Yellowstone National Park will always be a uniquely magnificent place to the first time visitor. There is no other place like it in the world, especially its pristine valleys, steams and mountains. Some say it takes a generation to see all that is in Yellowstone. It still amazes me and always provides surprises. However, ever since I first drove across the Beartooth mountains, the terrain that has captured my awe and where I love to roam is the mountainous area that is just to the east of the park. Hence, the name for this site.
Just about anyone who wanders through the Northeast entrance of the park – and it’s not a popular site for the average Yellowstone traveler, unless someone has clued you in its secrets – finds special places on the drive. Most who travel this way long remember the three hour drive of only 60 miles to Red Lodge. Three mountain passes, plateaus, ancient forests, mountain meadows, glacial cut mountains, and vistas with no other visitor or auto in sight. I still remember my first drive over the passes – mainly because there were no side rails along any of the mountain roads – even though I think I can drive it today with my eyes closed. The highway, US 212, isn’t a road to anywhere famous. In fact, there are early fall and late spring days — if the pass at the top is free of snow — that you can drive the 70 or so miles and never need to pass a car. Imagine a road side that reflects almost no signs of civilization, with views that have existed for eons. For many that gives a sense of being free of time making the trip so very enjoyable.
There is more to this drive than just the seclusion of the area. You can get lost with a fear of really being lost. Dirt roads that fork from the road ways take you to trails that go nowhere other than into-the-mountains. These trails are filled great places to camp, have a picnic or just lay on the ground and watch the clouds go by.
You should be most surprised by the diverse geological formations you can’t help but notice. These geological wonder starts just inside the northeast entrance of Yellowstone and follows highway 212 eastward. The formations are unique within the US, maybe within the world. At least that is what geologists say during the mid summer annual geological tour out of Red Lodge. Here is a little of what you will see traveling east.