height. Travelers are immersed in the pristine alpine landscapes, lush forests, and alpine tundra – all within the space of a few miles.
Given its high elevation and rugged location, the highway can experience severe weather conditions 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 that all depends on the weather. We knew when we planned our 48-state road trip that crossing Beartooth in early October was iffy … and Mother Nature got there just as we did.
We were hoping it would look like this:
Instead, we got this:
Beautiful in its own way, without question … but making it impossible to reach the highest parts of the highway and experience the plateaus dotted with glacial lakes, deep forested valleys, and dancing waterfalls.
Though snow prevented us from driving the entire route, we found plenty of scenery to enjoy while the Beartooth Highway transitioned into hibernation. It was a spectacular, sunshiny day as we made our way 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 being prepared is a must. Summer days may reach 70 degrees, but temperatures this time of year 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.
When we finally reached the Beartooth Highway, the snow was starting to stick. After a few more miles, we were driving in a winter wonderland, and noticed some cattle out frolicking in the fresh flakes along the road. From the Cooke City side, 17 miles of the Beartooth was open to vehicle traffic, but the driving conditions were deteriorating quickly. Having no desire to get stuck and put Ty and Buster in harm’s way, we turned around well before reaching the gate.
Back at lower elevations, the sun was still shining and the boys were happy to get out and explore a bit. There are forest roads, trailheads, picnic areas, and turnouts at regular intervals, so finding a place to stretch your legs and have a sniff is no problem.
The Beartooth Highway is surrounded by the Custer, Gallatin, and Shoshone National Forests, and travels parallel to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness – putting it squarely inside a million-plus acres of wilderness. Pets are welcome at all the turnouts, picnic areas, and trails as long as they remain on leash and are cleaned up after. Keep in mind that grizzly bears and grey wolves inhabit this area, and the land is also used to graze cattle. 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 we couldn’t drive across the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge, we opted for an alternate route to this lovely mountain village. Along the way it was obvious there was a storm raging just to our west, but it was a perfect day for a drive … and made for some dramatic pictures!
From Red Lodge, the Beartooth Highway was open for twelve miles, and the roads were in much better shape. We were able to enjoy the drive along the icy creek and past the pine trees tipped with snow, all the way to the barricades.
Visiting these attractions with Ty and Buster is a dream come true. We’ll be blogging about each one as we go along, so fasten your seatbelt and stay tuned!
The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors: Winnebago, 2 Hounds Design, Alcott, goDog®, PetGuide.com, Red Roof Inns, Sleepypod, The Bark, PetHub, RVPetSafety.com, and The Honest Kitchen. Please be sure to visit their websites and social media pages and thank them for their participation!