Since I’m working on a guide book to Wyoming I’m driving the most beautiful roads but I’m also reporting on free dispersed camping in those areas. Today’s post is about my camp at the bottom of the Beartooth Scenic Byway. The day I drove it started out looking pretty good with blue skies, but the thing with big mountains is they create their own weather. Usually every afternoon clouds roll in and you’re in for some rain. That day was no different and most of the drive was in bright overcast skies and the end of the drive was in rain–both are bad for photography. One of the things I do is try to follow the weather forecast and the forecast for the next day was clear all day. That was so unusual I had planned to drive the road one way north towards Red Lodge, spend the night somewhere, and then drive back up the Beartooth to Gardiner the next day.
On the mountainside coming down the mountain I stopped at one of the pullouts and noticed a Forest Road going further back into the valley. I checked with my binoculars and I could see people camping in the clearings and they were so scattered they couldn’t have been in a campground. I decided I would check it out when I got down off the mountain.
At the bottom of the road I turned left away from Red Lodge and found Forest Road 2412, Rock Creek Rd. and started following it back the valley. You’ll come to a “T” and you want to go left. If you go right you are going up Hellroaring Road which looks great but it climbs quickly until you are up in the mountains and I think it will be too difficult for most of us. I followed 2412 as it wound around Rock Creek and the road is mostly good but in a few places it’s bumpy and wash-boarded but any car of van could make it. In fact I camped in a spot where there was a 5th Wheel just pulling out, so any rig can make it.
This was one of my all-time favorite camps! It’s surrounded on both sides by tall mountains and I was camped about 50 feet from Rock Creek which is a beautiful creek! Looking south down the valley you can see the mountains at the headwaters of Rock Creek. Looking up the mountain on the east you can see the Beartooth winding its way back and forth across the face of the mountain and it’s kind of fun to watch the traffic working its way up it.
There were a LOT of people camping along the road, but the further I went the less people there were. I found a nice camp with no one else around and spent a great night there. The next day had a gorgeous blue sky so I broke camp and headed back up the Beartooth.
This camp is too far from Yellowstone NP for it to be a basecamp. For that I suggest you camp close to Cooke City which is at the end of the Beartooth Highway. It’s in a beautiful area with beautiful mountains and creeks all around you. Best of all it’s only a few miles from the Northeast entrance into Yellowstone NP so it would make a great Basecamp into the Park. I didn’t go searching for a camp but I had the MVUM to it and it listed many dispersed campsites. I downloaded it as a PDF and took this snip from it.
There are many campgrounds in the area, but I rarely stay at campgrounds. However, there were also numerous signs saying no tent camping or pop-up campers allowed, only hard-sided vehicle. I assume there are so many bears that tents aren’t safe. If you are camping in a tent I would call the Gallatin NF and ask if you could safely camp in a tent there before you go.
Driving the Beartooth is a wonderful experience and having this as a campsite just makes it all the better!