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U.S. Forest Service

Rocky Mountain Region Viewing Area


Douglasia Douglasia montana, Douglasia. Photo by Walter Hartung.

alpine forget-me not Eritrichium nanum, alpine forget-me not. Photo by Walter Hartung.

Arctic gentian Gentiana algida, Arctic gentian. Photo by Walter Hartung.

East Summit Area, Beartooth Scenic Byway

Forest: Shoshone National Forest

District: North Zone Ranger District

Description: The East Summit Area is located along the Beartooth Scenic Byway (US 212) between Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana. This highway is one of the highest and most scenic routes in the country. It climbs to over 10,000 feet and runs along the Beartooth Plateau. Alpine lakes, rugged, snow-clad peaks, high meadows, field of flowers, waterfalls, and deep glacier carved valleys greet the visitor. The route offers spectacular views of the Beartooth and Absaroka Mountain ranges as it climbs 5000 feet along steep switchbacks from Red Lodge Montana. The East Summit (11,029 feet) viewing area is found just inside the northern Wyoming Border. The Beartooth Pass section of US 212 usually opens on Memorial Day (May 30) and stays open through mid October.

Viewing Information: Peak viewing is June through August when brilliant displays of wildflowers can be found following the snowmelt. This area has incredible plant diversity with over 250 vascular plants recorded in this alpine environment. Some of the common wild flowers include Douglasia (Douglasia montana), Alpine forget-me-not (Mertensia alpine), Artic gentian (Gentiana algida), Alpine avens (Geum rossii), Parry’s lousewort (Pedicularis parryi), Sky pilot (Polemonium viscosum), American bistort (Polygonum bistortoides), Snow buttercup (Ranunculus eschscholtzii), Stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum), Moss campion (Silene acaulis), and Fuscate groundsel (Senecio fuscatus).   Safety First: Snow and freezing temperatures occur even in the summer months! Be careful for snowplows and icy road conditions. Afternoon thundershowers also pose threats from lightning. Caution should be taken driving the narrow road over the top of the pass. Avoid altitude sickness! Signs include nausea, headaches, and dizziness. The best way to improve your condition is descend immediately!

Directions: Take US Highway 212 south of Red Lodge Montana or take the Chief Joseph Scenic highway (WY296 north of Cody, Wyoming) to the junction to of the Beartooth Scenic Byway and follow the signs towards Red Lodge, Montana.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Shoshone National Forest, North Zone Ranger District (307) 527-6921. Custer National Forest, Beartooth Ranger District (406) 446-3918.

Closest Towns: Red Lodge and Cooke City, Montana; Cody, Wyoming.

For more information:

Additional Photos

alpine avens Geum rossii, alpine avens. Photo by Don Finnie.

Parry's lousewort Pedicularis parryi, Parry's lousewort. Photo by Don Finnie.

sky pilot Polemonium viscosum, sky pilot. Photo by Walter Hartung.

American bistort Polygonum bistortoides, American bistort. Photo by Walter Hartung.

snow buttercup Ranunculus adoneus, snow buttercup. Photo by Walter Hartung.

stonecrop Sedum sp., stonecrop. Photo by Don Finnie.

fuscatus groundsel Senecio fuscatus, fuscatus groundsel. Photo by Don Finnie.

moss campion Silene acaulis, moss campion. Photo by Walter Hartung.