My Solo Wanderings of the West


I went back toward Red Lodge and then west into the West Fork area and found the same scene; there was a lot of traffic of people out to claim campsites for the weekend, and all 7 area campgrounds of the Custer National Forest were booked full on reservations.
But I got lucky and found a spot, on a road, off of a road, off of a road, a little used 2-track leading several miles to a trailhead. It was a beautiful setting on Silver Run Creek and only some hikers and a very few vehicles ventured back there. It was the perfect spot to hide out for the crazy holiday weekend and I ended up staying 4 nights.

There were some really beautiful spots to explore; I rode the bike all the way out to road’s end of West Fork.

This recently burned area shows the boulder field up the mountainside in the glacial valley.

I found a dirt spur road that turned into a very steep track, beyond this point it turned near vertical. It was a tricky turnaround to get the bike back down!

In the evenings I walked the track from my camp to the trailhead at the end of the road.

On the 4th I rode into Red Lodge and looked around the town. Later I decided to avoid the crowds and traffic, I rode up a mountain road overlooking town from a few miles and joined a handful of other people to watch the fireworks.



Fantastic......I was able to read the whole thread over the past week or so....outstanding, thanks for sharing.


The day I was to drive up the Beartooth Highway it was rainy and foggy. I sat that day out but the forecast didn’t look much better for the whole rest of the week. The next morning it was still foggy but I could see patches of blue through the fog. I couldn’t wait all week for the skies to clear so off I went.
I had waited a long time to experience the Beartooth and here I was, going to drive “America”s Most Beautiful Highway” in the fog!

Once I started the climb the skies opened some, but the view back up the valley toward Red Lodge was totally fogged in.

The switchbacks up the beginning of the Beartooth are pretty crazy.

There’s a turnout with overlook at the top of the switchbacks but it’s far from the top of the pass

Finally cresting over the top on to the plateau, there are views of the many lakes that dot the area, and a last look down into the valley.

The road continues to switchback up the high alpine meadow and finally crests the summit at almost 11,000 feet. Here, in a distant view, is the pointed rock spire that is the Beartooth for which the mountain range is named.

This is the view from the summit to the southwest, across the alpine meadow with it’s many lakes.



After some miles I reached the junction of the northern end of the Chief Joseph Highway. I decided to drive back down the highway to see the portion I hadn’t driven earlier.
On the way down I explored some side roads into the National Forest, looking for a campsite.

I ended up back in the Sunlight Valley, and I camped in the same spot from the previous week.

Heading back north in the morning I got another view of the Sunlight Creek bridge.

The reason I had wanted to drive this section of road is that for quite a few miles it follows the deep canyon cut by the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River. Unfortunately, I learned from a local that there are no public access views of the canyon. Nevertheless I tried to get close by driving back some of these side roads, but I only got distant glimpses of the canyon. I can imagine it would be a spectacular backcountry trip.

Back on the Beartooth Highway, I continued west toward the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park. The road crosses back and forth between Wyoming and Montana several times.

Finally at the end of the Beartooth Highway, just outside of Yellowstone, is the historic little town of Cooke City, Montana. I imagined the residents must be hard-core as the nearest “real” towns are Gardiner, Montana on the other side of Yellowstone, or clear back over the pass to Red Lodge, and the Beartooth Highway is only open for a few months in summer.

I got a campsite near Cooke City in the Custer National Forest.


After setting up camp, I took the bike for the ride across northern Yellowstone to see the Lamar Valley and to Tower Falls. Of course, a ride through Yellowstone wouldn’t be complete without some wildlife traffic jams. When a bison decides to take over the highway he has the right-of-way; when you are stopped in traffic on a motorcycle and a bison passes just feet away, it can be unnerving.

The Lamar Valley is said to be the best place in Yellowstone to spot wildlife; there are many huge herds of bison.

Here’s a view up the valley and the Lamar River, with a herd of bison grazing on the water.

I spotted these antelope along the road.

Finally, I reached Tower Falls.



Thanks for the update,that is some beautiful country.
Glad the bison wasn't angry, or, amorous.
Thanks Chet, thankfully I guess I wasn't his type. :sombrero: I had quite a few up close encounters with Yellowstone bison in traffic jams while touring on the bike, it always made me very uncomfortable. If they decide you're in the way, they will charge or toss you out of the way. I just read that there have been 5 attacks by bison in the park this year and every one involved just being too close to the animals. The most recent attack was a woman taking a selfie about 6 yards from a bison. Fortunately none of those attacks have been fatal.
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Above Cooke City are a number of pretty interesting roads and I spent a day exploring them.

As I got higher in the mountains I started seeing ruins of old mining camps.

The road I was on was Lulu Pass Road, it suddenly got very steep and rocky.

The last mile to the summit was a series of tight, steep switchbacks.

After Lulu Pass summit the road continues a few miles over to Ruby Pass then descends to Cooke City. With a thunderstorm fast approaching I didn’t want to be caught riding across the mountaintops so I headed back down the way I came.

The view up there was incredible; this is looking down the switchbacks and the valley that I rode to get up there.



The next morning I was heading west, the route took me all the way across the northern part of Yellowstone. Of course there were a number of bison-related traffic jams. I also noticed an unusual number of wildlife spectators in one stretch of the Lamar Valley; later I learned that a grizzly sow and two cubs were feasting on a road-kill bison.

Just north of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone is the town of Gardiner, Montana. Approaching from the south, it has the look of an old-west town.

In the hills above Gardiner is a National Forest area with a couple remote, primitive camping areas. First I set up in the Indian Creek campground; Mammoth was not too far away and I wanted to ride back there on the bike.

The skies were threatening rain, so I decided to take a short ride up one of the forest roads beyond the campground.

The short ride turned into a 30 mile round trip to the end of the road. On the way up I saw this very large pile of bear scat in the road; it was pretty fresh and made me wish I was carrying the bear spray.

There were some great views on the ride; I also started to notice a lot of blooming wildflowers.

On the road down, here’s a view of the little campground with all of its few sites already occupied. The host in the campground was an interesting guy; in the evening many more campers, turned away from Yellowstone campgrounds, arrived looking for a place to camp. Our host accommodated every one of them, putting tenters on any available grassy spot, and by morning the campground was a packed tent city. He even shared his personal site, and he found places for all the big RVers by a horse corral area up the hill.



Thanks Chet, thankfully I guess I wasn't his type. :sombrero: I had quite a few up close encounters with Yellowstone bison in traffic jams while touring on the bike, it always made me very uncomfortable. If they decide you're in the way, they will charge or toss you out of the way. I just read that there have been 5 attacks by bison this year and every one involved just being too close to the animals. The most recent attack was a woman taking a selfie about 6 yards from a bison. Fortunately none of those attacks have been fatal.
Anyone with a hint of common sense would be uncomfortable around a bison.I read about that woman too,idiots encountering bison,it seems to happen every year in Yellowstone.

“I thought I had a healthy respect for wildlife, but maybe not as healthy as I should have had,” Brandi stated. “But I am very grateful and blessed to have walked away.”
Colleen Rawlings, the Old Faithful district ranger, released a brief statement about the incident that reads: “The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage, but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK.


I took a ride up to check out the primitive campsites, then turned up one of the spur roads that led up the mountain to old logging sites.

It ended up being a 40 mile ride on some pretty rugged old roads, but the views were incredible.

Later I rode down to Yellowstone to check out the Mammoth Hot Springs area.

Mammoth is almost a city, with the big hotel and a large old post office building, and whole subdivisions of permanent housing for park employees. This view looks down at Mammoth’s center, the red-roofed buildings are the area of old Fort Yellowstone; before becoming a National Park, Yellowstone was under the protection of the US Army.

At one of the turnouts I spotted this VW from Washington, last year I saw this same bus parked with its mothership, an older RV with a matching paint-job, camped on a BLM site just outside Death Valley. Small world…



I had heard about a nearby hot spring bathing area; here the steaming waters of the Boiling River emerge from an underground cavern and cascade into the cool water of the Gardner River.

People had built rock pools and walls in the stream, creating different temperature zones in the water.



Moving on from the Gardner area, I headed north a short distance, then 17 miles down a rugged road to the Gallatin Petrified Forest area. I encountered this interesting herd on the way in.

The Petrified Forest doesn’t have standing trees; they are preserved in volcanic mud and lava flows. A steep hike up to these bluffs on an interpretive trail led to shallow caves with the exposed trees.

Whole trees were buried in mud and lava and eventually water and minerals soaking into the wood fibers turned to stone. Here an end of a petrified tree is exposed in a rock wall. Other pockets of minerals in this site formed colorful Amethyst and Opal. Most of those treasures had been picked away by collectors, but there were spots in the caves where a flashlight would reveal colorful deposits.

The National Forest campsite there is pretty primitive. It even had an old hand water pump. These are getting pretty rare to see in actual use. This one even had the drinking fountain feature.