Across the Top of the World to Buffalo Bill: Red Lodge to Cody via the Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Miles Drive Today:      115                        Total Mileage 2901

Very peaceful night at the Pollard.  This is a really good hotel.  Stay here given the chance.  We had breakfast (included in our rate) in the hotel dining room.  You could have anything you liked.  I had one of the breakfast skillets which had sausage, bacon lardons, potato bits and two fried eggs… oh and cheese!  I couldn’t eat it all.  Bob had Eggs Benedict.  And of course we had gallons of coffee.  We had a lovely surprise at breakfast to find ourselves sitting next to Eric who has helped me a lot via TripAdvisor with planning our routes.  We only realised who we were so to speak when we got talking about plans for the day.  It had been his suggestion that we took the Beartooth/Chief Joseph route to Cody. Anyway, a very happy coincidence and we will have dinner with him in Cody tomorrow night.

Another rather grey day.  Dry and warm – 20C – with some blue patches but definitely not what it has been in the previous two weeks.  It will probably “blue” up again but maybe the extreme heat has finished.

We set off about 915.  The Beartooth Highway is often billed as one of America’s most beautiful roads.  website

It is 68 miles long through incredible countryside, extreme switchbacks and curves, sheer drops and VIEWS!!!  At the top you reach 10900+ feet, well above the treeline.  It is only open for a few short summer months and with good reason.  You are surrounded by 20 peaks, most well over 12000 feet.  There are glaciers on the north faces of many of the mountains.  We expected to see mountain goats but we didn’t see any.  There were bear signs all over too but no sightings.

What we did see were the alpine meadows of tundra and flowers above 9000 feet.  So  many different colours of flowers: purple; yellow; blue; cream.  A lovely sight.   And so many lakes.  Brrrr they must have been cold.  Temperature at the top had dropped to 4C.  We put our jackets on.   It would have been more beautiful still if the sky had been bluer.  Really, the views were quite staggering, just needed more light to perfect them.

After traversing the highway we turned onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.Chief Joseph website

Another stunning road!  47 miles wending through the mountains at around 8000 feet and downwards, through forest, high pasture, rivers and streams.  In some ways more beautiful than the Beartooth – certainly greener.  Stunning views.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is named after the Native American chief of the Nez Perce Tribe. Following the Battle of the Big Hole in Idaho in 1877, Chief Joseph fled east through Yellowstone. He and 1,000 members of his tribe ran from the US Cavalry, who were trying to force the tribe onto a reservation so that white ranchers could have their lands. While crossing Yellowstone, the Nez Perce briefly captured several tourists before going north up the Clarks Fork River. The Nez Perce were trying to flee to Canada (an 1,800 mile trek), but surrendered after the six-day Battle of the Bear Paw in northeastern Montana. The tribe was stopped only 30 miles from their destination, the Canadian border.

We got to Cody at about 2pm and we parked up at the Irma Hotel, our base for the next 2 nights. The Irma Hotel is a landmark in Cody, It was built by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the city’s co-founder and namesake who named it after his daughter Irma Cody. A focal point is a famous back bar made of cherry that was a gift given by Queen Victoria to Buffalo Bill.  It opened in 1902, to which Cody invited the press and dignitaries from as far away as Boston. The hotel quickly became the social center of Cody. In the meantime, Buffalo Bill was under pressure from creditors and was forced to sign over the hotel to his wife Louisa in 1913, who was at that time on bad terms with him. After Cody’s death in 1917 the hotel was foreclosed upon and sold to Barney Link. Before the end of the year Link’s estate sold the property back to Louisa, who kept it until she died in 1925. The new owners, Henry and Pearl Newell, gradually expanded the hotel, building an annex around 1930 on the west side to accommodate automobile-borne visitors. After her husband’s death in 1940, Pearl Newell operated the hotel until her own death in 1965. She left the hotel’s extensive collection of Buffalo Bill memorabilia to the Buffalo Bill Historical Centre, and stipulated that proceeds from the estate be used as an endowment for the museum.

We had been told it was a little run down of late especially in comparison to the Pollard and the exterior did look a bit tired.  However, our room is really nice and decorated in period fashion, very comfortable.  We were very pleasantly surprised.  Cody is definitely more touristic than Red Lodge.  Buffalo Bill, the great showman would definitely approve!

Tonight we had dinner in the dining room here.  It was a prime rib buffet.  For $37 each you got the buffet plus a ticket to the Dan Williams Music Review in a little theatre up the road.  The buffet was pretty ho hum.  The prime rib was ok, not the best, not the worst.  The rest was pretty mediocre but I guess it was good value.  The music show was really good.  Bob hadn’t been keen to go but he really enjoyed it.  It was a trio and they did mostly cowboy songs.  Not as good as the High Country Cowboys but just as entertaining because they had very good banter in between songs.  Very entertaining.

When we came out it was freezing.  Felt like about 4C.  Yikes I hope it warms up a bit tomorrow.


  1. I believe you mean Dan Miller, not Dan Williams. It’s a great show.
    Chief Joseph and his tribe engaged in 14 skirmishes with the US Cavalry and defeated the Cavalry in all except the last battle. That string of defeats is the largest number of successive defeats in the history of the United States Army.