Cody To Beartooth Pass To Fox, Montana To Billings

Comfort Suites ($80 + 6,000 points)

Billings, Montana

August 9, 2021

My intent yesterday was a simple drive to Fox, Montana and then on to Billings to find a truck stop to call home for the night. It turned out to be more.

I started the day with a walk around downtown Cody. The town is true to its roots with a bit of "modern" thrown in. I enjoyed looking at the architecture. In a shop called "Surf Wyoming" I learned that folks in Jackson take their surfboards out onto the Snake River and surf against the flow of the river. How innovative is that? A fly fishing shop confirmed my belief that those shops have the coolest hats and stickers. I try to pull off that I am a fly fisherman; I suspect the people see right through me.

Lots of Harleys on the road this weekend -- all the motorcycles I saw were Harleys. I think you can tell from some of the photos that this area is hardcore Republican country.

Berrtooth gap

ehy build that road?

too wind for Buddy

red lodge busy no vacancies

I drove out of Cody on Wyoming Route 120 which would take me into Montana. The landscape was dramatically high desert -- I had expected Wyoming to be all mountains. Another item learned.

I suspect I was an hour out of Cody when I passed by a road that was advertised as an "All-American highway." From the looks of the terrain it was headed into, that road was going into the mountains. I decided that might be more interesting that the route I was on so I doubled back and jumped on Wyoming 286 or maybe it was 296.

It was a beautiful drive somewhat affected by the smoke from the wildfires. The higher the road rose, the more pronounced was the effect of the smoke.

I though the scenic areas was right in front of me!

Here you can really see the effect of the smoke. That is Index Peak which is around 11, 000 feet.

There had been signs about "cows on road" and "loose stock." These cows resembled a gang as they walked alongside the ride. I was a bit concerned they might charge me although I knew they were more afraid of me than I was of them.

I was waaay outside of cell range at this point. No Google Maps to help me decide which turn to take. I figured Fox, Montana was to my right so I headed that way. Here's a description of the highway.

The Beartooth Highway is an All-American Road on a section of U.S. Route 212 in Montana and Wyoming between Red Lodge and the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, passing over the Beartooth Pass in Wyoming at 10,947 feet above sea level. It has been called "the most beautiful drive in America," by late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt. Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, weather conditions permitting.

It was too windy for Buddy so no photo of him with the Montana sign.

The drive on the Beartooth Highway was tiring. Lots of turns and lots of nerves due to the narrowness of the road and the sheer drops. The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado has nothing on this drive. I kept thinking to myself that there must have been an easier route to build the highway. I concluded that the 1930s were a time of an attitude of "heck yeah, we can build it" so they took on the challenge of building a highway over difficult terrain. I can only imagine how beautiful this drive must be when there is not smoke enveloping the scenery.

US Route 212 continues into Red Lodge, Montana.

Red Lodge is a town in and the county seat of Carbon County, Montana, United States.[4] It is part of the Billings Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,125 at the United States Census, 2010. It is known as being the gateway to the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park.


On September 17, 1851, the United States government signed a treaty with the Crow Nation, ceding the area which now contains Red Lodge, MT to the Crow Indians. Rich coal deposits were found there in 1866, and gold was discovered nearby in 1870. An 1880 treaty between the U.S. government and the Crow allowed the area to be settled starting April 11, 1882.[6]

The Red Lodge post office was established on Dec 9, 1884 with Postmaster Ezra L. Benton.[7] A rail line was constructed into town, and coal shipments began in June 1889. The boundaries of the Crow Reservation were redrawn October 15, 1892, opening the whole area to settlement. From then until the 1930s, coal mining defined the town.

In the late 19th century, many new settlers came to Red Lodge, MT. The majority came from Italy, the British Isles, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. By the mid-1880s, migrants were still outnumbered by large numbers of Native Americans. By 1892 the population reached 1,180.

In 1896, Red Lodge had twenty saloons and, as the library records show, riotous and violent living was characteristic of the town. By 1906 the population had grown to 4,000 and by 1911 this had increased to 5,000.

Red Lodge suffered in the Great Depression, which forced many mines to close. To offset this downturn, the manufacture of illegal bootleg liquor, labeled syrup, became an economic mainstay and was sold as far away as Chicago and San Francisco.

In 1931 work began on the Beartooth Highway[9][10] linking Red Lodge to Yellowstone National Park; it was officially opened in 1936.

The downtown has been redeveloped since the mid-1980s for historic and cultural tourism, as the Red Lodge Commercial Historic District. The buildings in downtown Red Lodge fell into disrepair in large part because population had dropped from its 1915 peak of 6,000 people to about 2,000.

As of 2006, an estimate suggests that the population of Red Lodge may increase from about 1,200 people in the winter to over 1,800 people during the summer tourist season, arriving via the Beartooth Highway.


Red Lodge is located at 45°11′15″N 109°14′55″W (45.187515, -109.248475).[12] U.S. Route 212 runs through the town. Rock Creek flows alongside Red Lodge. Grizzly Peak is one of several mountains surrounding Red Lodge.


Red Lodge experiences a continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with cold, somewhat dry winters and warm, wetter summers. Summers are cooler than in areas of Montana further north, due to the high elevation. Winters however, are milder than areas further to the east due to the chinook wind influence, as with most of Montana.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 2,125 people, 1,082 households, and 513 families residing in the city. The population density was 758.9 inhabitants per square mile (293.0/km2). There were 1,675 housing units at an average density of 598.2 per square mile (231.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.3% White, 0.4% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.6% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.9% of the population.

There were 1,082 households, of which 19.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 8.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 52.6% were non-families. 43.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.92 and the average family size was 2.62.

The median age in the city was 47.3 years. 16.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.8% were from 25 to 44; 34.4% were from 45 to 64; and 19.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.4% male and 50.6% female.

Outdoor recreation

Red Lodge is well known for many outdoor recreation opportunities: skiing, mountain biking, fly fishing, and backpacking are nearby. In April it is host to a popular triathlon called the Peaks to Prairie.

Smith Mine disaster

Site of the Smith Mine disaster

In 1943 tragedy hit Smith Mine #3 near Bearcreek, the area's largest remaining mine.[19] An explosion trapped and killed 74 men with only three of the workers in the mine that day escaping, making it the worst coal mine disaster in Montana's history. The mine was shut down shortly thereafter but was reopened in the late 1970s. The Red Lodge cemetery contains a memorial.


Fox is an unincorporated community in Carbon County, Montana, United States. It was named for Dr. J.M. Fox, first manager of the Rocky Fork Coal Company and the Rocky Fork & Cooke City Railroad.

At one time, Fox had two grain elevators and was the largest grain shipping point in Carbon County.[citation needed] Finnish immigrant miners settled here, and as late as 1920 their children still spoke Finnish at home and on the playground, and English only in the classroom.