The Northeast Entrance is the closest one to Billings, Montana, but it’s not the fastest way to get to the park from Billings the fastest is by going through the North Entrance, described below. Two high, spectacular mountain roads approach Yellowstone from the northeast. The most popular road, the Beartooth Scenic Byway (U.S. 212), crosses the Beartooth Range on a series of switchbacks between Red Lodge and Cooke City. The late CBS news correspondent Charles Kuralt asserted in his 1979 book, Dateline America, that the most beautiful road in America is U.S. 212, which leaves Red Lodge, climbs to Beartooth Pass at eleven thousand feet, and drops down into the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park. Most visitors Rock formations called hoodoos along the road from Cody to the East Entrance. Little Bear Creek runs through a field of flowers below Beartooth Butte. Agree with him when they see the tremendous panoramas and exquisitely colored wildflowers, especially above timberline. The distance from Billings to the Northeast Entrance this way is about 130 miles (209 km).
Allow about four hours to enjoy it. Note, however, that the Beartooth Highway is open only from Memorial Day weekend (end of May) to early October. An alternative if you’re coming from east of the park is the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (Wyoming 296), which crosses the Absaroka Range. It affords breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and access to the Sunlight Basin area with its ranches and summer homes. The Chief Joseph Highway joins U.S. 212 a few miles east of Cooke City. The distance from Billings to the Northeast Entrance this way is about 150 miles (240 km); from Cody, about 80 miles (130 km). Because its summit is lower than that of the Beartooth Highway, this road is open earlier in spring and later in fall. Visitors suffering from a fear of heights should be forewarned that there are several switchbacks on these roads with long views to the valleys far below. The Northeast Entrance was the last to be opened, in 1936. It still has the fewest cars passing through it of any of the entrances. Cooke City and Silver Gate just outside the park have tourist accommodations, as does Red Lodge.
Yellowstone: NORTHEAST ENTRANCE Photo Gallery
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