On Aug. 10, leaving Yellowstone National Park through the Northeast Gate, we headed in that direction on U.S. 212, the Beartooth Highway. About 15 miles out, we began to see smoke on the horizon. As we neared, the air was thick with gray smoke.
We later found out that lightning had struck, and more than 3,000 acres were burning at Hunter Peak in the Shoshone National Forest. As of Aug. 15, it was still burning. Structures have been evacuated; trails have been closed.
But that was just a dramatic prelude to our drive that day. The road kept rising and rising and soon we were zig-zagging up switchback after switchback. The Beartooth Highway is a National Scenic Byways All-American Road. It is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies, at 10,947 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountains have 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet. It is one of the most rugged areas in the lower 48 states.
Our vistas were actually blocked — or hazy — because of the forest fire that was now about 10 miles behind us. About 70 miles east of Yellowstone is a lookout point, Rock Creek Vista. It has a walkway that goes out to a viewing platform. And the views are amazing, even when hazy.
From there, the road winds down with switchbacks and cuts through a beautiful valley. We left the Beartooth Highway at Billings, Montana, and headed to the 7th Ranch RV Park in Garryowen and the Little Bighorn National Battlefield.