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The Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive
The Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive is a twenty-nine mile drive between Absarokee and Interstate 90. Compared to other drives shown on this site, I’ll confess that this drive isn’t the most scenic among them. While the views of the Beartooth Mountains are nice, they aren’t especially jaw-dropping. And the prairie the drive passes through, although enjoyable, doesn’t compare to the Rocky Mountain Front. Oh, and the large fire scar the route passes through doesn’t help when it comes to beautiful scenery, either.
Yet I’ve listed this drive on my site. The primary reason for highlighting this route is that the Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive provides a scenic alternative to visitors who are driving east on Interstate 90 and are traveling to Absarokee, Red Lodge, the Beartooth Highway or Yellowstone National Park (obviously, the reverse direction is true, too). While the Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive is far from overwhelming, it is far more scenic and enjoyable drive than whizzing down Interstate 90 between Greycliff and Columbus.
The Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive begins just 1.5 miles to the west of Absarokee, at the junction of Highway 420 and Johnson Bridge Road. The drive follows Johnson Bridge Road and crosses a bridge over the Stillwater River. Since the road sign for Johnson Bridge Road isn’t especially noticeable, an easier way to find the road is to look for the Absaroka Fishing Access Site sign. After crossing the bridge, go to the west (left) on North Stillwater Road.
Initially, the drive follows the Stillwater River, but the route soon gains a little elevation and starts traveling across an expansive prairie. For the first ten miles, the views of the Beartooth Mountains are excellent. Moreover, there are some nice views of the entire valley along with many farms and ranches. This section of the drive, in my opinion, is the most scenic.
After seven miles, the route reaches a junction with Stockade Road. Follow Stockade Road to the west as it begins a moderate climb up into a high-prairie environment that provides very nice views of the Beartooth Mountains as well as the very distant Crazy Mountains. Along the high prairie portion of the route, the drive passes an old homestead and an interesting abandoned schoolhouse.
Soon after passing the abandoned homestead, the road starts to lose elevation as it enters a narrow canyon and descends towards Bridger Creek. Once upon a time, this portion of the drive likely was very attractive. However, a large fire in 2004 heavily burned over this area.
After thirteen miles, Stockade Road ends at the junction with Bridger Creek Road. The scenic drive goes right (north) at this junction. However, those desiring to camp might wish to go left here (south) on Bridger Creek Road, as the road leads deeper into the Boulder Plateau and, I think, away from the fire scar. A designated campground is also located along the Bridger Creek Road once the road enters the National Forest.
Following the junction with the Bridger Creek Road, the drive heads north as it twists and turns through a narrow canyon. Several side-roads head off to the west and lead toward the National Forest.
Travelers should be aware that the Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive does not enter the National Forest. Thus, if you see a sign that says “Entering the Gallatin National Forest,” you know you took a wrong turn and are now lost.
The Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive ends where Bridger Creek Road meets with Interstate 90, at Exit 384, just to the east of Greycliff.
Overall, the Bridger Creek Backcountry Drive isn’t the most scenic of routes in Montana. But it does make for a pleasant alternative for those traveling between Interstate 90 near Greycliff and Absarokee/Red Lodge/Yellowstone National Park.
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