Yellowstone is so massive and there are so many incredible views to be had from your car, that many people spend the majority of their time in the park within the confines of their vehicle. While we generally prefer to get out and hike and explore, we spent our fair share of time traversing the park in our rental car and experiencing the views from the road. By far our favorite drive was the Blacktail Plateau Drive, a six-mile, one-way dirt road with unbelievable mountain views.
If you’re heading west from Tower Junction on Grand Loop Road, the entrance to Blacktail Plateau Drive is about 8.5 miles up on your left. If you’re heading east from Mammoth, the entrance will be on you right after about 9 miles.
The road is rough and full of potholes, so the six-mile drive will take about 20-30 minutes, not including the time you will inevitably spend pulling over to take pictures. It’s definitely preferable to drive this road with a high clearance vehicle, but it’s easily passable without one as long as you take it slow. There were a handful of other cars on the road during our drive, but compared to the main roads in the park, it was relatively quiet. The road is one-way and takes you from west to east, running more or less parallel to Grand Loop Road with sweeping mountain vistas off to your left for much of the drive. The drive begins with a relatively steep ascent before reaching the plateau. After a few miles, the view in the rearview mirror becomes too good not to pull over.
The northern part of the park, while there are no geysers to speak of, has some of the most impressive mountain views and some of the best opportunities to spot wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see bears lumbering along the plateau, but unfortunately we had no such luck; however, we did see a herd of bison crossing the road…so we had that going for us…which is nice.
There are plenty of places along the road to pull over to either let people pass or to get out and walk around. As you might imagine, the section of the drive along the plateau is relatively flat, but once you start making the descent back down towards the Grand Loop Road, the grade becomes very steep and the road starts to wind back and forth.
Even if you don’t see any wildlife along the drive, the views are well worth it and it’s a welcome break from the crowds.