Custer Gallatin National Forest

The Custer Gallatin National Forest is the vast, 3.1-million-acre lands bordering Yellowstone National Park. It includes the Absaroka-Beartooth and Lee Metcalf wilderness areas. This part of the West is for the adventurer, with plenty to do off the beaten path. 

For the relatively easy to get to, though still off the beaten path, is the Beartooth Scenic Byway, a three or so hour drive that can be stretched to many days with its several campgrounds along the route. It’s open seasonally – from Memorial Day to Oct. 15, depending on weather. 

Photo by Jacob Frank/National Park Service (

The Beartooth Highway was first opened in 1936 and is often regarded as one of the best drives in the country, climbing switchbacks from Red Lodge, Montana to the Montana-Wyoming state line. Beartooth Pass is at 10,947 feet in the state of Wyoming. The route returns to Montana before winding back to Wyoming and meeting up with Grand Loop Road, which heads into Yellowstone.

In the Beartooth Ranger District (there are seven ranger districts in total), check out the Lake Fork Trail, which leads from Lake Fork Road (Forest Road 2346) to Sundance Pass. It’s a relatively popular 9.5-mile trail that will give you the lay of the land, acting as a great introduction to the region and inspiration to explore more.