Now Beartooth Highway Hit By Avalanche, Remains Closed

Officials want to open Beartooth Highway, one of the main routes to get to Yellowstone, but still can't. Opening day was delayed due to weather and now it's because an avalanche has pummeled the road.

Andrew Rossi

May 28, 20243 min read

Snowplow on Beartooth Highway
Snowplow on Beartooth Highway (Courtesy Photo)

Another snow-related delay is keeping the Beartooth Highway closed, but the entire 69-mile span of U.S. Highway 212 should be free and clear by the weekend.

The scenic Beartooth Highway, a main route visitors use to get to Yellowstone National Park, had been open from Red Lodge, Montana, to Vista Point since Friday.

But the Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT) closed that expanse Tuesday morning for “paving operations and rock fence work” caused by an avalanche chute.

“It was a small avalanche that brought some debris down and did a little bit of damage to the road,” said Sherry Weamer, executive director of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce. “But from what I've seen, it's not significant.”

Despite the setback, the situation was appraised optimistically. Weamer said MDOT hopes to open the highway before the weekend, weather permitting.

“If they get this one section cleared up, plan on the Beartooth Highway being open in its entirety by Thursday afternoon,” she said.

From Both Ends

MDOT and the National Park Service (NPS), the two agencies responsible for the Beartooth Highway, always aim for a Memorial Day weekend opening. However, the weather often has its own schedule for the All-American Road.

Snowplows and various snow removal machines have been clearing the Beartooth Highway since April. MDOT works from Red Lodge to the Wyoming state line, while the NPS works from Cooke City to the state line.

Last Thursday, a snowstorm dumped 2 feet of snow across the mountains of northern Wyoming. That storm kept the Wyoming side of U.S. 212 closed, while the Montana side was partially open until its Tuesday closure.

Watch The Weather

“Weather permitting” is the asterisk prominently placed next to any news on the seasonal opening and closure of the Beartooth Highway. Based on this week’s forecast, there’s some cause for concern at 11,000 feet of elevation.

The National Weather Service is anticipating rain and snow showers in the Beartooth Mountains on Wednesday with wind gusts as high as 40 mph. Little to no snow accumulation is expected.

Thursday and Friday will be blustery but mostly clear, with a chance of more cold precipitation over the weekend and into Monday. Daytime temperatures will be in the high 30s and low 40s, with below-freezing temperatures overnight.

Weamer said there are several places, including the Beartooth Highway Facebook page, where updates are regularly posted.

“We put everything we hear on Facebook,” she said. “There’s always so much anticipation, which we love, so we try to keep people up to date.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter