Beartooth Pass Montana Slope Spot, Rock Creek Vista

Whenever I am out west on vacation I usually find a way to get to Beartooth Pass. The road between Red Lodge, Montana and the NE gate of Yellowstone Park. On this trip I had several slope planes along and tried several slope spots on the drive. This one describes the Rock Creek Vista overlook.

Heading out of Read Lodge take US Hwy 212 up towards Bear Tooth Pass. This is one of the most scenic drives in the entire United States and would be worth the drive even if it were not for the many slope flying opportunities that are presented along the way. Venerable CBS newsman, Charles Kuralt has called this road “America’s most beautiful highway.”

The first spot I flew was the Rock Creek Vista at an elevation of 9160 feet. The Vista is a pull out with a path leading out on a point with a great view of the valley below. This spot can be heavily trafficked, although the day I was there only two other cars were in the lot.

Do I do it?
Photo: Wendy Smith

I tossed the Weasel over the wall and out into amazing lift. If the plane did not fly there was no way to get it back as the slope drops off very steeply and is 1500 feet or more above the valley floor. It took me a minute to work up the courage to toss the Weasel out but it was no problem at all in the end. I am sure any slope plane would have flown fine the lift was that good. I chose the Weasel because the landing area is the parking lot and is entirely paved. A hand catch made this a moot point but there was some pretty significant turbulence on the way in so I felt better safe than sorry.

I do it!
Photo: Wendy Smith

I’ve noticed that in the mountain passes the wind can be deceiving and it may blow directly in your face at the edge while being almost 180 degrees different out 200 feet. A slope dummy plane is a good first flight. For me that is usually the Weasel or the SH-50. With either plane I am confident that I can make the most of dicey conditions if needed and I can always get enough height on a launch to make a couple of passes to figure out the lift potential. After I get a feel for the site I make the choice of which plane will be best for the conditions.

NOTE: The proximity of the launch spots to the road may make it hazardous to land in some areas. The spots I flew were all no problem for me to land at and the early season, midweek timing probably meant fewer cars to deal with but please pay attention and it is your responsibility to act and fly safely. I can’t control your plane. Only you can. So make us slopers look responsible and don’t fly if you are not comfortably and confident in your abilities.

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