Beartooth Highway Part 3: Red Lodge, Montana to Scottsdale, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  529,755


Odometer (ILX):  84,086


Leg Distance:  1,307 Miles


On Sunday morning, I slid open the window of room 418 in the historic Pollard Hotel in Red Lodge, Montana around 6:15 a.m. Fresh rains had left moisture on everything in sight, and the smell was better than any “spring rain” scented laundry detergent has ever been able to duplicate. This was the real deal.

Still digesting Saturday night’s steak dinners and anxious to hit the highway, we opted out of the complimentary sit-down breakfast in the lobby and fired up the ILX for our next day on the road. Multiple route choices presented themselves, but ultimately we decided to take Highway 78 to the northwest which would link us to Interstate 90 and through Bozeman, Montana. The 49 miles between Red Lodge and Columbus passed through rolling green hills with scattered farms throughout. Every home had a red barn in the backyard.


Dad took over the wheel for the next 97 westward miles to Bozeman, then the next 80 miles to West Yellowstone via Highway 191. We admired the wildlife and the scenery as we paralleled the Gallatin River.



By the time we arrived in West Yellowstone, we’d worked up an appetite (you know, from all that sitting in the car). Outpost Restaurant had opened for lunch just 15 minutes prior, so we stepped through the antler-lined entryway and grabbed a table. Our server started reciting the day’s specials: “First of all, we have a homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, and then we have baked chicken and…” I knew already what my dad would be ordering. We are both suckers for meatloaf. It was well worth the $9.99.

Despite having seen a bear in Yellowstone Park the day prior, we wanted to see a little more wildlife before heading back home, so we pulled off Highway 20 just west of Rexburg, Idaho and visited a drive-through wildlife park called “Bear World.” Seriously.  $16 each for adult entry gets you a ~25 minute driving tour that loops through a (secured / fenced) park that’s home to 45 bears as well as numerous elk, deer, and other critters. As the attendant swung the gate open for us, we were instructed: “Windows rolled up at all times. Speed limit is 3-5 miles per hour. Do not stop or back up.” Dad and I did oblige, mostly. It was unreal to see a brown bear come waddling out of a watering hole and shake his fur off, then mosey right alongside the ILX as if we weren’t even there.


In Idaho Falls, I had dad take the wheel and we sailed southward at 75 miles per hour toward the Utah state line.  The icing on the cake for this day’s drive was when my dad introduced me to a new (to me) stretch of road called Weston Canyon.  It’s known as Highway 36 and located in southeastern Idaho. The two-laner winds past two reservoirs:  Deep Creek and Weston Reservoir, both nestled in lush green valleys and surrounded by scattered farms.


I settled in for the night in Salt Lake City, Utah in anticipation of my trip’s long 10-hour remaining stretch for the following day.  The next morning, I was up & out the door by 6:30 in the morning and headed southbound on Interstate 15 through southern Utah, Las Vegas, Nevada, and then on in through northwestern Arizona and dropping down into Phoenix.  By the time I got home, the temperature had crept up to 110 degrees.  I wished I was back at Beartooth Pass breathing the fresh, cool mountain air, but feeling satisfied at another trip checked off the bucket list!

Here are the rest of the pictures from this third leg of one of my biggest trips of the summer so far.  Here is our departure from Red Lodge with drops of water on the car and a crisp, refreshing breeze in the air.


Columbus, Montana is the only place I’ve ever seen 85.5 octane fuel offered.


The following picture is for blog reader Carlos in Florida, who alerted me to the fact recently that this week is the 30th anniversary of the world premiere of Ghostbusters in 1984.  I noticed the “Ellen” movie theater in Bozeman, Montana was hosting a Ghostbusters movie trivia night.  Carlos, how well would you have done in the competition?


We hit road construction for a few miles on U.S. 191 southbound between Bozeman, and West Yellowstone, MT.


Soon, we arrived in West Yellowstone and got rained on by just a few sprinkles.


Meatloaf at the Outpost Restaurant!  Highly recommended.  Half-eaten, sorry.


Photos from Bear World, between Rexburg and Idaho Falls, Idaho.


Check out the lengthy Park Rules and Guidelines.  “Always give animals the right-of-way!”


Sage advice.


First elk sighting.


Getting access to the bear zone.


And there he goes.  Right off the bat, there was a brown bear (fresh out of a nearby pond) sauntering across our path.


Our last diversion for the day:  Weston Canyon in southern Idaho.


Great roads – we saw a few motorcyclists out this way.


Selfie!  From the passenger seat, too — not a place I’m sitting very often.


Check out this fuel economy over the 750 miles from Cooke City, Montana to northern Utah!  All those 45-65 mph roads really translated into some great MPGs.


In central Utah, speed limits are 80 for most of the time so I set the cruise control accordingly.


Quick stop in southern Utah – back in red rock country.


Onward into Nevada.


And home sweet home!  Thank you all for being a part of this trip.

12 Responses to “Beartooth Highway Part 3: Red Lodge, Montana to Scottsdale, Arizona”

  1. I’m pretty sure if I put 85.5 octane gas in EITHER of my cars, it’d kill it!

  2. 85.5 octane…interesting. Definitely wouldn’t bode well in the legend. Montana trip- something Id love to do. Sounds like an awesome son/father trip

  3. Yet another great read. I am left hanging and hungry for more legendary adventures. Write on! Ride on! Right on!

  4. Fantastic end to a fantastic trip! Your selfie pic looks awfully familiar (Jouhl?). I made the mistake of reading this before lunch. That meatloaf looked just magnificent. Just needs a little green chile. Bear World looks like just the thing the TL needs to experience, so that’s been added to my list as well. Glad you made it back safe. I’m looking forward to some Death now…Valley, that is.

    • Haha, now that you mention it, I did totally copy Jouhl with the rearview mirror selfie! That meatloaf did NOT need any green chile, haha. You’re crazy. Death (Valley) awaits us 🙂 Yay!

  5. Hello Tyson. From a previous post, i know you have also visited the San Juan Skyway in Colorado. In your opinion, which is the more Spectacular road : The Beartooth Highway or the San Juan Skyway? If you could only pick one, which one would it be?

    • Oh man, that’s a tough call! They’re both incredible driving roads. I think I liked Beartooth a little better just because of how remote it is. Very little traffic. Plus the journey of getting there (having to go through Yellowstone, for example) is half the fun.

  6. Glad you and Dad didn’t have a “Like a good neighbor State Farm is there!” moment with a bear instead of a buffalo like in the commercial.
    Sound like you guys had a great time.

    • We really did! And I’m glad the bears didn’t get overly aggressive with us. They actually acted like we weren’t even there. I’m sure they’ve gotten used to people driving through all day every day.

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