Day Tripping the Bighorn Basin
There is no bad route to or from Cody, Wyo. From every direction, road-trippers — and Cody-based day-trippers — will drive along scenic byways and highways, pass historically significant sites and spot wildlife roaming free in a wild northwestern Wyoming region that is home to the world’s first national park.
For a true Western driving experience featuring sweeping vistas where you expect the U.S. Calvary to come riding to the rescue, we suggest the Bighorn Basin Loop — one of several scenic byways here in Cody Yellowstone.
The Bighorn Basin itself stretches approximately 100 miles east to west in the north central part of the state between the Absaroka and the Bighorn mountain ranges and roughly 120 miles from north to south. In all, the region is surrounded by six mountain rages: the Bighorn mountains, the Bridger mountains, the Owl Creeks, the Absaroka Range, the Pryor mountains and the Beartooth mountains.
Famed explorer John Colter traveled the basin in 1807, and in 1864 mountain man Jim Bridger blazed a trail — later known as the Bridger Trail. Butch Cassidy lived near Meeteetse before a stint in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. The region’s most famous resident was, of course, Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody who arrived in the late 1800s.
Here are some ideas for exploring this region:
From Cody, take Wyoming Highway 120 south through the town of Meeteetse and to Thermopolis. Turning north onto U.S. 20 to the town of Worland – the agricultural hub of the region – and then taking U.S. 16 east to the town of Ten Sleep, you will be treated to a spectacular view of the Bighorn Mountains.
Heading north on Norwood Road, you will skirt the base of the Bighorns before joining Wyoming 31 and connecting to U.S. 16-20 from the town of Manderson to the town of Basin. You will pass through fertile ranch and farmlands of the Greybull River Valley on Wyoming 30 west before picking up Wyoming Highway 120 again and returning to Cody.
Detours – In Thermopolis, home of the world’s largest free-flowing hot springs, you can stop at Hot Springs State Park to soak in mineral hot pools or visit the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites, also in Thermopolis.
In Meeteetse, grab a treat from the Meeteetse Chocolatier and check out the three Meeteetse Museums — the Bank Museum, displaying an array of authentic artifacts including original bank vault and safes, teller’s cage, an early telephone switchboard, dictaphones and photographs; the Charles Belden Museum of Western Photography featuring photographs of the Pitchfork Ranch, “Little Wahb”, one of the largest grizzlies ever taken in the Yellowstone ecosystem, Mike Crocker’s “Grand Slam” of North American Wild Sheep, antique sheep wagons and the Endangered Black-Footed Ferret exhibit; and the Meeteetse Museum displaying an array of permanent exhibits including one that explores the history of the Black-Footed Ferret, a species that was thought to be extinct until one was spotted in Meeteetse in 1981, prompting a successful push to repopulate the species. There are also rotating exhibits and a room devoted to the collection of oral history.
Hoping to hit the road soon? Learn more about everything there is to see and do in Cody Yellowstone here.