The road ended in Red Lodge, Montana, before the Beartooth Highway was hacked across 64 miles of western mountains in 1931-36 to bring Yellowstone-bound auto tourists to this remote corner of the Montana-Wyoming borderlands.

A pile of postcards followed preserving the appearance of the Beartooth and the small towns of Red Lodge, Cooke City, and Silver Gate as they welcomed their first wave of tourists in the 1930s and 1940s.

Bars and cafes line a 1946 Broadway in Red Lodge, Montana, gateway to the Beartooth Highway and the Northeastern Entrance to Yellowstone National Park 64 miles away.

Porcelain metal box signs followed the tourists to Red Lodge, Montana, after the 1936 opening of the Beartooth Highway. Neon beckoned out-of-towners to the Chief Hotel, Beartooth Bar & Grill and the Red Lodge Café.

More 1946 neon on Red Lodge’s South Broadway advertising the Old Star Bar, Natali Café, Wagon Wheel Bar, the Green Derby, and the Roman Theater opened in 1917.

Founded in 1884 as a Northern Pacific coal mine town, Red Lodge, Montana, started mining tourists after the coal ran out in the 1920s. The See ‘Em Alive Zoo opened soon after the 1936 completion of the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone.

The Red Lodge Tourist Park was just one of several overnight accommodations that could be found in Red Lodge, Montana, in the 1930s and 1940s before or after the long drive to Yellowstone.

Red Lodge’s 4th of July rodeo was the big event of the year, perfectly timed to catch Yellowstone-bound auto tourists wanting something uniquely Western. Red Lodge was home to the Riding Greenoughs, a family of rodeo performers famous in the 1920s-40s.

West from Red Lodge, Montana, the Beartooth Highway followed Rock Creek to a wall of switchbacks that carried the road over the Beartooth Mountains.

West of Red Lodge, Montana, the road to Yellowstone crested the Beartooth Mountains 10,942 feet above sea level.

Celebrated in 1936 as a “well-oiled, 6% grade, high-gear road,” the Beartooth Highway was (and still is) narrow, winding and not likely to be open before June. Still, early-season tourists were thrilled to drive through the road’s alpine snow chasms.

Rather than pointing out highway deficiencies, Dead Man’s Curve, Mae West Curve, tight switchbacks and lofty Lookout Point celebrated the death-defying engineering achievement of having any road at all in such a mountainous wilderness.

All of Cooke City, Montana, on one postcard; three bars and a grocery store.