The charming town of Red Lodge, Mont., sits at the northeastern end of the Beartooth Hwy., known as one of America’s most beautiful roads. Like something out of a storybook, Red Lodge sits under the slopes of its namesake ski resort and is filled with hip boutiques and eateries, innovative locals like the owners of Crazy Creek, the legless camp chair company, and all the outdoor recreation you could wish for.
Just five minutes from town hop on the Silver Run Trail with your mountain bike. Four possible loops make this a build your own adventure ride with options for most abilities from beginner to more advanced. This trail is also open to hikers.
If you’d rather explore the area by saddle, book a trail ride with Elk River Outfitters. Choose from short, hourly rides or longer half and full-day adventures. From the back of your horse, you’ll ride along Rock Creek to viewpoints where you’ll be able to see seven mountain ranges.
Don’t miss the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge. This accredited facility houses animals native to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that cannot be rehabilitated and released into the wild because of injury, illness or other factors. Learn about predators like black bears, lynx and mountain lions, see symbols of the American west like coyotes and bison and even view raptors and other birds like Sandhill Cranes up close.
Red Lodge celebrates its roots in the beginning of July each year with the Home of Champions Rodeo. Bull riders, barrel racers, steer wrestlers and other cowboys and cowgirls have been competing for more than 90 years in this event. A big parade happens each day of the rodeo as the whole town enjoys the festivities.
But Red Lodge isn’t lost in the past. Its restaurants reflect both sophisticated cuisine and down-home cooking. When it’s time for dinner, head to Prerogative Kitchen, an inventive restaurant where everything is ordered à la carte. Pair elk and currant ravioli with house-cut fries or add a root vegetable salad to your crispy tofu or Korean flank steak. Another Red Lodge favorite is Bogart’s, a family friendly restaurant with an eclectic menu featuring Mexican food, burgers and pizza alongside locally famous margaritas.
Spend the night along the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River at Bridger Canvas Cabins, a unique glamping experience on a bison ranch. Stay in a canvas wall tent equipped with a queen sized bed and see bison roaming the property, the ranch’s friendly llamas and tons of wildlife along the river,
Drive the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone
From Red Lodge, take the stunningly scenic Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone National Park. Stop by Babcock and Miles, a high-end wine and cheese shop that will put together a mouthwatering picnic basket for you before you hit the road.
Winding through the Absaroka-Beartooth Range, you’ll pass some of the most incredible and diverse scenery in the west. Imagine thick, lodgepole pine forests, red and white cliff bands, meadows carpeted with wildflowers, more than 900 glassy lakes reflecting Montana sunshine and snow-capped peaks towering over alpine tundra. Allow at least three hours for this scenic drive, more if you plan to hike, picnic or linger at any of the viewpoints.
Steep switchbacks climb the mountains as you leave Red Lodge and you’ll quickly realize why the road is only open from approximately Memorial Day to mid-October each year. Stop at Vista Point to take in incredible views and learn about the highway’s construction, which was completed in 1936.
You’ll climb above the trees as you approach the summit of Beartooth Pass at 10,947 feet. Further south, keep an eye out for The Bear’s Tooth, a distinctive spire that gives the highway its name. If you’re ready to stretch your legs, park at the Twin Lakes Trailhead on the right side of the road just after crossing into Wyoming and hike a moderate 3.2-mile loop to see two beautiful lakes. Be sure to bring bear spray and a full water bottle for every person in your group as it’s easy to get dehydrated when hiking at elevation. In wet months, mosquitoes can be a nuisance up here so don’t forget your bug repellant. If you want a picturesque lakeside vista without the hike, stop at Beartooth Lake where you can take in the views from the parking lot instead. It’s a great spot to enjoy a picnic.
As you continue towards Yellowstone, stop at the Top of the World Store, where you can fuel up on drinks and snacks, buy souvenirs and even gas up if you need to.
You’ll pass through the small town of Cooke City just before you reach the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Learn more about Red Lodge and the Beartooth Highway, including a handy map with all the major sights listed at RedLodge.com.