“Not The Year to Wing It;” Tips for Planning a Cody Yellowstone Trip This Summer
CODY, Wyo., February 10, 2021 – Northwestern Wyoming’s Cody Yellowstone is one of the least populated places in the country’s least populated state, and with a little advance planning, visitors to the destination this year can count on experiencing a lot more big sky, big wildlife herds, big rivers and big valleys than big crowds.
“If there was ever a year for careful vacation planning, this is it,” said Claudia Wade, executive director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm for the region. “Many Americans are dreaming of a road trip right now, and with Cody Yellowstone’s combination of natural beauty and fun attractions, we know we’re on plenty of destination lists. This is not the year to wing it.”
The region is comprised of the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse, Wyo., as well as the valley east of Yellowstone National Park, located 52 miles from the heart of Cody. With five Scenic Byways that travel in and around the park, many visitors combine Cody and Yellowstone National Park into a days-long, epic road trip.
“The first step of a successful summer trip to Cody Yellowstone can start right now with research and planning,” said Wade.
Following are tips and links to resources for making the most out of a 2021 Cody Yellowstone trip.
Covid-19 Protocols and Park Updates
Covid-19 protocols in Cody Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park are continuously updated to reflect current local conditions, and visitors should check websites for the latest information. Mask mandates are in place for all public areas in Yellowstone National Park. In Park County, Wyo. where Cody is located, visitors must wear masks while inside retail or commercial businesses, while visiting healthcare operations and while waiting for or riding any public transit including taxis, tours, buses and shuttles.
Gather and Review Resources Soon
For starters, download or request a free copy of the 2021 Cody Yellowstone Vacation Guide for at-a-glance information and use online resources to find out about lodging and camping in Cody and Yellowstone National Park, attractions, maps, park road conditions, entrance fees, parking and Cody and Yellowstone dining options.
Pro tip: Download the free Yellowstone National Park app for interactive maps, itinerary suggestions, wildlife watching safety recommendations, history, stories and more. Also download the TravelStorys audio walking tour of historic downtown Cody and TravelStorys Yellowstone National Park audio tours.
Book lodging soon, but review cancellation policies. Cody features a wide selection of lodging choices including Bed & Breakfasts, limited service hotels, luxury hotels, boutique inns and dude and guest ranches. Lodges in the park such as the popular Canyon Lodge are also accepting reservations now. Although most hotels allow full refunds for cancellations made within a certain time period, some dude ranches have different policies.
Reserve campgrounds too. RVers and campers have plenty of choices in and around the park. There are several first-come, first-served campgrounds in the park as well. There are even more options outside park boundaries.
Good to know:Fishing Bridge RV Park will be closed throughout 2021 due to an ongoing construction project.
Pro tip: Visit during the shoulder season to avoid peak-season crowds. The last two weeks in May, first two weeks in June, last two weeks in August and first week in September typically see fewer visitors than peak summer times.
Visit Cody First
There are plenty of ways to plan a Cody and Yellowstone itinerary, but if at all possible, Wade recommends traveling to Cody first.
Many of Cody’s authentic Western attractions nicely complement a visit to Yellowstone. The Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, for example, ingeniously provides visitors with an overview of the park’s four ecosystems with exhibits that showcase the park’s sights, sounds and even smells. An hour-long Cody Trolley Tour provides a history of the town Buffalo Bill founded in part to capture the imagination – and dollars – of early visitors to the park.
Additionally, there are classic Western adventures like the Cody Nite Rodeo and Old Trail Town & Museum of the Old West that help travelers get into the Western spirit.
From the town of Cody, travelers have two choices for accessing Yellowstone National Park. The Northeast Gate takes visitors to the wildlife-rich Lamar Valley. The East Gate leads to Yellowstone Lake.
The town of Cody is small and easy to navigate. Most of the destination’s major attractions listed below are located on Sheridan Ave., the town’s main street. Some attractions are out of town, and estimated drive times to and from downtown Cody are noted. Here are the most-visited attractions and the minimum recommended amount of time visitors should plan for each one.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West – Three hours.
Heart Mountain WWII Interpretive Center – One hour plus 20 minutes driving each way.
Cody Nite Rodeo – One evening.
Old Trail Town & Museum of the Old West – One hour.
Cody Trolley Tour – One-hour tour.
Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue – One evening.
Cody Firearms Experience – One hour.
Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center – One hour.
By Western Hands Museum & Gallery – One hour.
Meeteetse Museums – One hour plus 30 minutes driving each way.
Pro tip: Leave time to wander Sheridan Avenue and explore its many shops and art galleries.
Yellowstone National Park Basics
At 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone National Park can be overwhelming to first-time visitors seeking to experience as much as possible of the park’s geothermal features, observe its wildlife, see its remarkable architecture and learn about its fascinating human history.
Pro tip: Visit the most popular park sites such as Old Faithful Geyser and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River during the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the peak crowds.
The park’s main roads are laid out in a figure eight, with a lower loop and upper loop as well as roads leading to each of the five main entrances. Along each road, there are pullouts that must be used by vehicles stopping to observe wildlife.
Pro tip: Choose just a few must-see features and leave lots of time for wandering boardwalks, hiking along trails and just listening to the sounds of the park.
The park is home to nine lodges, multiple restaurants, National Park Service (NPS) Visitor Centers, service stations, hiking trails and boardwalks, viewpoints and much more.
Pro tip:Build in time to explore NPS Visitor Centers like the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, which features innovative exhibits about the park’s geothermal “plumbing systems.”
The park is home to an array of wildlife including predators like wolves and bears as well as elk, pronghorn, fox, coyote, eagles and other raptors and many other species. The National Park Service asks visitors to stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and 25 yards from all other wildlife.
Pro tip: There are numerous tour companies that offer guided interpretive tours in the park including small-group bus and van tours, horseback riding, lake cruises and an Old West Dinner Cookout.
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