The Beartooth Front Scenic Drive
The Beartooth Front Scenic Drive is a forty-six mile scenic journey through the valleys and foothills found along the northern front of the Beartooth Mountains. The route follows Highway 78, a paved highway, between the towns of Columbus and Red Lodge, Montana.
Traffic on this highway during the summer is moderate, as the road is a popular route to take between Interstate 90 and the start of the Beartooth Highway in Red Lodge. However, traffic isn’t so heavy that it detracts from the beautiful views found along the route.
Highlights of the trip include the towns of Absarokee and Red Lodge, the Stillwater River, the Yellowstone River and the beautiful views of the Beartooth Mountains found among its valleys and foothills.
Beginning in the town of Columbus, which is located right on Interstate 90, the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive heads south on Highway 78 and soon crosses the Yellowstone River. A large campground, park and fishing access site is located at the bridge crossing for those seeking a camping spot along the river.
After crossing the Yellowstone River, the drive starts to parallel the Stillwater River, which runs just off to the west of the road and is usually hidden among the trees. Between Columbus and Absarokee, several fishing access sites are located just off the highway. Since the Stillwater River is one of Montana’s friendlier rivers for wade fishing, the many fishing access site provide anglers with excellent fishing opportunities.
The Beartooth Front Scenic Drive enters Absarokee thirteen miles from Columbus. Absarokee is a nice little town and, despite its small size, has plenty of things to do. Those in search of ice cream or simple a good lunch should stop at the Dew Drop Inn, which has good food and, by far, the best bubble gum ice cream in the State of Montana. The Absarokee Loop Scenic Drive also begins in town, too.
As the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive heads south beyond Absarokee, the road enters the rolling, grassland foothills of the Beartooth Mountains. Up until Roscoe, the hills are relatively small but provide a beautiful contrast to the large, snowy peaks of the Beartooth Mountains.
Thirteen miles to the south of Absarokee, the route enters the tiny town of Roscoe. The Luther-Roscoe Scenic Drive begins here and heads to the south, following East Rosebud Creek.
Just outside of Roscoe, the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive climbs a large hill. From the top of this hill, the views of the rolling foothills and the Beartooth Mountains are superb. Several pullout areas are located at and near the top of the hill, so those with cameras should be sure to drive slow to find a good photo opportunity.
After climbing the hill, the route starts to weave its way among the grass foothills of the Beartooth Mountain front. The views of the Beartooth Mountains along this stretch are excellent, so visitors should take their time and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
About ten miles beyond Roscoe, Highway 78 reaches the junction with the Upper Luther Road, which is the eastern starting point for the Luther-Roscoe Scenic Drive. Those with extra time in their schedules are encouraged to drive at least a portion of this scenic detour, as it provides superb views not found along the main highway.
Beyond the junction with the Luther-Roscoe Scenic Drive, the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive continues following Highway 78 east through the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains. The drive ends in Red Lodge, at the junction with Highway 212.
Overall, the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive is a beautiful trip through the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains. Since the route follows a paved highway for its entire length, the trip is easy to make. Moreover, for those traveling between Interstate 90 and Red Lodge, the route p provides a much more scenic alternative than Highway 212.
- Length: 46 miles
- Highlights : Beartooth Mountains, Beautiful foothills and prairie along the mountains, Stillwater River
- Road Type : Paved
- Nearby Towns : Columbus, Absarokee, Red Lodge, Roscoe
- 4wd needed? : No, except when road is snow covered during the winter.
- Traffic : Moderate
- Trailers? : Yes
- Season : Year-round, weather permitting
Map of the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive
The map below shows the route and location of the Beartooth Front Scenic Drive in Montana, along with other nearby scenic routes.
Where to Stay & Other Services
There are ample services along the route. Both Columbus and Red Lodge have plentiful services, restaurants and other shops. Absarokee also has plenty of places to find food, gas, etc...
The only designated campground along the route are found at a fishing access site on the Stillwater River. Since the drive passes through private property for its entire length, there is no primitive camping spots along the route - although many of the side roads lead to National Forest lands.
For lodging, the best place to find hotels is in Red Lodge and Columbus.
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