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Travelers eager as Beartooth Pass opens to Montana/Wyoming state line

Traffic signs in Red Lodge Saturday morning
Posted at 5:31 PM, Jun 01, 2024

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.

According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Beartooth Highway is now officially open.

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ORIGINAL REPORT

The Beartooth Pass was predicted to open in its entirety on Saturday, rescheduled from May 24. But to travelers' surprise, it was closed at the Montana-Wyoming state line Saturday morning.

Traffic signs in Red Lodge Saturday morning
Traffic signs in Red Lodge Saturday morning

Those who traveled to the gates from Red Lodge early Saturday stuck around and tried to make the most of their day, silently hoping crews would be able to open the road completely.

“If you haven't driven it before, you really need to because it's such a treasure for both Wyoming and Montana,” said Sharon Brownlee, who traveled from Joliet with her husband, Ron, on Saturday.

Ron (left) and Sharon (right)
Ron (left) and Sharon (right)

The Beartooth Pass is full of breathtaking views and wildlife.

Welcome sign on the Beartooth Highway
Welcome sign on the Beartooth Highway

"We were up here on Monday. We came up the other way from Gardiner," Ron said. "We saw a grizzly bear (and) and a black bear. Right out of Cooke City, we saw a black bear with two cubs."

The highway connects Red Lodge to the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, stretching 69 miles and climbing to more than 10,000 feet above sea level.

A scene from the Beartooth Pass on Saturday
A scene from the Beartooth Pass on Saturday

It typically opens on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and closes in mid-October, according to the Montana Department of Transportation.

But this year was a different story after winter weather complicated travel.

A snowy scene on the Beartooth Highway May 23rd
A snowy scene on the Beartooth Highway May 23rd

The road’s total opening was delayed on May 24. Instead, it partially opened from the lower gate to Vista Point.

But then, on May 28, an avalanche caused damage to the roads that required repairs.

The pass was forced to close again to Vista Point until May 30. It was then rescheduled to open entirely on June 1.

But when travelers got on the highway Saturday morning, they were shocked to see it was only open to the Montana state line.

"It's different every time you come up here," Ron said.

On the Beartooth Pass, 6/1/2024
On the Beartooth Pass, 6/1/2024

Sharon and Ron said they showed up around 8 a.m. and were surprised to see the pass was closed at the state line.

"You got up here bright and early, 8:00 a.m., when it was supposed to open. What happened?" MTN News asked the couple.

"We sat and had coffee," Ron responded with a laugh.

Grace Vesey and her father made the most out of their day.

Grace and her dad hiking back to their car
Grace and her dad hiking back to their car

"(It took me) a while because I sat and waited for (my dad)," Vesey joked.

The 13-year-old enjoyed some backcountry skiing. It was her first time attempting the intimidating slope.

Another skier giving the slope a shot
Another skier giving the slope a shot

"(When I got up there, I thought,) 'Well there's no going back, I guess. I don't want to hike back, so I have to go down it,” Vesey recalled.

Grace Vesey
Grace Vesey

Vesey and the Brownlees look forward to traveling the pass in full, whenever that may be.

"Hopefully later today. Maybe," Sharon said. "Tomorrow for sure."

To learn more about the Beartooth Pass, click here.