Cody’s Scenic Byways – How and Where to See Historic Sites, Wildlife and Natural Beauty Around Every Bend
CODY, Wyo., June 7, 2021 – There is no boring route to or from Yellowstone National Park and the park’s gateway town of Cody. From every direction, northwestern Wyoming 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.
Comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse, Wyo., as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park, Cody Yellowstone offers road trips with a pervasive Western attitude – shared even by four-legged residents including bears and elk – as well as an abundance of charm.
“From the excitement of spotting a bison meandering along a roadway to the panoramic valleys and towering mountains found throughout the region, it’s no wonder a road trip to Cody tops
so many bucket lists,” said Claudia Wade, executive director of the Cody Yellowstone, the marketing arm of the region. “One moment you’re driving past a historic park ranger station and next moment you see the steam rising from a hidden hot spring. We advise travelers to keep their binoculars handy and their eyes peeled, because you never know what’s around the bend.”
Wade said this year – and next – are particularly good for road-trippers who love history. The town of Cody is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and the world’s first national park – Yellowstone – will be 150 in 2022.
There are five scenic driving tours that road-trippers can enjoy with Cody as home base: the East Yellowstone Loop, Beartooth Loop, Bighorn Basin Loop, Bighorn Mountain Loop and South Fork Drive.
Entering the park through the East Gate, travelers can explore the eastern half of the park and exit via the Northeast Gate and Cooke City and connect to U.S. Highway 212. Along the way, visitors will pass Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge, Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Because of the construction-related closure of the road between Canyon Village and Tower Falls that will continue until 2022, road-trippers this year should proceed west from Canyon Village to Norris Junction and then north to Mammoth Falls. From there, head east towards Lamar Valley – known as “America’s Serengeti” because of the area’s abundance of wildlife – before exiting through the Northeast Gate.
From Cooke City, drivers will trace the route taken by Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians in 1877 as they fled the U.S. Army. US Highway 212 connects to Wyoming Highway 296 – the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway – and drops to the valley of Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River. Continuing on Wyoming 296, drivers climb Dead Indian Pass, with dramatic vistas of the Clarks Fork Canyon and Sunlight Basin, before connecting to Wyoming 120 and returning to Cody.
Detours – Yellowstone is full of viewpoints, historic sites and architecture and wildlife. The Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River shouldn’t be missed. Documented by photographer William Henry Jackson and in paintings by Thomas Moran, the beauty of the falls helped inspire Congress to designate the world’s first national park.
Heading north from Cody through the rolling grasslands on Wyoming Highway 120, drivers will pass by the west side of towering Heart Mountain onto the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Wyoming Highway 296. Continuing west over the historic Sunlight Creek Bridge – the highest bridge in the state – travelers should watch for moose and waterfowl as well as a 1,200-foot gorge between the granite Beartooth Plateau and the volcanic Absaroka Mountains.
Turning right onto U.S. 212 – also known as the Beartooth Highway – drivers will learn why commentator Charles Kuralt dubbed the road “the most beautiful drive in America.” Continuing on to Red Lodge, Mont., travelers will see Beartooth Butte and pass many trout-rich ponds and lakes dotting the area before driving the Beartooth Pass, the highest road in Wyoming. To continue the loop, drivers should turn east at Red Lodge onto Montana 308 and proceed through the old coal-mining town of Bear Creek to Belfry, Mont. Upon turning south on Montana 72/Wyoming 120, drivers follow the base of the Beartooth Mountains and Clark’s Fork Canyon before returning to Cody.
Detours – In addition to stopping at the Sunlight Creek Bridge, a popular stop is Red Lodge, Mont., a friendly and historic mining town.
This route begins with 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, visitors will be treated to a spectacular view of the Bighorn Mountains. Heading north on Norwood Road, drivers 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. Drivers 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, travelers 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.
This route begins on U.S. 14A and heads northeast through the towns of Powell and Lovell, past the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Visitor Center and to Burgess Junction. From there, drivers head south onto U.S. 14 along the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains and through wildlife-rich meadowlands before arriving at the town of Greybull, which derives its name from a legendary albino bison bull that was sacred to American Indians. U.S. Highway 14-16-20 continues west to Cody and offers terrific views of the Absaroka Mountains to the west and Heart Mountain to the north.
Detours – Explore the Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center between Cody and Powell for a moving lesson in U.S. history. The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, home to 120 free-roaming wild horses, is a short detour from the Wild Horse Range Visitor Center. On a three-mile access road off 14A between Burgess Junction and Bighorn Lake, visitors will find Medicine Wheel, a mysterious 74-foot stone circle with 28 spokes that some think had religious or astronomical meaning to an ancient Indian tribe.
A good option for Cody visitors with limited time, the half-day drive begins on Wyoming 291 a short drive west of Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center of the West and skirts Cedar Mountain before heading toward the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. The route continues along the South Fork of the Shoshone River and past Buffalo Bill Cody’s original TE Ranch, built in 1895. The road dead-ends near Deer Creek Campground.
Detours – Deer Creek Campground is a desirable place for a picnic lunch, and travelers will likely see abundant pronghorn, elk and deer along the way.
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park. The region is known for rodeos, authentic guest and dude ranches, world-class museums and recreational adventures that reflect the adventurous spirit of the visionaries and explorers who brought the remote region to the world’s attention.
Mesereau Travel Public Relations