Beartooth Scenic Highway, Montana-Wyoming

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay

U.S. Highway 212, the Beartooth Scenic Highway, offers some of the most spectacular glacial topography in the continental United States. In the map above, Yellowstone National Park is indicated by darker color.

The topographic map above shows the most scenically interesting half of the road. The portion of the map in Montana (north of 45 N) was digitally created from 1:250,000 digital elevation data. Thus there are slight misfits along the state line and oddities like contour lines crossing lakes.

Approaching the Beartooth Mountains
Below: entering the mountains
Below: the road enters a spectacular glacial trough, then zigzags up a wild set of switchbacks. The bedrock in this area is Archean.
Left and below: finally the highway comes out onto the plateau.
We had to stop at the summit because, hey, how often do kids see snow in Wisconsin?
On the western side of the range, Paleozoic rocks cover the Archean basement.
On the west, the road drops down into the Clark Fork valley on its way to Yellowstone National Park. The skyline peaks are mostly volcanic rocks of the Yellowstone Plateau.
Left and below: views of a glacial horn. At close range it shows the distinctive brown color of volcanic rocks.
Left: Basal contact of the Yellowstone Plateau volcanic rocks (dark) atop Paleozoic rocks (light).

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Created 22 June 2007, Last Update 06 June 2020