Tag Archives: Montana Motorcycle Rides

Beartooth and Beyond | Favorite Ride

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Heading into the clouds of the Beartooth Pass south of Red Lodge, Montana. Photos by Marilyn Rich.

Hell yes! That is the only plausible answer when friends invite you to join them on an eight-day motorcycle ride through the mountains of Montana (including the legendary Beartooth Pass), Wyoming, Idaho, and Alberta, Canada.

We start our ride in Billings, Montana, on a pair of Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classics rented from EagleRider, and head south to Laurel, where we pick up U.S. Route 212. We continue south to Red Lodge, where the road becomes Beartooth Highway and crosses into Wyoming on its way up to Beartooth Pass (10,947 ft). This is one of the best motorcycling roads in America, and it is easy to see why, even in the rain.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

West of the pass, we turn south on Wyoming Route 296, which is also known as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The byway has great sweepers as well as picturesque views of the Absaroka Mountains as it climbs up and over Dead Indian Pass (8,071 ft).

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Looking down on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

We arrive in Cody in time to tour the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a superb display of life in the Old West. The center has five museums: the Buffalo Bill Museum, which is about his life and times; the Plains Indian Museum, which showcases art and heritage; the Draper Natural History Museum, highlighting the ecosystems of Yellowstone; the Whitney Western Art Museum; and the Cody Firearms Museum.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

We awake to a light rain that lingers until we head into the mountains west of Cody, and then the heavens open up with what my granddad used to refer to as “a real frog-strangler.” Looking over and around the windshield, I am barely able to make out the taillight of the bike in front of me, and I have no idea how he manages to follow the road on our way back to Beartooth Highway. The clouds part as we ride into Cooke City, Montana, a Wild West town where motorcycles have replaced horses at the hitching posts.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Crossing into Wyoming on the way to Beartooth Pass.

Our adventurous ride through Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park includes a wide variety of wildlife; a large RV that decides to stop, unannounced, in the middle of the road to take some pictures; and a herd of bison that crosses the highway one or two at a time, backing up traffic for a mile. When our turn comes to run the bison gauntlet, an exceptionally large bull gets ready to cross the road. We are directly behind a pickup truck, so I suggest to our riding partners that when the truck starts to move, we should stay close to its rear bumper so it looks like we’re being towed.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Buffalo looking for water in the parched Yellowstone River.

After spending the night in Jackson, Wyoming, we ride west on State Route 22 over Teton Pass (8,432 ft) and into Idaho. The winding roads, the views of the Tetons to the east, and crossing rivers with trout fisherman in waders fly casting made for a fun, scenic ride. We continue north on a stretch of U.S. Route 20 known as Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.

We cross back into Montana and end our day in Butte, once a wealthy copper mining town and more recently home to the late Evel Knievel, the legendary motorcycle daredevil. In the morning, we ride through downtown to view the mansions that signify a bygone era, and then head west through mining country. It’s Saturday morning and we are getting low on gas, so we stop in the tiny town of Phillipsburg to fill up. The gas station also serves as a general store, a casino, and a bar, all of which have numerous customers.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
The Hidden Moose Lodge in Whitefish, Montana.

We turn north from Missoula in 100-degree temperatures, finally gaining some relief along the shady roads on the eastern shores of Flathead Lake. Heading back west across the top of the lake, we encounter the largest flock of eagles we have ever seen.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Going-to-the-Sun Mountain in Glacier National Park.

We spend the night at the Hidden Moose Lodge in Whitefish, an exquisite place that serves a gourmet breakfast every morning. With full bellies, the bike feels noticeably heavier as we climb Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park, one of the few roads that can give Beartooth Highway a run for its money. We venture across into Alberta, Canada, and visit Waterton Lakes National Park, which is the northern part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Entering Alberta, Canada, at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Being from the flatlands of Florida, we’re overwhelmed by the endless peaks and scenery of the Rocky Mountains. We stay at the quaint Kilmorey Lodge, overlooking the Emerald Bay of Waterton Lakes. Relaxing by the gazebo with a refreshing beverage, we’re joined by countless white-tailed deer that consume any vegetation not covered in chicken wire.

Heading south the next morning takes us back across the border through the towns of St. Mary and Browning in northern Montana. A sign on the outskirts of Browning warns of strong crosswinds, but there’s nothing more than a gentle breeze. Ten miles farther south on U.S. Route 89, the breeze becomes a 60-mph crosswind that we battle with for the better part of 40 miles.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
At Pine Creek Pass in Idaho.

The town of Dupuyer, Montana, has a population of 93 and no general store or gas station, but it does have two bars. We opt for the Ranch House of Dupuyer for lunch and are pleasantly surprised when the owner/bartender/chef cooks up a superb pulled pork dish. It’s served by his children, ages four and seven, who provide better service than waiters at many fancy restaurants.

After riding through the haze of wildfire smoke, we stay overnight in Great Falls. The final leg of our journey takes us across the flatlands to the small town of Ryegate, where we are disappointed to discover we’ve missed the annual Testicle Festival.

Beartooth and Beyond Favorite Ride
Lunch stop at the Ryegate Bar & Cafe in Ryegate, Montana.

We arrive back in Billings and return the Harleys to EagleRider. Over eight days and 1,500+ miles, I can say that there was not a single road that I would not ride again in a heartbeat. Great roads, beautiful country.

The post Beartooth and Beyond | Favorite Ride first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Favorite Ride: Melodic Montana

Montana motorcycle ride
Riding in Montana is big: big skies, big trees, big rivers and big fun. Photos by the author.

It’s with a nod to the late, great music show host Lawrence Welk that I start this ride spanning a couple of Montana’s scenic blue highways. The bandleader’s famously accented musical lead-in is doubly relevant for this trek. First, this ride will begin and end with music. Second, it will encompass rolling on Montana’s historic Highways 1 and 2. So, without further ado, “Ah one, an’ ah two….”

Montana motorcycle ride
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

Rockin’ the Rivers and Rollin’ on Highway 2

While it is most certainly true that it’s “about the ride not the destination,” having something entertaining to do before and after a ride adds spice to the adventure. With that in mind, my trek starts at the Rockin’ the Rivers Music Festival near Three Forks, Montana. It is not an accident that I found this event in my ride planning as it sits directly on the first of the routes that attracted me to the area. So as I sit listening to the classic rock of the Grass Roots and then Tommy James and the Shondells, my mind wanders to Montana State Highway 2.

Montana motorcycle ride
The Grass Roots echo in the grasslands at the Rockin’ the Rivers Music Festival.

As I leave the festival, my ride on Highway 2 leads me almost immediately to the entrance of the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. While I decide not to do any spelunking, I stop long enough to read about the caverns and the fact that the Lewis and Clark expedition camped very close to the cave.

Rolling out of the park, the riding fun begins. The 20-mile stretch of Highway 2 that leads to my night’s lodging in Whitehall, Montana, is a great series of curves that follows the Little Pipestone Creek through an impressive river canyon. It is a nice precursor to what I will experience the rest of this ride.

Montana motorcycle ride
This ride is dotted with historical sites, many of which document the Lewis and Clark expedition.

After a night’s sleep, I gas up in Whitehall and head northwest on the remainder of Highway 2. I roll past farms and ranches through big, sweeping curves. As I continue north, the grasslands morph into high chaparral. The road tightens into some entertaining hairpins as I gain elevation into a pine forested stretch. This is clearly great three-season motorcycle country.

Montana motorcycle ride
The motorcycles in Montana are as diverse as the music.

Ultimately, this pine forest gives way to rich grasslands as I approach the historic mining town of Butte. Before grabbing lunch in a local diner, I ride through Butte’s well-preserved historic district. Amazingly, there are more than 10,000 miles of abandoned mine shafts and tunnels beneath the city. The wealth attained in those mines earned Butte the moniker “The Richest Hill on Earth.”

Montana motorcycle ride
Rivers like the Little Blackfoot make the area around Missoula a fly fishing paradise.

Carving Highway 1 to a Jam in Missoula

A short stretch on Interstate 90 after Butte leads me to the exit for Montana State Highway 1. Signs tell me that Highway 1 is also known as the Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway and it certainly lives up to that “scenic” designation.

The first thing that catches my eye as I head west on the highway is a huge smokestack in the distance. It turns out that smelter stack is the most notable landmark in the town of Anaconda. It also turns out that the town’s name is prophetic. After leaving Anaconda, the road begins to coil into a serpentine motorcycle playground.

Montana motorcycle ride
The road west of Anaconda clings resolutely to spectacular crimson canyon walls.

As I climb into the Anaconda-Pintler Mountain Range on Highway 1, I stop at several interesting historic sites. Montana does a great job of providing well-written and informative signage for its historic markers. Just as Lewis and Clark’s exploration is well-documented on the route, significant mining windfalls are also highlighted.

Montana motorcycle ride
The author does a bit of map study beside yet another interesting historical marker.

I stop beside the deep blue waters of Silver and Georgetown lakes, which spell the approximate midpoint of this ride on the scenic route. After the lakes, the road coils again as it passes through pines, grasslands and crimson canyons. It’s a very entertaining ride indeed, and the number of motorcycles I meet on the road indicates it is not a secret to riders.

Montana motorcycle ride
Blue waters and blue sky converge at Montana’s high-mountain Silver Lake.

The Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway ends at Interstate 90. However, I have found that it can pay off in spades to travel frontage roads rather than the nearby interstate. The long frontage road on this stretch of I-90 to Missoula is just such a find. The beautiful tree-lined Clark Fork River separates the interstate from the frontage road, making it seem worlds away. Like so many of the rivers in the area, the Clark Fork makes me think of Norman Maclean’s Montana-set literary masterpiece, “A River Runs Through It.”

Montana motorcycle ride
This frontage road is a nice alternative to riding on the interstate south of Missoula.

When the fun of the I-90 frontage roads ends, there is just a short stretch of the interstate that leads to Missoula. Like Butte, Missoula is a town worth an extended visit. The historic city has a bustling charm that is enhanced by the vibrancy infused by the University of Montana.

Montana motorcycle ride
Pearl Jam rocks the beautiful University of Montana football stadium in Missoula.

As I sit in the beautiful Montana Grizzly Stadium listening to Pearl Jam and watching the sun set on the rolling hills just past the stage, I can’t help but reflect on a great ride. To steal a few song titles from the band, the “Even Flow” of the ride certainly made me feel “Alive.” Or, as Mr. Welk might say, this Montana tour was “wunnerful, wunnerful.”

Source: RiderMagazine.com