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Old 05-12-2013, 06:01 PM   #1
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Sylvan Pass & Bear Tooth Hwy

I'm planning a trip this summer which takes us east from Yellowstone to Cody. The Mountain Directory West describes eastbound as dropping 1500' in 6 miles and a steady 6-7% descent for about 4.5 miles then the last 1.5 is a 5-6% grade. When I drove it in a van east to west a few years ago, I don't remember it being all that steep but then I wasn't concerned with a heavy vehicle towing another vehicle.

I'm sure others have traveled east out of Yellowstone in a motorhome towing a jeep and we don't have anything to worry about. Right?

I guess the gas mileage will be really good that day!

I also need opinions on the next part of our trip. I'm planning for a few nights in or near Cody. Right now, I'm really leaning toward Buffalo Bill State Park as a home base. We'd like to travel the Bear Tooth Hwy and while it would be a VERY long day, considering taking 120 (Belfry Hwy) north from Cody to either 296 (Chief Joseph Hwy) to 212 (Bear Tooth) and take the east part of it back to Red Lodge then across to 72 and south to 120 & back to Cody OR would it be better to go counter clockwise (Red Lodge - Bear Tooth- Chief Joseph)? It looks to be about a 175 mile round trip.

We'd miss the section of Bear Tooth from the north entrance to Yellowstone to the junction with 296.

Assuming my directions made sense, is that doable and which direction would be best?
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Old 05-18-2013, 12:56 PM   #2
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I too am planning a Beartooth trip this summer but I have a v8 SUV towing a pop-top (3000#).

Hey everyone, please give us your thoughts.

Thanks,
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Old 05-18-2013, 01:07 PM   #3
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neil.ervin,

I posed this same question on another forum and had several replies. From what was said, I doubt you'd have a problem. One who answered said he'd traveled it in his Class C w/o a toad and had no issues. Apparently, seeing RVs on the Beartooth is not uncommon. I think the highest peak is around 11,000 ft so if your truck can do heights, you should be good.

Maybe no one here has been that route? Dunno.
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Old 05-18-2013, 03:22 PM   #4
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I did it four years ago, coming from the little town near the Little Bighorn Battlefield Memorial over Beartooth, driving my 2000 Georgetown 360SS towing a Jeep Liberty.

The Auto Club routed me that way, not knowing what I was driving. I drove all the way to Afton, WY, that day, and had sucked most of the upholstery off the driver's seat by the time I got to Afton!

We had to be in Montpelier, ID the next day.

I never saw another motorhome until I got to the middle of the park.
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Old 05-19-2013, 08:10 AM   #5
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Freds342,

I would not want to try to drive anything that big on that road and I've only seen pictures of it! Looks like lots of switchbacks and steep climbs/descents. I'd think the total length of the rig and the length of the tow vehicle would play a huge factor on the "puck-o-meter reading". I'm glad you made it without any damage except for the upholstery and your nerves.

neil.ervin> I checked our Mountain Directory West and it says there are multiple long 6-7% stretches with 20mph switchbacks and one section has a 9% grade. Its description is much more detailed that mine though. If you don't have a copy, I'll suggest that you get one. Lots of really good info on what might be problem areas on many many highways through the western states. You can decide if you want to avoid a particular route or at least have a warning on what to expect if you do take it.
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Old 05-19-2013, 09:43 AM   #6
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Yellowstone trip

Heading east out of Yellowstone down Sylvan Pass won't be a problem if you take it slow and watch your brake temperature. There are several pullouts so you can stop and wait for things to cool down if you need to.

The Buffalo Bill state park at the reservoir has little shade and can be very windy at times. Wapiti campground on the Shoshone forest has electric and water available but is further west than you might want to stay. You might also check the Ponderosa Campground in Cody. There is also a KOA and Absaroka Bay campground in town.

Going over the Beartooth Hwy to Red Lodge is a great day trip. I prefer to go counter-clockwise so the trip back into Cody doesn't seem so long at the end of the day (and you have a better chance of seeing some bears coming out on Chief Joseph late in the day). Look up the Regis Restaurant in Red Lodge for breakfast if you plan to eat before you go over the top of the pass.
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Old 05-19-2013, 10:19 AM   #7
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We drove our Solear from Cody to Yellowstone. It's a great drive, not bad at all.
Now the Beartooth. We drove it in a rental car. O not think I would want to try it in a mh. Lots of switchbacks. My wife got car sick that day.
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Old 05-19-2013, 02:26 PM   #8
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My wife took a pic of the GPS at 11,925'!

BTW, after we got to Afton, it took five beers to get my fingers to uncurl
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Old 05-20-2013, 10:37 PM   #9
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KarenS144,

I'm not too concerned. I have a V8 Armada w/tow package pulling a small Rockwood AFrame trailer (3000#). I'm used to WV's twisty roads and AZ's steep grades. Solution: take it slow, as the speed limits must dictate, and don't ride the brakes.

Thanks tho.
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Old 05-29-2017, 10:32 AM   #10
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We drove our Solear from Cody to Yellowstone. It's a great drive, not bad at all.
Now the Beartooth. We drove it in a rental car. O not think I would want to try it in a mh. Lots of switchbacks. My wife got car sick that day.

We have a 33ft Class C with tow dolly. Coming from the east, how do you feel about taking the southern route 16 (Big Horn) to Cody, then the East entrance (Sylvan Pass) to Fishing Bridge?
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Old 05-29-2017, 11:14 AM   #11
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I've driven a number of passes in MT, WY & CO. I did the Beartooth in our mini-van from Red Lodge to the northeast entrance of YNP. I would do it again but not in a large RV. There are a ton of switchbacks, and not so many guiderails. I think you would enjoy it more if you parked your RV and drove your jeep for some or all of it that way. And you will make better time. It's slow going. There are pull-outs and parking areas so you can enjoy the vistas, but you may want to consider how busy the summertime is on that road and if the lots are somewhat full (they aren't huge), will you have to pass them by because of your rig and toad? Also, watch the weather. We went in June, and before we got there the pass was closed due to a storm with snow and causing rock slides--luckily it opened again before we arrived (you should always check before heading out). It's a beautiful drive, but with all due respect to the person from WV; the Beartooth is longer and more challenging in a motorhome than WV just in shear elevation alone. Also we have come down Sylvan pass. Not the switchbacks, just steep grade, but considering the number of RV's that go to YNP, it's better than the Beartooth in that respect-and there are pull-offs to cool your engine/brakes. Safe travels! Either way, just be prepared to take your time and stay alert. Mountain driving means concentrating and no distractions no matter what you're driving.
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Old 05-29-2017, 11:27 AM   #12
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I've traveled Sylan both ways since before Yellowstone got insane, I used to cut through it to Cody. However, many times that was with no trailer, and when I was camping, I would be pulling a 3200 lb trailer with a PU truck so I never noted any problems. Only real problem I ever say was an overloaded dodge minivan pulling a decent size popup and they just had no idea what they were doing. The smell of their brakes coming down was really bothersome. But seen plenty of big motorhomes and TV trailer combos and never seen a problem.

As for the beartooth, traveled that both ways and actually prefer west out of red lodge, then circle back via the Chief Joseph and back either back to Cody or Red Lodge depending on where I am staying. But really, it is just personal preference; still a great drive.

See some very large homes and 5th wheel and the only problem most seem to have is at the switches where they encroach into the other lane so need to take it really slow. Once past the switchbacks, the beartooth is like most other 2-lane highways.

If you can't drive on narrow switchback roads, or are afraid of driving on roads without guard rails, best to not drive. If the motorhome or TV cannot pull the mountain pass at a reasonable speed, at least pull over occasionally to allow traffic to pass.
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Old 05-29-2017, 12:33 PM   #13
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Spent a lot of time on the Beartooth last summer. We were in Red Lodge and my wife happened to mention to the hair dresser that we intended to drive up from Red Lodge with the MH towing our Jeep. She and the other ladies laughed and told her to forget that. They directed us over to Cody going east out of RL then southwest on a relatively flat road to Cody. From there up the Chief Joseph to the Beartooth. So what we did was take a day trip up with the Jeep from RL and then we followed their directions with the whole rig.
It is steep and the switchbacks are sharp. A bad problem is morons driving in the middle of the road because they are scared of the dropoffs. They often come around blind hairpin turns half in your lane.
Chief Joseph was easier with the MH definitely. It is just as steep but the curves aren't as sharp and way less crowded. If the locals don't go directly from RL but go many more miles through Cody to get to the top that tells you something.
If you are not camping along the Beartooth then take your toad or TV and cover the whole area. It is very spectacular.
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Old 05-30-2017, 05:40 PM   #14
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It's a trip not to be missed. As for a day trip out of Cody to Red Lodge returning via Chief Joseph highway, it's doable just make an early start and take your time and enjoy.
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Old 05-30-2017, 06:22 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by neil.ervin View Post
I too am planning a Beartooth trip this summer but I have a v8 SUV towing a pop-top (3000#).

Hey everyone, please give us your thoughts.

Thanks,
A pop--top? Have fun with the bears.
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Old 06-05-2017, 03:55 PM   #16
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After Charles Kuralt had worn out several motorhomes criss-crossing the continent for his TV show, he still said that the Beartooth Highway was the most beautiful road in America. Guess that's probably the best recommendation there is for making sure that you don't miss it if you are in Yellowstone.

One factor to keep in mind besides the importance of cool brakes is that a normally aspirated vehicle loses 3% of its power for every 1,000-foot gain in altitude. So, a road that takes you to nearly 12,000 feet means that a non-turbo engine will have lost more than 1/3 of its rated horsepower. Not a major problem if you are just in your toad or tow vehicle, but a big problem going west from Red Lodge on US 212 if you are towing with a Hemi or Ford V-10.
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Old 06-05-2017, 05:18 PM   #17
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One factor to keep in mind besides the importance of cool brakes is that a normally aspirated vehicle loses 3% of its power for every 1,000-foot gain in altitude. So, a road that takes you to nearly 12,000 feet means that a non-turbo engine will have lost more than 1/3 of its rated horsepower. Not a major problem if you are just in your toad or tow vehicle, but a big problem going west from Red Lodge on US 212 if you are towing with a Hemi or Ford V-10.
Pulled that mountain just fine last summer with my Ram 1500 Hemi and 5th wheel trailer. Back in 2012 I pulled it with an 01' F150 5.4 and a MicroLite 25DS. I grew up in that country and we used to drive that road a couple times every summer. If you want a real thrill drive it on a moonlit night like we did back in 1956 when we couldn't get a room in Cooke City and had to go to Red Lodge.
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Old 06-08-2017, 06:01 AM   #18
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Drove the Beartooth last September in our Class C. No problem at all, just gotta take it easy. Really amazing drive!!!!
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Old 09-08-2017, 11:46 PM   #19
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I've driven it in our 40' class A towing and didn't have a single issue.... I engaged my engine brake and downshifted and took it slow and easy.... Lined up a few cars behind me but I figured no one needed to go fast on that road anyway plus I wasn't going to smoke my brakes or transmission just so they could get down the mountain a tad faster.... (I did pull over when the opportunity presented itself and everyone made it down safely)

It truly is one of the most beautiful drives in America!!!!!
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Old 09-09-2017, 05:21 AM   #20
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Really beautiful trip on a motorcycle, one of our favorite roads along with the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP.
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