Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary

Located on East 2nd Street is the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. The space originally started as an exotic zoo until a concerned group took action and took over the space, founding the Beartooth Nature Center in 1987. Their mission is now to “provide lifelong sanctuary to non-releasable native wildlife and share a message of conservation and education” (yellowstonewildlifesanctuary.org).

The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is home to a wide variety of wild animals native to Montana. All of these animals are unable to be reintroduced to the wild for various reason–many because of human interference whether they were attempted to be kept as exotic pets or taken out of the wild and acclimated to human interaction. Each animal has a unique story and circumstance.

Lurch the turkey vulture who suffered a wing injury and can no longer fly.
Thor, the canadian lynx was born on a fur farm and rescued later by an individual caretaker who later realized he was too much work before turning him over to the sanctuary. He has poor eyesight and never learned how to hunt.

 

 

 

 

The staff and volunteers at the sanctuary not only maintain the animals and their habitats, but work to educate the public about these animals and the importance of conservation. The sanctuary runs a variety of camps and other educational activities for the youth and people of all ages.

Apache is a gray wolf who was born to a breeder and later relocated to a wildlife center. She never learned how to survive in the wild on her own.
Speedy was the runt of her litter at a bison farm. She was later purchased by a caretaker but became very destructive before ending up at the sanctuary.

 

 

 

 

The areas surrounding the different habitats feature beautiful gardens and grassy areas, and even a designated picnic area for guests. The sanctuary while maybe not the ideal outcome for any wild animal, is realistically the best case scenario for the ones that ended up here. The staff is friendly and the area pretty and well maintained. It is definitely worth the stop to see some beautiful animals and get educated about them in this area located in the gateway to Yellowstone.

Overlook of the grassy areas intertwined with habitats in the sanctuary.

Highway 212

If you’ve heard anything about Red Lodge, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the Beartooth Highway. Proclaimed “the most beautiful roadway in America” by “On the Road” correspondent Charles Kuralt, the highway offers unparalleled views and scenery as it acts as a pass between Red Lodge and Cooke City, and into Yellowstone.

A car makes it’s way past towering rock walls towards the beginning of a series of switchbacks on the pass.
One of many scenic overlooks that are easily accessed from the road.

The highway climbs to 10,947 ft. above sea level and features over 20 mountain peaks. It is also home to a plethora of wildlife and is home to over 900 alpine lakes and hundreds of miles of trails. Pull-offs along the way make it easy to experience the monumental sights or spend some time hiking–there is even a functional summer ski area near the summit that features one lift and a variety of terrain.

A cyclist makes their way down one of the early switchbacks.

The highway features many switchbacks and roadways that have the potential to keep drivers and passengers on the edge of their seat. That being said, it is also a hugely popular spot for motorcyclists–and was voted #1 motorcycling road in America.

About 24 miles into the drive (from Red Lodge) is the boarder between Montana and Wyoming. Though if you continue on the pass you will cross back and forth a couple times, this spot is significant because it is the 45th parallel and exactly between the North Pole and the Equator.

According to Red Lodge’s information center, this is the highest elevation state welcome sign.

Just after hitting the peak of the highway comes a somewhat unlikely attraction. The Top of the World store on the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming is somewhat of a last-stop-shop for gas, food, and a restroom. It features a single old fashioned gas pump, outhouses, and various Beartooth souvenirs as well as snacks and drinks for purchase. The employees bring new stock to the store once a week from Billings. It’s definitely worth a stop even just to stretch your legs.

The Top of the World Store.
Gasoline option throughout the entirety of the pass.

After hitting these points it is essentially smooth sailing to Cooke City and then Yellowstone. This highway is incredible and after driving it it is easy to see what all the hype’s about. Incredible views and scenery unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Driving this highway is definitely a bucket list worthy activity and something that anyone in the area between May and August should consider. It’s more than just a pass or roadway–driving it is an experience in itself.

Switchbacks on the way down the mountain.
One of the impressive alpine lakes visible from the highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bear’s Tooth–the small sharp peak visible from this point is the namesake of the mountain range and the highway.