Day 13 of My 5000+ Mile, 17 Day Motorcycle Ride (Great Falls to Billings 402 miles)

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Ride route Great Falls to Yellowstone thru Beartooh Pass to Billings

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Leaving Great falls, MT

Today is day 13 of my 5000+ mile, 17 day motorcycle ride…  Larry T., Larry A. and myself have ridden together for 12 days seeing some of the most scenic parts of the western US. On day 5 we turned onto US-89 just north of Prescott, AZ. Today we will back track a bit to Yellowstone National Park before heading east via US-212 thru Beartooth Pass and on to Billings, MT.

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South of Great Falls on US-89

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Riding South on US-89

This morning is another beautiful riding day, partly cloudy with the temperature starting out at 62 degrees. A bit warm for June but not bad… It did cool a bit more once we climbed in elevation. Riding over Beartooth Pass it was even cooler.

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Riding south to Gardiner on US-89

Even though we rode some of this route two days ago, I saw things I missed before and I got to see other things from a different perspective. It was nice seeing it all again, the small towns, pristine rivers and streams, grass-covered valleys, grazing cattle, antelopes, majestic hills and mountains. This is truly beautiful country. There is a bit of sadness because who knows when I will ever see it again… Hopefully I will pass this way again…

We stopped for gas and a bite to eat in White Sulphur Springs.  From there it was a scenic ride back to Gardiner, MT for more gas.

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Buffalo herds around every curve in Yellowstone National Park at Northeast Entrance

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US-212 Northeast Entrance Yellowstone National Park

Entering Yellowstone, we had a bit of a run in with a Park Ranger who made a big deal about nothing. We followed the GPS to the Park entrance. The way the GPS routed us was for Park employees only. It was an honest mistake on our part. Apparently, there is a sign we didn’t see. We explained we didn’t do it intentionally, but he didn’t cut us any slack… He should go a long way in the Park Ranger organization… Anyway, be aware the proper route into the park should take you through the stoned arch. If not, you may have to deal with that angry Park Ranger…

It was still early so the traffic wasn’t too bad in the park. From the park entrance it was a short ride of 23 miles to US-212. For the last 8 days (~1,553 miles) we have followed US-89 from just north of Prescott, AZ to Great Falls, MT and back down to Gardiner, MT. Today we leave US-89 behind. It has been a great ride taking us through some of the most beautiful, scenic parts of the western U.S. For the next 2 days we will be following US-212…

US-212 will take us out the northeast entrance of Yellowstone Park. This is my fourth trip to Yellowstone, but this is the first time I have visited this part of the park. I had no idea what I have missed. It has been said, “The northeast entrance is one of the most beautiful roads in America.” I haven’t been everywhere in America so I can’t speak to that. If you want to see buffalo, this area is where all the buffalo are. It seemed as though there were herds of buffalo around each curve of US-212.  I have never seen so many buffalo in one area. I can see why. There are lots of good grazing and water in the Lamar Valley.  US-212 parallels the pristine Lamar River with many smaller creeks and streams that feed into it. In 1995 wolf packs were reintroduced to the area. During early morning and late evening hours year-round the wolves can be seen around the rugged peaks and ridges. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wolves on our ride through. I believe the 29 miles of US-212 has the richest diversity of landscape and wildlife in the park. Just before you exit the park, you will ride between the majestic Abiathar (10,928 feet) and the Barronette (10,404 feet) Peaks.

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Looking off Beartooth Pass

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There was as many Riders as Drives on Beartooth Pass

Two years ago when we rode up this way on what I called our “National Park Ride”,  we spoke with riders who had ridden over Beartooth Pass on their way to Yellowstone. Ever since then I have wanted to ride it myself. Today that day has come. Beartooth is everything I have been told and have read about it.  There are a lot of twist, turns, ups and downs with incredible scenery. Beautiful snow-covered mountains, rushing rivers, piney forests (lower elevations) and tundra (upper elevations).  There are a lot of pullouts to take pictures or just peer over the edge… This is truly a great biker road. There are as many bikes as cars on the road. We had a great time visiting with bikers and drivers at pullouts. The road over the pass is in really good shape, probably because trucks and RV’s avoid this road with all of its steep grades, countless hairpin curves and the many switch-backs. Because of the elevation it was a lot cooler going over the pass. Probably the coolest it’s been on our ride. It sure beats the several days that we rode in triple digit temperatures…

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Larry & Larry at Beartooth Pass

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Beartooth Pass Peak Sign

It is hard to describe Beartooth in words, pictures are better, but you really need to experience this pass from the seat of a motorcycle. You don’t just see it, but you feel it. You are part of the total experience…

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Looking off Beartooth Pass

Below is a slide show of our ride from Yellowstone over Beartooth Pass to Red Lodge…

Riding off the pass we stopped in Red Lodge, Montana, the “Gateway to Yellowstone National Park” to stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat.

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Riding into Red Lodge

Red Lodge is a nice small town with a great view of the Beartooth range.  Red Lodge has a rustic main street and is a National Historic District. Like most small towns in the west, Red Lodge has a colorful history. It all started September 17, 1851, when the United States government signed a treaty with the Crow Nation, ceding the area to the Crow Indians. After coal and gold was discovered in 1870, the Crow, by treaty (1880), allowed the area to be settled. Coal mining defined the town and drew settlers from all over the world. Everything went bust during the Great Depression and the manufacturing went from coal mining to illegal bootleg whisky. In 1931 work began on the Beartooth Highway that linked Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park. The highway officially opened in 1936. Red Lodge had fallen into disrepair because population had dropped from its peak of 6000 people to about 2,000. Since the mid-1980s Red Lodge has been redeveloped for its historic and cultural tourism. There is much to see and do here. I will be back (hopefully soon) to explore it more, but today we have miles to go before we sleep so we headed on down the road.

Riding from Red Lodge to Billings the terrain flattens and we rode through farm and ranch land. Having grown up on a cotton farm in Texas, I love and appreciate farm and ranch land and the hard-working people who work it. I always find my mind wandering, imagining what life must have been like there. If walls of the farm houses could talk, the stories they could tell… Stories of family, joy, sadness, love, hard work and the many trials of farm life.

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Riding down US-212 to Billings, MT

It was nice to get back to Billings. Two years ago we were here on our “National Park Motorcycle Ride”. We stayed at the same motel, kicked back and caught our breath from our long day’s ride.

Tomorrow we continue riding down US-212 to Spearfish, SD via Devils Tower National Monument. Come follow along and enjoy the ride over the next 5 days… I hope we see you down the road somewhere. Ride safe…

If you liked this ride post, you may checkout the other post from this ride below…

Hera are other rides you may like too…

I hope we see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…

2 responses to “Day 13 of My 5000+ Mile, 17 Day Motorcycle Ride (Great Falls to Billings 402 miles)

  1. Kathleen Howell

    Aaahhh!!!! You are on the route of my DREAMS! We leave in 173 day to ride to Spearfish, and from there we plan to do Beartooth Pass again.. Love the photos!

    • Hi Kathleen, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It was a great ride except it was unseasonably hot for June. Counting the days… love it. Enjoy your ride. I hope we see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…

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