July 2018 — The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is a gorgeous scenic drive that forks off of the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming. It’s not as well known as the Beartooth Highway, but the views are jaw-dropping.
We had driven the Beartooth Highway several times as an out-and-back trip from Red Lodge, Montana, our mouths forming a permanent “Wow!” every time we drove it.
And each time we passed the turn-off from the Beartooth Highway onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway we craned our necks, wondering what that other scenic drive was like.
After spending a very special 4th of July in Cody, Wyoming, we used that town as a home base to drive the gorgeous Chief Joseph Scenic Byway out to where it interesects with the Beartooth Highway and back again.
We loved it so much we drove it a few more times, catching it in a different light on each drive.
Not far from the start of the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (which is about 17 miles northwest of Cody), we rounded a bend and were shocked to see some huge outcroppings of red rocks. It was a little touch of Utah right there in Wyoming!
We think of Wyoming as being home to tall craggy mountains and woods and open grasslands. What a beautiful surprise to see red rocks glowing orange in the late afternoon sun.
The rain had fallen so consistently for so many weeks during the spring that everything in Wyoming was green and lush. The red rock hillsides were partially covered in a thick layer of tall grasses and green trees. From a distance it almost looked like moss.
We got out of the truck and wandered around on the hillsides for a while. An old, bleached tree trunk looked like it had it’s arms outstretched to the heavens!
A little further on we came to a fabulous overlook at the Dead Indian Summit. There is a big viewing platform and the view is out of this world.
We could see the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway snaking through switchbacks into the valley below.
We had arrived in late afternoon, and the view was backlit by the sun. We thought this overlook might look best in the morning with the early morning light filling all the nooks and crannies, so we got out of bed before dawn one morning to catch the sunrise at the summit overlook.
We needed cloud cover in the west that would pick up the beautiful colors of sunrise slightly after the sun rose in the east. But we wondered if we’d done the right thing as an incredible sunrise developed behind our backs, mostly blocked by a large berm. Arghh!!
However, just as we were giving up and figuring we’d blown it and the sunrise was going to be a one-part-of-the-sky-only event, suddenly the clouds to the west in front of us began to turn a soft pink.
It turned out to be well worth the pre-coffee driving adventure to get there in time for this celestial show, and we were so glad we hadn’t given up and had stuck around long enough to let the sunrise creep across the sky from east to west.
As the sun rose higher, the mountaintops lit up and wild daisies began to slow dance in the soft breeze.
The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is a dramatic drive through the mountains, and we savored every view. Fortunately there are lots of pullouts where you can stop to take pics!
But some of the best experiences were down the dirt roads and hiking trails that wander away from the main drag.
While we preferred hiking on our own two feet (or four paws), others were out on horseback. We bumped into a group of cowboys who had just done a cattle roundup on the other side of the mountain.
Everywhere we went along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway the wildflowers were out sunning themselves, giving the landscape a colorful and cheery air.
We took a gazillion photos, and couldn’t fit them all into one blog post. So here are a few more!
The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway eventually connects to the Beartooth Highway, and we couldn’t resist driving a little of that majestic scenic drive once again. Such gorgeous vistas!
The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River was running fast and free.
At the tiny village of Cooke City we stopped to stroll around. There are a few boutique shops and cute eateries. Buddy saw his first grizzly bear up close outside one store. Luckily it was stuffed!
If you are traveling to Yellowstone National Park, save a few days to drive the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway out of Cody, Wyoming, and/or the Beartooth Highway out of Red Lodge, Montana.
Or, if you want to do it all in one day, do a circle loop that includes both scenic drives (map link below) using Red Lodge, Cody or Cooke-City as a starting and ending point.
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More info about the Chief Joseph Highway:
- Info about Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
- RV Camping in Cody, Wyoming
- Map of Chief Joseph Scenic Byway
- Map of the Circle Loop that takes in both the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways
Other blog posts from Wyoming:
- 4th of July in Cody, Wyoming – The Cody Stampede Parade! 07/04/18
- Afton, Wyoming – Cowgirl Town! 07/20/12
- Beartooth Highway Scenic Drive – Dazzling All American Road – WOW!! 07/06/18
- Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana! 07/27/18
- Buffalo Wyoming – Cowboys, Cowgirls and Sheriff Walt Longmire! 08/27/17
- Buffalo Wyoming – RVing Basque Style in the Bighorns! 09/04/17
- Devil’s Tower, WY – Remember “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” ?? 09/30/07
- Eastern Wyoming Small Towns – An RV Trip through Wyoming’s Quiet Side! 08/15/17
- Flaming Gorge, WY – Absolutely spectacular, colorful views and friendly big-game animals 09/30/12
- Grand Teton National Park – 101 Ways to Enjoy The Tetons! 09/20/14
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- RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls 06/01/18
- Summer Fun in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains 08/10/18
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- Wyoming Back Roads by RV – Rugged, Remote and Wild! 05/18/18
- Yellowstone National Park, WY – Big Game Animals 09/17/07
- Yellowstone National Park, WY – Bubbling Geysers 09/22/07
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