Motorcyclists are an amazingly hardy bunch. They ride in all kinds of weather, for miles and miles, taking a minimal amount of luggage with them, they don’t complain much, they’re as comfortable by themselves on the open road as they are with a pack of other bikers, and they aren’t generally shy about expressing their opinions… which is why we here in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country were thrilled to find out that members of the American Motorcyclist Association voted the Beartooth Highway northwest of Cody as their favorite road in America!
Nearly 100 roads were listed on the ballot, and American Motorcyclist magazine tallied the votes, publishing the top 15 roads in their April issue. Among the top roads were U.S. Highway 550, from Ouray to Durango, Colorado (#4 on the list); the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park (#6); the Natchez Trace, from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee (#11); and the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1 in California (#5).
So what makes the Beartooth Highway so popular? Well, it is one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48, with 20 peaks reaching over 12,000 feet in elevation! The road itself is the highest-elevation highway in Wyoming at 10,947 feet, and because it straddles the state line, it’s also the highest road in Montana (10,350 feet). A section of the Beartooth Highway has been awarded the National Scenic Byways “All-American Road” status – it’s a 54 mile section of road beginning 8 miles south and east of Red Lodge, Montana and ending just east of Cooke City. It was first referred to as “the most beautiful drive in America” by Charles Kuralt, “On the Road” television correspondent.
I talked to Kim Capron, who’s the Project Coordinator for the organization “Friends of the Beartooth All-American Road.” Folks that she has talked to have told her that there are two main reasons they love to drive the Beartooth All-American Road:
1.) The Drama of the Drive. Because of its elevation, the Highway provides access to high mountain tundra, amazing wildlife, and spectacular scenic vistas. If you’re not a high-country backpacker, it’s hard for most of us to touch, see and smell and experience most of the out of the way wild places left in the world. The Beartooth Highway provides relatively easy access to spots like that. And let’s not forget the “switchback” section of the Beartooth Highway! Most folks she visits with love the excitement and challenge of actually driving the Road. The phrase “I drove the Beartooth Highway” is almost always said with a sense of pride!
2.) Visiting the gateway communities on the way to and from a Beartooth Highway visit. People just love to tell stories about their visits to Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, as well as Cody, Wyoming. Everyone has a favorite restaurant, downtown shop, attraction, or “watering hole” in every community – and of course, Kim always hears about how friendly the people are!
If you’re planning to travel the Beartooth Highway, on two wheels or four, be aware that the road is open to travelers seasonally from May to October. And if you want to know more about the highway and all there is to see and do, visit their website at www.beartoothhighway.com.
Until next time, I’ll be ridin’ high here in Buffalo Bill’s country!
Corrie N. Cody