Fall Road Tripping to Cody Yellowstone — The Beartooth Pass and More
There’s something special about a fall road trip. The leaves are changing colors, the open road is inviting, and the possibilities are endless. Of course, this is especially true when you have the chance to experience “the most beautiful drive in America” – The Beartooth Highway – and other scenic byways in Cody Yellowstone.
If you’re road-tripping to Cody Yellowstone, you’re in for a real treat — there’s no wrong way to get here! You can choose from five classic driving routes, each of which is overflowing with plenty of natural beauty. Here’s a closer look at a few of our favorite scenic drives here in Cody Yellowstone.
The Beartooth Pass
Spectacular fall colors, roaming wildlife, and amazing views all await you on the Beartooth Pass. One of our most well-known scenic routes, the Beartooth Highway sprang to fame over a half-century ago when Charles Kuralt (from the CBS program, On the Road) lauded its beautiful (and breathtaking) twists and turns. Making your way along this route in the northwestern corner of Wyoming (with a detour into southern Montana to boot), you can stop to explore historic towns that feel like something out of a history book. This 68-mile route also has a summit of 10,947 feet, making it the highest-elevation paved highway in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Suffice it to say, you’ll feel like you’re on the top of the world all the way up here. You’ll also be rewarded with incredible views of towering buttes, limestone spires, plunging canyons, and glaciers.
The East Yellowstone Loop
For travelers looking for the ultimate road trip, consider combining the Beartooth Pass with the East Yellowstone Loop — an unforgettable 224-mile route. In most years, the East Yellowstone Loop makes its way into Yellowstone National Park through the Northeast Gate and winds its way toward the East Gate before returning to Cody. But 2020 is not like most years. This year, the East Yellowstone Loop looks a little different due to major road construction and closures south of Tower Junction. With this in mind, if you’re planning a road trip, be prepared to drive Yellowstone’s entire Upper Loop. Don’t worry, you won’t regret the extra miles, especially since you’ll have the chance to see several landmarks along the way — including Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Geyser Basin — before heading east and connecting with the Eastern Loop. Once you’re back on the Eastern Loop, you’ll pass Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone — so be sure to pack your camera!
Ready to tackle the Beartooth Highway as well as the East Yellowstone Loop? We recommend setting aside two full days to experience it all. Consider an overnight stay at an in-park lodge such as the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel or Canyon Lodge.
The Bighorn Basin Loop
The Bighorn Basin Loop is another excellent road trip adventure here in Cody Yellowstone. The loop begins with a 30 miles trek through the broken range and badlands before arriving in historic Meeteetse. Here, you can stop for delicious sweets at the Meeteetse Chocolatier before exploring the region’s fascinating history at the Meeteetse Museums. Shortly after getting back on the road, you’ll find yourself in Thermopolis, home of the world’s largest free-flowing hot springs. The town of Ten Sleep isn’t far from here. If you’re wondering about the origin of that name, it comes from the Native American method of measuring distance by the number of nights it takes to travel from one destination to another. From here, the loop follows the Bighorn River north to Basin, Wyoming, before passing through the Greybull River Valley and heading back to Cody.
To make the most of the Bighorn Basin Loop, we recommend setting aside an entire day.
The South Fork Loop
Only have a half-day to spare for the open road? Head out on the South Fork Loop along the Shoshone River. This scenic 84-mile route highlights some of our region’s many historic ranches — including the TE Ranch, which initially belonged to Buffalo Bill Cody. One of the most interesting landmarks along this drive is the Valley Ranch, which inspired the Dude Ranchers Association’s formation. The first groups of guests at the Valley Ranch were almost exclusively socialites from the East. They would arrive at the ranch via the Northern Pacific Railroad and enjoy weeks of rugged outdoor adventures. Over a century later, and Cody Yellowstone is still welcoming visitors searching for adventures.
One more thing you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for as you make your way along the South Fork Loop — bighorn sheep! The region is home to one of the largest herds in the country.
The Bighorn Mountain Loop
Another all-day adventure, the Bighorn Mountain Loop makes its way northeast from to the Bighorn Canyon and Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, which is home to more than 120 free-roaming wild horses. You’ll also come upon a mysterious 74-foot stone circle along this route. What is it? Nobody is entirely sure, but scientists think it had religious or astronomical implications for an ancient Native American tribe. The Bighorn Mountain Loop also makes its way through the town of Greybull, home of fascinating dinosaur fossil beds. The route then makes its way west back to Cody, but not before offering some fantastic views of the Absaroka Range’s jagged ridges and the iconic Heart Mountain to the north.
Open Spaces and Safe Places Await!
With so much to see on the byways of Cody Yellowstone, you’ll want to take the time to do your road trip right. If you ask us, the best way to experience all these routes is by setting up your own personal “base camp” and experiencing a different route every day. Cody has many lodges, cabins, hotels, inns, or Bed and Breakfasts for you to call your home away from home. And they’ve all implemented stringent protocols to address Covid-19 concerns.