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Back & forth over Beartooth?

Mount Laurel, NJ
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Back & forth over Beartooth?

Hi everyone - I'm in the planning stages of (hopefully) our trip for next June/July. Currently, we're flying into Bozeman, then driving to Old Faithful Inn (3 nights), 3 nights at Canyon Lodge & 2 nights at Signal Mountain. Upon leaving GTNP, I thought we could drive back through Yellowstone then over the Beartooth and spend a night in Red Lodge.

Since I've been reading a lot about how nice the east to west drive is (vs. the way we'll be going), would it be "doable" to drive back over the Beartooth from Red Lodge and then somehow get back to Bozeman? Is that too terribly long of a drive? We'll need to get to Bozeman for the night before our (yawn) early flight out the next morning.

Thanks again for all your help.

Englewood, Fl.
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1. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Good morning Mom,

When planning driving times in the greater Yellowstone area, it's not the miles as much as it is the time that it can take to cover those miles. From Red Lodge to Bozeman would be close to 5 hours, straight through, non-stop. But no one really wants to drive over the Beartooth, back through Lamar valley and the northern range, through Mammoth, and on up to Bozeman and not stop to experience the views and the wildlife! Based on the countryside that you'll be traveling through, I would figure an entire day to make that trip. If you're only heading back to Bozeman to sleep and get up for an early flight anyway, then it's certainly "doable." Also remember that if you make the run from Signal MT. up to Red Lodge the day before, that will be another six plus hour driving day.....at how much a gallon for gas???The price of gas was never anything we had to consider when planning a trip, but unfortunately those days are over!

Since you are still in the planning stages, and if you haven't locked anything in yet, and you plan on winding up in GTNP, have you considered flying into BZN and out of JAC(Jackson)? Unless it would be cost prohibitive, by doing that, you would be heading in the same direction all the time, and you would avoid having to drive all the way from GTNP back up to BZN.(4.5 to 5 hours again) With the 5 days that you have planned for YNP, if you have your heart set on doing it, you could take one day and drive east on the Beartooth, spend one night in Red Lodge, then drive back to YNP, maybe between your stay @ O.F. and your move to Canyon. Then continue as planned down to Signal Mt.

You could do: Bzn to O.F.

O.F. 2 nights

Beartooth to Red Lodge

Red Lodge 1 night

Beartooth to Canyon

Canyon 2 nights

Canyon to Signal Mt.

Signal 2 nights

Return to BZN or depart from JAC.

**** OR ****

Unles you absolutely have to see it from both directions, You could skip the long backtrack and make your westbound only run over the Beartooth first:

From BZN take US 90 directly to Red Lodge

Overnight in Red Lodge

Then US 212(Beartooth)west into YNP, then down to Canyon.

Canyon 2 nights

Canyon to O.F.

O.F. 2 nights

O.F. to GTNP

GTNP 2 nights

Back to BZN or depart from JAC.

From Signal Mt. to the Jackson airport is about 30 miles(45 minutes +/-)as opposed to nearly 200 miles or 5 hours back up to BZN. Even with the charges for flying in and out of different airports, and possible rental car drop-off fees. When you figure the time factors, the amount of windshield time that you will have, and the outrageous price of gas these days,I haven't "crunched" those numbers, but it might make economic sense to consider using the two airports.

Billings, Montana
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2. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Hi TZMom,

If you have plans to drive over Beartooth Pass and stay the night in Red Lodge it is very doable to get up the next day and drive back up over the pass and go on to Bozeman. I go up over the pass about 3-4 times a year (in fact, my daughter,grandson, & I are leaving in a few hours to go up over the pass to camp and do some hiking). Many times I've gone up over the pass and through the park coming out at the north entrance (Gardiner). You then drive up Highway 89 to Livingston (60 miles) which is a pretty drive, turn west on I90 and its about 40 miles to the Bozeman airport. Even with leaving late morning you should still have plenty of time to stop along the way and still get to Bozeman early evening.

If you didn't want to go back up over the pass, you can drive north on Highway 212 to Billings and turn west on I90 and drive the interstate to Bozeman. Once you get on I90 its about 150 miles to the Bozeman airport.

IMO, I'd go back over the pass just because you see things differently when you go over it a different direction.

Deb

Mount Laurel, NJ
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3. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Thank you both for your excellent opinions. Gives me "points to ponder" over the long winter months as to what I should do . . .

Hawk - I checked a the flight into Bozeman out of Jackson a few weeks ago and it was something like $300 more/person + around $300 more for the rental. Being a single parent w/my only kid in college and not much help from "Big Daddy", I don't think I could stomach that much of a price difference. Maybe the price will come down - that would be excellent.

I really appreciate your time and thoughts. I'll be back . . .

Uden, The...
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4. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Have you thought about leaving Colter Bay early in the morning and drive scenic Buffalo Bill Highway to Cody. Lunch in Cody and maybe a short visit to the museum and then drive from Cody to red Lodge via 120/72/308. Stay Red Lodge for the night and drive Beartooth east-west next day to Gardiner and Bozeman. The drive Colter Bay-Cody app. is 4 hours and it's just an easy 1.5 hours drive to Red Lodge then. Actually, if you are not a mountaindriver-by-nature, I would not advice to do those drives so shortly after each other. The drive via Cody will be a lot easier.

Tet

Englewood, Fl.
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5. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Mom,

I understand the expense thing. Those were just some suggestions and options that I thought of for you to do all the things that you want, and maybe save you some driving.

I said in a recent post on another topic that it's getting harder and harder all the time for those of us who fly to Yellowstone(or anyplace for that matter) Between the airlines and their new restrictions, and the rental car companies with all their extra charges, what used to be a nice vacation is now a major investment. I can never understand why it has to cost more to fly into one airport and out of another. It's not like they are scheduling a special flight or an extra plane just to accommodate one person. The planes will be going anyway, so why the extra charges? And the rental cars with their one way drop-off charges. Are we to believe that they have to get that one individual car back to the original location? Why? And why should I as a customer be expected to pay for that?

Sorry... end of rant ... I feel better now!

Elroy, Wisconsin
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6. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Hi TZMOM~

Great advice from the other posters.

Your idea of leaving Red Lodge, going back over the Beartooth, then making your way back to Bozeman for that night should work just fine. The drive from Gardiner up to Livingston thru Paradise Valley IS very beautiful, follows the Yellowstone River - pretty easy driving.

I like the idea of coming up from GTNP to the Fishing Bridge, then out the east entrance of YNP to Cody, then up to Red Lodge - just because I love it for folks to have their first experience of the Beartooth Hwy to be from east to west (I just think it's more dramatic, but the scenery is fantastic going the other direction as well.) The drive from Fishing Bridge to Cody is very pretty, and would give you a chance to see even more of the country. The area around Sylvan Lake & Sylvan Pass is very picturesque mountain scenery, and we've seen Grizzlies as well as Moose near the east entrance. As you get closer to Cody, the landscape changes into something you think you'd be seeing in the southwestern US with big red-rock cliffs & hoodoos, and the road goes right past Buffalo Bill Dam, thru the tunnel right next to the dam, then into town. Kinda cool. Oh, almost forgot - there used to be a place along the north shore of Lake Yellowstone where you could look south across the lake & see the Teton Mtn Range in the distance - around 70 miles away. Really cool.

Several times now, I've had to go from Three Forks (west of Bozeman) to Yellowstone & back in one day, because of time constraints on our trips. We usually go to Bozeman, then down the Gallatin Canyon to West Yellowstone, then drive the Grand Loop road stopping to see what we have time for, then back to West Yellowstone, then Three Forks. Twice now, we've gone from Bozeman over to Livingston on the interstate, then down to Gardiner, made the Grand Loop, then back to Gardiner & then Three Forks. It's a lot of driving, and we've had to really manage our time. We try to leave before sun-up, and by the time we get back to the interstate on the way home, it's usually dark. So, from Red Lodge over the Beartooth & thru the top portion of YNP to Gardiner, then up to Livingston & west to Bozeman is definitely do-able. They say to allow 3 hours to go from Red Lodge to the northeast entrance, but I'd say 3.5 - 4 to give you time for stops - you'll want to take a lot of pics. Then you should be able to take your time going thru the Lamar Valley & over to Mammoth. If you could be headed up to Livingston by like 5 or 6pm, you shouldn't have to drive in the dark at all. There may be a lot of animals on or right near the roads from early evening onward, both inside the park and out, so keep watch for that. Taking time out during the middle of the day to take a hike or stop to view the wildlife will help break up the drive. You could even pull over at a turn-out or picnic area & take a short nap if you want. Of course you'll want to check with the park & MT & WY state hwy depts to see if there will be any major road construction going on that would influence your time-line and road choices.

If you get to Gardiner in the early afternoon & want to head over to Bozeman, you may want to see if the Museum of the Rockies is still open - I think they may be open until 8pm during the summertime. I've not been there yet, but my folks have & were very impressed. An alternative (if time allows) would be driving over to the Missouri Headwaters State Park just east/ northeast of Three Forks. I'd recommend supper at the Cattleman's Restaurant on the north side of Three Forks near the interstate. My relatives that live in TF say food at the supper club in the tiny town of Logan is excellent, but a little on the pricey side. We've been happy with Cattleman's every time. I like to recommend that people traveling to the Bozeman area try to stop in at the Wheat Montana Bakery & Deli at Three Forks if they have time - they have the best pastries, sweet rolls, breads, sandwiches, etc! The different grains they use in their bakery items are all grown on their fields just north of the store. They also offer many Made In Montana items for sale as souvenirs - cook books, jams, jellies, Montana sweetclover honey (one of my faves), BBQ sauces, Huckleberry products, T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, bowls, stoneware cannister sets, as well as a great assortment of flours, oats, barley, spelt, etc to use in your own baking. If I were flying, I'd have to send my purchases home since I usually stock up on their Prairie Gold flour for baking homemade bread.

Anywho, hope some of this info helps you out. Have fun planning your trip. :0)

Wyoming & Sanibel
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7. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Mom - I've written elsewhere in this forum that in my opinion there has been too much emphasis on Beartooth on these boards. Certainly it is a beautiful drive - but it is a LONG drive, and less fun for the person driving. You don't have much time in Yellowstone and I would hate for you to spend two of those precious days in the car driving and re-driving that area.

My suggestion is you limit yourself to no more than a one-way trip and really review your itinerary to see if you will be giving up other "must-sees" in the park. I wouldn't even consider recommending someone take that drive unless it was day 5 or higher in their Yellowstone visit.

Starting out from Grand Teton NP, driving through Yellowstone, over Beartooth to Red Lodge would be a long day of driving.

Mount Laurel, NJ
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8. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Thank you everyone - what great advice and tips.

Hawk - I hear ya about the prices of everything. I checked again today and the air price is $300 more TOTAL (not per person.) You are correct about the investment. We went to the Black Hills area last summer and ended up spending more than I thought we would, but I wouldn't have given it up for the world. I have a feeling this trip will be the same thing!!

Montana, Tet & Shell - thank you very much for the detailed information. I'll be pulling the maps out this weekend trying to figure out what will work best for us. I may even plan on staying in the park on the "Red Lodge" night just skipping Beartooth altogether.

Ahhhh, lovely to have the gift of time to plan a trip isn't it?

Englewood, Fl.
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9. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

Although I did not say it in my original response, I have to agree with Shell about that ride over the Beartooth being somewhat over rated for anyone having less than a week to spend in YNP. It's a beautiful ride, but not one that I would consider taking a day or more away from my limited time in the park to do.

You can always make the decision on "doing the Beartooth" once you get there and see just how far apart things actually are out there, too.

Uden, The...
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10. Re: Back & forth over Beartooth?

After 8 days in Yell/GTNP I think OP is doing well to drive Beartooth Pass. This road is rated one of the best an most scenic drives in the USA and we've done ourselves several times from both directions and imo it's far from overrrated. Go Mom but just don't drive up and down from both directions.

Tet