And the Hits Just Keep on Coming: Bear Tooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 8.24.54 AMWithout a doubt, this was one of the most incredible days I’ve ever spent on a motorcycle. We left Cooke City, MT headed for a ride over Bear Tooth Pass. High mountain valleys are a favorite of mine, and this one blew my mind.

The first part of the ride included some gentle sweepers as we gained a little altitude, but once the climbing started, turned into very technical switchbacks to challenge your riding skill. Throwing the Road King over on hairpin turns was a little more work than the same maneuver on Steve’s Buell, but it was a gas.

The views from the top of the pass were spectacular as we were well above the tree line and exposed to the wind and the elements (the top of the pass is 10,947 ft), definitely the highest elevation I’ve ever ridden. I had to laugh when we left Wyoming and entered Montana. The conditions had demanded slow-speed technical riding, but we were welcomed to Montana with a jump in speed limit to 70 miles per hour. Who says bureaucrats don’t have a sense of humor?

IMG_2977_1The ride from the summit down into Red Lodge was my favorite part of the ride. The road over the summit was opened in 1936 following a “shortcut” from the Yellowstone taken by General Phillip Sheridan in 1872.  After a brief stop in Red Lodge for gas, we turned around and did the pass again (yes, it was that fun) headed for Cody.

I preferred the climb out of Red Lodge and if you have the choice, that’s the way I would recommend it.

IMG_2980_1The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway was an incredible ride into Cody. Rhythmic sweepers made this part of the ride my favorite (even in the rain). I couldn’t help but think of what this area must have been like before the roads and settlements. The story of the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph’s climb over the pass to escape the U.S. army over Dead Indian Pass in their attempt to reach the Yellowstone should serve as a reminder of how our zeal sometimes gets in the way of what we would consider basic human rights today.

We stopped for lunch at Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel. It’s been on the main drag of Cody since 1903 and didn’t look like it had really changed that much over the years. We had a great steak sandwich before we headed for the east entrance of Yellowstone. Steve suggested that Cody is a “jaunty” little town—one that wears its hat cocked to the side. I like description.

IMG_2986_1Neither of us had been in these parts before, and were having a great time exploring, what for us was undiscovered country. I’m convinced the east side of Yellowstone is some of the best motorcycle riding in the park. I also really enjoyed the northeast corner into Cooke City yesterday. There’s a lot less traffic and the roads are custom made for the bike.

The canyon road from Cody to the entrance was beautiful with the Shoshone River on the left and the cliffs on the right. One breathtaking ride after another made the 354 miles incredibly fun. I have to laugh as I was looking up the Bear Tooth ride to see just how high summit of the pass was, I noticed someone talking about how they did the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Bear Tooth Pass all in one day. We did Bear Tooth twice, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, from Cody into Yellowstone and on to Jackson in roughly 12 hours. I’ll admit my iron butt didn’t feel so iron, but it was an incredible day. It’s all about the ride—and this ride is at the top of my all time greatest.

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2 Comments

Filed under Western Rides

2 responses to “And the Hits Just Keep on Coming: Bear Tooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

  1. Steve

    This was an absolutely fantastic day of riding! Thanks fir suggesting it! I was definitely spent by the end of the day, but what a day!!!

  2. We rode up that way in July… Missed doing Bear Tooth Pass and Chief Joseph Byway.. I won’t make that mistake next time. Great post and pictures… Ride safe…

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