The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Wyoming 296, links Highway 120 (just north of Cody, Wyoming) with the Beartooth Highway and the Northeast Gate of Yellowstone National Park. The route crosses the Shoshone National Forest through the Absaroka Mountains to the Clarks Fork Valley.

The 47 paved miles of the Scenic Byway run from the junction with U.S. 120, 17 miles north of Cody, northwest to their connection with U.S. 212, the Beartooth Highway. The Beartooth Mountains and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River lie to the north of the road, and the Absaroka Mountains and North Absaroka Wilderness are to the south.

As you enter from the eastern entrance, the roadway begins the its 7 percent ascent. There are many scenic overlooks along the way. The most popular overlook is a pullout at 8,000 feet above sea level. It's called the Dead Indian Summit overlook. It's there you can learn about this road's namesake, Chief Joseph.

Following the Battle of the Big Hole in Idaho in 1877, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce fled east through Yellowstone. He and 1,000 members of his tribe ran from the US Cavalry, who were trying to force the tribe onto a reservation so that white ranchers could have their lands. The tribe was stopped only 30 miles from their destination, the Canadian border. In his speech of surrender, Chief Joseph expressed dignity and defeat with his famous words, 'Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.' The Nez Perce tribe was forced onto reservations in Oklahoma and Washington despite promises to allow them back on their lands. Yellowstone's Nez Perce Creek is named for this valiant attempt at freedom.

Similar to the Beartooth Highway, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway passes through National Forest lands for almost its entire length, allowing for virtually unlimited outdoor recreation. There are trailheads, camping grounds, and historic markers all along your drive here.

The most predictable times to drive this highway are during the fall and summer months. During the winter months snow plows keep the roadway open to just east of the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Allow one hour minimum driving time over this stretch of byway or plan for an even longer journey to soak up one of the most beautiful drives across the Cowboy State

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