Riverton, WY to Billings. MT (July 19, 2015)

This travelogue installment covers my journey on Sunday, July 19th, from Riverton, Wyoming to Billings, Montana. Why go to Billings in July?

Every year the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America club organizes a national rally for BMW motorcycle owners (or fans) to meet somewhere in the country for a week of camaraderie, riding through interesting scenery, chatting with vendors about new gizmos for their bikes, and attending seminars to learn safety techniques, travel destinations, etc. Holding the event in Billings fulfilled those requirements and attracted riders, vendors, and speakers from all over the world. As I could conveniently reach the venue area shortly after the RawHyde course, it was an easy decision to attend the event also.

The route I selected from Riverton to Billings took me into Yellowstone National Park along its southeastern entrance, past Yellowstone Lake, and out the northeastern entrance. That road continues over the incredibly scenic Bear Tooth Pass. The following map shows my path for the day.

My route from Riverton, WY to Billings, MT through Yellowstone National Park

My route from Riverton, WY to Billings, MT
through Yellowstone National Park

After departing from the motel in Riverton, I rode north along US-26 to the town of Shoshoni, where I then turned north onto US-20. After passing by the Boysen Reservoir in the Boysen State Park, that highway continues north alongside the Wind River and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway line as it passes through the Wind River Canyon in the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Wind River Canyon is quite scenic with numerous curves and high cliffs, which reach to nearly 2,500 ft.

Riding north from Shoshoni, I saw a large formation rising out of the horizon ahead of me. I took photos of the view ahead to create this next panoramic photo to give an impression of its size. (I recommend clicking on this and the remaining photos to see the larger versions.)


A few seconds later I crested a rise in the road and took this next photo.


Only five minutes later, following a bend in the road towards the northwest, I spotted a ranch with a view overlooking the Boysen Rervoir and took this next photo.


Although Riverton is also inside the Wind River Indian Reservation, the road from Shoshoni is outside its eastern boundary. Thus I came upon another sign that I was re-entering it.


The Boysen State Park also has markers to alert tourists to the nearby visitor center. I didn’t stop there.


Gradually the scenery became more rugged as I approached the canyon.


Soon I came to a tunnel that marks the northern boundary of the state park.


After passing through that tunnel, I was obviously actually in the canyon. Due to the early hour, shortly after 9 AM MDT, the shadows cast by the cliffs on the eastern side caused the roadway to be relatively dark compared to the sunlit side. My camera sometimes had difficulty coping with the broad brightness range. I took these next four photos over a seven-minute period while riding along.

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The BNSF railway tracks can also be seen in this next photo.


After leaving the canyon, the railway tracks straightened out as they continued northward to East Thermopolis.


In East Thermopolis, my route departed from US-20 to continue along WY-120 to Cody. Just south of Cody, I took these next two photos of the scenery along this highway.

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After turning west in Cody onto US-14, which is the southeastern entrance highway to Yellowstone National Park, the road enters the Shoshone Canyon along the Shoshone River. To the north is the large Shoshone National Forest on the eastern border of Yellowstone Park.


Just past that tunnel, the road passes along the northern shore of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir in the Buffalo Bill State Park.

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This next photo shows the view westward as I crossed the Shoshone River, just one of several times.


On the southern side of the highway, a high butte looms over the valley. Two large billboards warn of dangerous wildlife in the area. The yellow sign shows a moose and says, “Moose on the loose, even on the highway. Please slow down.” The white sign shows a bear and says, “Stay Safe. Keep Nature Wild.”


Some clouds caste dark shadows over the terrain. Thankfully there was no rain.


There was also an unusual structure perched upon a hill on the south side of the highway. I have no idea what it represents, but took a photo of it anyway.


Nearly across the highway, a resident had accumulated a very large collection of antlers. Based on their sign, I assume they offer some for sale too.


Crossing over the Shoshone River once again.


The scenery continued to become more impressive.


Rounding a bend, I spotted a pair of anglers in a blue raft on the Shoshone River.


More cliffs… Still very little traffic.


Along this highway various establishments offer overnight accommodations and horseback riding to visitors. This photo shows the entrance sign for Absakoka Mountain Lodge. Their website gives a better idea of their accommodations and horseback riding.


At 12:10 PM MDT, I finally reached the park entrance booth and showed my Senior Pass to the attendant. That is a great deal for seniors (62+); for $10 once, you get a lifetime pass to all US national parks and forests and discounted camping fees.

A few minutes later, I took this photo of the view towards the southwest. The aftermath can still be seen of the horrendous forest fires that swept through parts of Yellowstone Park in 1988.


Approaching Yellowstone Lake, I took this next photo of the view through the dead tree trunks.


Here are also two photos with clear views of Yellowstone Lake.

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About 30 minutes further into the Park, I rode alongside the Yellowstone River as it meandered through a large meadow.


As is often the case, especially in this national park, tourists stop their vehicles and cause significant traffic congestion when they spot some interesting wild animals, such as bison or bears, near the road, and want to photograph them. I happened upon one such situation for a small group of bison. A park ranger was on scene trying (in vain) to keep the traffic moving.


The photos in this next group show the scenery and wildlife (bison in #2 & #3) along US-212, which is the northeastern entrance road to the Park. Since many of bison were lying down, it can be difficult to make them out.

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This next photo shows the view eastward along US-212 just west of the junction with WY-296, also known as Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Although I did not take that road this trip, I had ridden along it on my previous trip in 2013 through this area, taking numerous photos and enjoying somewhat better conditions for photography.


Continuing along US-212, the road began the climb in elevation along Beartooth Highway, with more spectacular scenery. At one overlook, I stopped to take this photo of the road I had just ridden.


A few minutes later I took this photo towards the north.


Officially the state border between Montana and Wyoming is the top of Beartooth Pass. Although I didn’t notice a sign with that designation, I did take this photo of the sign welcoming me into Montana again.


Proceeding further along this road, I took these next two photos of the views into the valley below towards the southwest and the northwest.


The remainder of the journey to Billings was uneventful through much less spectacular scenery and I decided to focus on driving since traffic was increasing. A few miles after passing through Red Lodge, I merged onto I-90 at Laurel, only twelve miles from the exit in Billings to the Howard Johnson Motel, where I had made a reservation.

Due to the large number of oil industry workers hired to upgrade a major refinery in the area, many motels were totally full. I considered it good luck to have gotten a room at this HoJo. However, a couple days later I was able to acquire a room at a much nicer Quality Inn at nearly the same price for the remainder of my stay in Billings.

That concludes this travelogue report for July 19th. The next day I visited the fairgrounds where the BMW rally was being held. More about that event in my next report.


About Don

I'm a retired computer programmer who enjoys touring the country by motorcycle.
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