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Exploring Yellowstone by RV

Navigating Your RV Safely Inside America's Oldest National Park
Article Date: May, 2011


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Additional Photos and Side Trip Information

Finally, I'll include some photos and notes on two side trips that you may want to take in your towed vehicle. These are the Beartooth Highway and the wild mustangs of Bighorn Canyon.

The Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is one of those drives that should make it to everyone's bucket list. One of those things you have to do at least once before you die.

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Prior to our RV trips we traveled with Suburbans. One September, while staying in the Best Western in Red Lodge we awoke the next morning to find a foot of snow on our Suburban. They had gotten close to two feet of the stuff up in the Beartooths. We wound up heading back up to I-90 and then over to Bozeman and then down through West Yellowstone to get into Yellowstone. While this was an extreme anomaly, weather can be very unpredictable in the mountains and September travelers need to be prepared for most anything.

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The Beartooth Highway begins by climbing a series of switchbacks on the Red Lodge side. The image on the left shows a portion of these as they begin their climb through the forested slope in the lower portions of the highway. Eventually you'll reach alpine tundra and you'll look down into glacial carved valley with pothole lakes, as shown on the right.

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As you climb the Beartooth's switchbacks you'll encounter a number of areas where it'll be possible to pull over to enjoy the view and give your RV a rest break.

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Once you climb above tree line you'll be able to look down into frozen lakes.

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The Beartooth Highway doesn't open until right around Memorial Day. They get some serious snow up there over winter and that takes time to remove. This mid June image shows you one of the drifts alongside the road.

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Reaching the West Summit you'll be at close to 11,000' of altitude. From this point you'll be able to look down on neighboring snow capped mountains as you begin your descent into the saddle that crosses the Beartooths.

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There are many small lakes that you'll encounter driving across the top of the Beartooths. Island Lake and Little Bear Lake are popular vistas.

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Little Bear Lake is easily accessed from a turnout on the Beartooth Highway. Shortly after passing Little Bear Lake you'll arrive at Top of the World Store.

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Top of the world Store does have campsites available. They are somewhat rough and there is no electricity available because the owner runs his store via a small generator and has no power to spare. However, there are water and sewer hookups and the water is the best tasting in the world. It can be a great location to base camp from if you want to play around in the Beartooths but in June many of the trails and dirt roads will be snowed in and in September the weather moves in fast at 10,000' so you have only July and August to truly spend any time in an RV and still be safe weather-wise at this altitude.

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Just down from Top of the World Store is Beartooth Lake, which lies at the base of Beartooth Butte. A hiking trail surrounds the lake.

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Continuing past Beartooth Butte is Sill Falls, where the creek crashes down the side of a mountain into a deep valley below.


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