RED LODGE — Eighty-six years after it was first opened for vehicle traffic, the Beartooth Highway is open again just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
The gate was unlocked and opened at 8 a.m. Friday to an eager line of cars waiting to make the drive up. Welcoming the new visitors in style was a pair of historic buses that once transported visitors through the park nearly 100 years ago.
"The buses used to run this road up to Yellowstone Park," said Cheryl Whitcomb with Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust. "We have a '37 here with us today and also a 1925 park bus."
"It's great to get to support the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce and come up here for the first opening of the year," said David Whitcomb with Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust.
The buses were part of a Beartooth Highway welcome committee organized by the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce, which said the line of travelers waiting to get in was a heartening sight after a tough year.
"We're incredibly positive," said Sherry Weamer, exeutive director of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce. "We think there's a lot of people out there from last year who didn't get to come out and enjoy. We're back in business, it's going to be fun."
In line at the pass gate were backcountry skiers like Tim Schwartz and Jake Shack.
"We should find some deep stuff still," Schwartz said.
"I'm pretty happy to be skiing no matter what. We're thinking there's going to be a little more snow than there is, but we'll have a look," Shack said.
The two historic buses took a group of people from Red Lodge up to the gate and promised a different kind of ride than modern vehicles can offer.
"If you travel 55-60 miles per hour, you miss a lot of stuff—these buses go up the highway around 15 to 20 miles per hour," said Don Mueller with Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust. "You get a chance to see a lot more and we let people stand up them, so you get a little wind in your face."
The bus ride lived up to its promise for Red Lodge resident Chelsea Toupin.
"It was really cool being able to stand up and capture all of the scenery," Toupin said. "It's been a little bit of a life goal."
The Beartooth Highway connects Red Lodge to Cooke City, Silvergate, and the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Nat'l Park.
The highway remains open typically until mid-October and Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust offers private rides and tours of the highway and the area. You can find more about the bus trips here.