THE MOST SCENIC ROADS IN THE WEST LEAD TO YELLOWSTONE COUNTRY
It’s time. Time to pack the kids, the dog, the picnic, the guidebooks, the maps and the “world is my oyster” attitude and hit the road to visit one of the American West’s most scenic, historic and fun-filled destinations – Yellowstone Country. And no matter where a traveler is starting – from points East, West, South or North (well actually, Northeast) – there is a guaranteed “wow” factor on the way.
“No matter where you are coming from, there is going to be a visual treat for everyone in the car,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council, Yellowstone Country’s marketing arm. “We recommend road-trippers heading to Cody bring binoculars, plenty of cold drinks and snacks and most importantly, that they lose their timetables. Our visitors tell us when they arrive that they’ve lost all track of time, with unplanned roadside stops to watch a herd of bison in the field, read a historical marker or meander through small-town shops on the way.”
And once they arrive in Cody and are ready for some human-powered fun, travelers will find an abundance of activities and a wide array of accommodations, from scenic guest ranches to charming boutique hotels.
And if guests haven’t had enough road trippin’ by the time they arrive in Cody, they can always take another day and using Cody as a home base drive one of five scenic loops. Want to see more wildlife? Take the East Yellowstone Loop. Can’t get enough of small towns with local color? Think about the Bighorn Basin Loop. Interested in historic sites and breathtaking sights? Choose the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.
Here’s what to expect if you’re driving to Cody from:
The Northwest, And Yellowstone.
Driving out Yellowstone National Park’s northeast gate can be a remarkable wildlife-viewing opportunity as the road travels through Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, called “America’s Serengeti.” It is typical to see bison and elk in this valley and not uncommon to spot wolves, bears, coyote, bighorn sheep, moose and a wide variety of birds.
Before leaving Yellowstone National Park and heading out the east gate you will drive up and over Sylvan Pass. This stretch was recently widened, and the stone walls on the uphill side of the road are excellent examples of dry stacking. If you have time, park the car at a pull out and look over the edge and down at the road cars used almost 100 years ago. The old road was so steep that it circled back on bridges over itself to create a corkscrew effect. Vehicles often travel backwards at times because it was so steep that gasoline would not flow from the gas tank to the carburetor any other way.
Immediately upon leaving the park, Pahaska Tepee is on the left. This was Buffalo Bill’s Hunting lodge where he entertained friends and dignitaries, including the Prince of Monaco whose flag still resides on the wall of the original lodge. Then it is on to the Wapiti Valley and the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway with rock formations and lava flows with names provided by imaginative locals such as “Old Woman and Her Cabin,” “Laughing Pig Rock,” “Snoopy the Dog” and “Chinese Wall.” Before entering Cody, you will pass Buffalo Bill State Park and the Buffalo Bill Dam, created for the purpose of irrigating the region’s crops.
From Northeast of Cody and Great Wilderness Areas.
This trip from Yellowstone travels from the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Bighorn Canyon and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, home to more than 120 free-roaming wild horses before hitting the towns of Powell and Lovell. In the region you can also see the mysterious 74-foot stone circle called the Medicine Wheel, which some people think had religious or astronomical implications to ancient tribes. Before you get to Cody, check out the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. This educational facility recently opened on the site of a Japanese American internment camp that housed some 14,000 people during World War II.
From South-Southeast of Cody.
From the south exit from Yellowstone on Highway 120, you will reach the town of Thermopolis, home of the world’s largest free-flowing hot springs. Stop at Hot Springs State Park for a leisurely soak before continuing. Make sure you stop in Meeteetse, a tiny Western town known for its charm and its chocolate. Cowboy and chocolatier Tim Kellogg’s shop – The Meeteetse Chocolatier – serves up preservative-free truffles in wide-ranging combinations.
From The East Of Cody.
Traveling from east, chances are you will go through the town of Greybull, named for a legendary albino bison bull that was sacred to American Indians in the region. You will also pass some of the world’s finest dinosaur fossil beds before arriving in town.
All five scenic drives to Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country take travelers past some of northwestern Wyoming’s most breathtaking valleys, mountain passes, rivers and forests. And when travelers finally arrive in the dynamic town of Cody, they can choose an inn, lodge, guest or dude ranch to park their cars and enjoy some human-powered activities for a few days.
For complete details about all five scenic drives, visit www.yellowstonecountry.org/
Yellowstone Country is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The area of Park County is called “Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country” because it was the playground of Buffalo Bill Cody himself. Buffalo Bill founded the town of Cody in 1896, and the entire region was driven and is still heavily influenced by the vision of the Colonel. Today its broad streets, world-class museum Buffalo Bill Historical Center and thriving western culture host more than 1 million visitors annually.
The Park County Travel Council website (www.yellowstonecountry.org) lists information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more. Travelers wishing to arrange vacation can also call the Park County Travel Council at 1-800-393-2639.