August 5, 2006

Day 1: We reached Billings at noon(late by 1 hour). Billings airport is small and can be bit crowded when planes land simultaneously. It took us 45 min to finally get a car and come out of the airport.( Fortunate enough to get a free upgrade to infinity G35). Finally we started driving west from billings (90 w) at 1:30 pm. Destination was Grants Village Yellowstone via Beartooth Highway. There are two ways to reach Yellowstone from Billings. One way is to drive west on 90 and take 89 south to north entrance of YNP. Other one is to drive through the Beartooth Highway (212) to reach the north-east entrance of YNP. Total distance approx 200 miles. Going west on 90, take  US-212 exit 434 to Laurel/Red Lodge. This is a two lane highway but  speed limit is 70 mph. Nothing much is on the way until you reach Red Lodge.Red Lodge lies near the eastern end of the scenic byway. This small mountain resort community is tucked into Rock Creek Valley at 5,555 feet elevation. There are festivals and celebrations to enjoy, interpretive nature trails, and cross-country and alpine skiing opportunities. A number of competitions, such as the Peaks to Prairie Triathlon and the Beartooth Run, attract athletes and spectators. The downtown is pleasant, with nice shops.
Beartooth Highway: The most scenic drive of this highway is between Red Lodge and Cooke city. As we continued our drive, the scenery started unfolding before our very eyes. Arguably this is the most beautiful drive we have ever passed through. The snow clad peaks, clear lakes and the wild flowers that dot these meadows take you to a totally different world which is so pristine, quiet and
Beartooth Highway
beautiful. This is one of the beautiful view you get as you drive through this road. Below is few pictures of the meadows that you pass.I hope these pictures would atleast give you an idea as to what you can expect on the drive. Click here to see more pictures from beartooth mountain drive.
Scenic point 1
Scenic point 2

Vista point

Beartooth view
It took us almost 3 hours to cover a distance of 68 miles between Red Lodge and CookeCity with numerous stops on the way. We reached the north-east entrance of Yellowstone at 5:30 pm. Our final destination for the day was Grants Village which is near the south entrance (see map). This 82 miles drive within the park took us through tower falls,canyon, Hayden valley ,lake area.Although it was a long drive, it was definitely worth it. Since it was still
North-East entrance of YNP
bright (sun sets at 9:45 pm here), we decided to see at least couple places on the way (so that we don’t have to visit those places again). The fist stop was at Lamar valley. Even though I had planned to come here later in the trip, we did stop at few places to see bison grazing in the evening sun. Next stop was near canyon, to see an elk grazing along the road side.
Hayden Valley: The most beautiful place on the way was Hayden valley. This is 10 miles south of canyon junction and with the evening sun lighting up the valley from the west, the scenery was just picture perfect. We stopped here for almost 30 min savouring the natural beauty.
Hayden Valley Hayden Valley 2
Mud Volcano: Our next stop was Mud Volcano area. This is one of the most geologically active area with lot of thermal activity. Click here to read more about Mudvolcano and Hayden Valley.  
Mud volcano
Grant Village: Finally we reached Grant village at 8 pm . It was indeed a long day which began at 3:30 am in the morning. We registered at the Grant Village visiting center and checked into our room. At $115 per night, it is a modest lodge with no AC, but the facilities are good. Read more about Grant Village at Grant Village .
Evening sky in Grant village
We had our dinner at the lake village restaurant, located right next to the Yellowstone lake. It is a nice restaurant with good menu choice (Click here to see the menu at Grant Village restaurant). After dinner, we decided to attend the ranger led program at the Grant village amphitheatre, but we had to beat a hasty retreat to escape from the mosquitoes (bug repellent is a must).