I left Gardiner, passed through Mammoth Springs and the Lamarr Valley in Yellowstone and then Cooke City in Montana. Roughly 30 miles later you turn to the right and drive Southeast on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. For the most part it’s a beautiful, broad valley with very pretty mountains on both sides that follows the Clarks Fork River. As you wind through the valley there are numerous pullovers where you can stop and get some pictures. I stopped often and I think you will too!
I didn’t need to camp but there were numerous Forest Roads I could have gone down to find a dispersed campsite so I’m certain there was an abundance of campsites available along the entire drive.
Eventually you come to Dead Indian Hill where you start doing some serious climbing up numerous switchbacks. It’s gorgeous the whole way and the road is never steep enough to be a big problem. RVs will have to put it in a low gear and just muscle their way up it slowly but they shouldn’t have any problem. There are numerous pull-outs all along the way and you are going to want to use them. The view down into the valley below and the mountains across the way is amazing!
At the top of the pass is Dead Indian Overlook that gives you the best view of the valley below and mountains across the way. It got its name from the Nez Perce Indians led by Chief Joseph who were fleeing from the US Calvary desperately trying to make it to Canada to avoid slaughter and imprisonment at the hands of the monsters who chased them. They had out-fought and out-maneuvered the Army every step of the way but by now they were exhausted and hungry and their numerous women, children, elderly, sick and wounded were nearly at the end of their ropes–they couldn’t keep going much further. At the overlook they left behind one wounded warrior who was going to die anyway to slow down the approaching cavalry. Standing there it’s easy to imagine how one well-armed man could hold off many enemies for a long time. Eventually he was killed and the spot was named after him. Of course an Indian wouldn’t be honored for his bravery by using his name, just “Dead Indian” as in “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
After the overlook you stay on a high ridgeline and start slowly descending toward the east. Eventually you start to see the vast plains laid out below you and start into the switchbacks the lead down the east side. It remains a very pretty drive all the way down and not all that steep. From the pass down to the east there are several Forest Roads heading off into the National Forest and we pulled off a little ways down one road and stopped for lunch while Cody ran around. It was a very pleasant spot with a nice view down on the plains.
On the drive down on the east side there are several pull-outs where you can stop and take pictures and I stopped at one that was especially pretty with a bright red mountain across from us. As I was taking pictures I noticed a beautiful purple bush a ways down the hill and I thought it would make a nice picture so I walked over and got a bunch of pictures of it.
The rest of the way down was uneventful so I headed on to Cody, drove into town and found the BLM Ranger office and asked about a dispersed campsite on BLM land nearby. They were very helpful and directed me to a great spot about 15 miles out of town either on or above the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. I headed out and found a fantastic campsite with very good 4g Verizon signal. I’ll tell you about it in my next post.
Thanks for supporting this site by shopping Amazon from these links. Even if you don’t buy these items, I will make a little from anything else you do buy–and it will cost you nothing! These are some of the things I find very useful in my travels:
I would not be without my Wilson Sleek Cell/Data Amplifier!! With it I get usable Verizon signal nearly everywhere I go. It works with all cell providers and either 3g or 4g. Right now its $101 and that’s the cheapest I’ve seen it in a long time.
Wilson Electronics Sleek Cell/Data Amplifier–4g Kit
I’ve been using this LED light in my van for two years and I have been extremely happy with it. The fixture and LED bulb is only $8 which is less than most replacement bulbs alone. It puts out plenty of light for my van and it’s a pleasant white light.
Gold Stars LED Dome Light Fixture, 150 Lumens, Natural White
In all my photos of the van you’ll see my cargo carrier on the back. I’m very happy with it and have not drug it once on this whole trip. Highly Recommended!!!
Pro Series Hitch Cargo Carrier for 2″ Receivers