This travelogue installment covers my journey on Friday, August 30th, from Idaho Falls, Idaho to Thermopolis, Wyoming on my way to visit my friend K.C. again in Boulder, Colorado.
The following map shows my route from Idaho Falls north on US-20 to West Yellowstone, north on US-191 to Bozeman, east along I-84 to Columbus, south on Hwy-78 to Red Lodge, along Hwy-212 over Beartooth Pass, along Hwy-296 (Chief Joseph Scenic Highway), and south on Hwy-120 through Cody to Thermopolis. Although there obviously is a more direct route to Thermopolis than this one, I wanted to traverse both Beartooth and Chief Joseph without doubling back. Since I had already visited Yellowstone Park extensively, I wanted to explore other roads and also minimize the amount of slow traffic I would encounter. Additionally there just are not many paved roads on the east side of Yellowstone Park.
After loading up my luggage and checking out of the hotel, I was finally ready to depart around 9:30 AM MDT. Another rider took my photo as I was about to mount up. Unfortunately he caught me as I blinked.
Heading north along US-20, I took this next photo just south of the Montana state line while approaching mountains. Bald Peak (El: 3,102 m / 10,180 ft) is the prominent feature in the center.
Continuing north along US-191 from West Yellowstone towards Bozeman, MT, I took this next photo along the Gallatin River.
Further north the view along the Gallatin River became even more scenic.
After reaching Bozeman, I rode through the city and onto I-90 eastbound. I didn’t find the scenery along I-90 very interesting until I caught up to the car in this next photo just before reaching the exit at Columbus, MT.
After leaving Columbus southward on Hwy-78, I took this next photo of the view after passing through the small community of Roscoe, MT.
The next city along the route was Red Lodge, MT. It reminded me of many western towns that I’ve passed through on my trips through the US West. Of the several photo I took as I rode through Red Lodge, I selected these next two photos to share.
Heading west from Red Lodge along US-212, I came to the border of the Custer National Forest and the start of the Beartooth Scenic Highway.
As often seems to be the case, the highway follows alongside a river or creek. This next photo shows the creek alongside the Beartooth Scenic Highway before I reached the start of the switchbacks. (Unfortunately I cannot determine its name.)
A few minutes later, I took this over-the-shoulder photo of the view behind me towards the east.
Within five minutes later I had already rounded two 180° switchbacks on the way up towards Beartooth Pass. Ahead of me was another curve to the right of nearly 120°. The road ahead can be seen cut into the hillside above this curve.
About seven minutes later I stopped at an overlook to take photos to create this next panoramic photo of the view to the north.
The terrain at this higher elevation was becoming increasingly alpine and barren. This photo shows the view to the south.
It was now around 4:15 PM MDT and I was starting to encounter more traffic. This next photo shows the view to the northwest and the road dipping down slightly before climbing around the next hill to another switchback. Just below the road to the left and out of view is Gardner Lake.
A few minutes later I stopped at another switchback curve to take photos to create this next panoramic photo of the view to the west from 10,750 ft elevation.
This next photo shows the view towards the northwest as I approached yet another switchback curve.
After rounding that curve, the view to the west opened up and I took this next photo of how the road continues back and forth as it winds its way to lower elevations.
A few minutes later the road was now at low enough elevation that trees could survive. I took this next photo of the view to the south across the road ahead of me after the next curve.
After that curve, the road straightened out significantly as it approached Long Lake. Just before reaching that lake, I took this next photo of the terrain and sparse forest on the side of the hill northeast of the lake.
Just before reaching the western end of Long Lake, I came to a construction zone where road repairs were under way. I was the first to arrive at the stop light and had to wait nearly 10 minutes for the light to change. I took the opportunity to take several photos while stopped there.
A short time later I reached the south end of Beartooth Lake. Unfortunately there were so many trees along the highway that I couldn’t easily take a photo of the lake. However, I did manage to take this photo of Beartooth Butte just to the northwest of Beartooth Lake.
About 12 minutes later I arrived at the junction of US-212 and Hwy-296, the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. As I started towards the southeast along Hwy-296, I took this photo of the view ahead.
Over the next several miles, I took several photos of the scenery along this highway. It certainly does live up to the designation as “Scenic Highway.”
Just past that last photo, the road entered a section of tight curves and seven switchbacks. Although I did take some photos along that section, the results were disappointing.
About 20 minutes later, I came to another colorful section of the highway with a red-orange bluff alongside the highway. I took photos to create this panoramic photo of the view to the south, also capturing the Pat O’Hara Peak in the distance (El: 3,039 m / 9,971 ft).
Adjacent to the highway is another red sandstone bluff. I took this panoramic photo of this closer formation.
At that point I was nearly at the end of the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, Hwy-296, which ended at the junction with Hwy-120. From there I continued south along Hwy-120 through Cody, WY. The scenery became less awe-inspiring.
At nearly 7 PM MDT, approximately halfway between Cody and Thermopolis, I took this next photo towards the southeast. Due to the fading afternoon light, this was my last photo of the day.
At 7:45 PM I arrived in Thermopolis and checked into the Super-8 motel, where I had made a reservation. Since it was located on the south side of town some distance away from any restaurants, I followed the recommendation of another motorcyclist at the motel to ride to the restaurant at the Day’s Inn located on the north side of town in the Hot Springs State Park. The recommendation proved to be excellent, since I had a good meal there and also happened to meet an elderly couple from Germany, with whom I had a lengthy conversation.
That concludes my travelogue report for August 30th. The next day I resumed my journey towards Colorado. More about that day’s travel in my next report.