Na Piet Say
The name “Beartooth” comes from a Crow name, Na Piet Say, meaning “the bear’s tooth” and refers to a sharp spire that juts from the Beartooth plateau. Traveler on the Beartooth All-American Road should watch for “the bear’s tooth” at the West Summit pull-out.
Granite Peak, named for its pinnacle of glacial sculptured granite, is Montana’s highest mountain at 12,799 fee above sea level. Granite Peak is one of the most difficult U.S. state highpoint ascents, due to technical climbing, poor weather, and route finding. Granite Peak’s first ascent was made by Elers Koch on August 29, 1923 after several failed attempts by others. It was the last of the state highpoints to be climbed. Today, climbers typically spend two or three days ascending the peak, stopping over on the Froze-to-Death Plateau, although some climbers choose to ascend the peak in a single day.
Valley of the Clark’s Fork
The Beartooth All-American Road passes through the Clarks Fork Valley. The Clark’s Fork River, running through the valley was named in honor of William Clark by Meriwether Lewis on their famous westward expedition. Neither Lewis or Clark ever saw this spectacular valley, but camped at the river’s confluence with the Yellowstone in 1804. John Colter, Lewis and Clark’s guide became the first white man to see this valley after he left the expedition in 1807. The valley has long been an artery for travel. The Bannock Indians of Idaho traversed the water course on their buffalo hunting trips and miners later used the Bannock Trail to reach the mines at Cooke City, Montana.
Rising over the Clark’s Fork Valley Pilot & Index Peaks (seen in the image above) are the most widely photographed peaks on the Beartooth Highway. Pilot Peak is often mistakes for the “bear’s tooth”. The two peaks were eroded almost to their present shape by glacial ice over 20 thousand years ago.
Visit our photo gallery page for more breathtaking images of the Beartooth All-American Road and surrounding areas.