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Weather Wise: Seasonal Roads

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Posted at 3:26 PM, May 27, 2024

Montana offers some of the most scenic drives in the country. The Beartooth Highway is no exception.

The gateway to northeast Yellowstone takes drivers on a jaw-dropping 69-mile journey through the Beartooth Mountains. In some spots, elevations of the roadway exceed 10,000 feet (about twice the elevation of Denver, Colorado) This makes for incredible views, but also opens the door for extreme weather conditions to limit access to the highway.

The usual opening for the Beartooth Highway is the Friday before Memorial Day. However, this year's plans changed when a major spring storm rolled through the region, dumping feet of snow in some areas.

This is not unusual for the “highway to the sky” as due to its extreme altitude, the average temperature for this time of year along portions of the roadway is only 42 degrees. Snow remains possible in this area well into the summer months, causing occasional closures.

But the Beartooth Highway is not the only seasonal road with extreme weather. The alpine portion Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park usually opens in late June and closes in early October, but we’ve seen it open as early as May 25th and as late as July 13th. During the early spring months, Logan Pass can average more than 5 feet of snow.

National Forests across the state also have hundreds of primitive roads that operate on a seasonal schedule due to extreme weather conditions.

Make sure you do your research and check up on road conditions before you travel.

Taking the high road definitely isn’t easy when competing with Montana's harsh climate.

Montana Department of Transportation Alerts

Yellowstone National Park Alerts

Glacier National Park Alerts