Two Ways to Avoid Long Yellowstone National Park Entrance Lines
CODY, Wyo., July 23, 2021 – Here are two ways to avoid this year’s much-publicized lines to get into Yellowstone National Park: enter via the East Gate or through the Northeast Gate. The National Park Service has reported that fewer travelers pass through these gates than those to the north, west and south of the park. Both the East and Northeast Gates are easily accessible from the northwestern Wyoming gateway community of Cody.
“Yellowstone National Park is clearly having a moment, and that’s not at all a surprise,” said Ryan Hauck, Director of the Park County Travel Council, the marketing arm for the towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as well as areas inside of Yellowstone National Park and the valley east of the entrance. “Yellowstone is one of the country’s most multi-faceted national parks, with abundant wildlife, otherworldly geothermal features and human history that leaves travelers wanting to learn more. After a year of being cooped up, travelers are drawn to the wide open spaces and enduring wildness of the world’s first national park.”
The 2.2 million-acre park – which is marking its 150th anniversary in 2022 – features five entrance/exit gates. Visitors can also enter from the north via Gardiner, Mont., from the west through West Yellowstone, Mont., from the south and from Jackson, Wyo.
A recent National Park Service (NPS) report examining traffic at the five park gates during the Fourth of July holiday weekend showed the East and Northeast Gates saw far fewer entries than the other three gates. In the same report, NPS noted that overall traffic into the park during that period increased eight percent over the same weekend in 2019. (The NPS report compared traffic to 2019 instead of 2020 because of Covid-19.) Visitation to the park is also way up overall, with NPS reporting a 17 percent increase year-to-date over visitation in 2019.
How to explore the park with Cody as home base
Travelers based in Cody often enter through the East Gate and exit the park through the Northeast Gate or vice versa. With in-park lodges near capacity for the summer, many travelers choose to explore the park during a day trip.
The East Gate is located 52 miles from downtown Cody and travels along North Fork of the Shoshone River on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. Drive time is about an hour. Along the way, drivers will pass rock formations and scenic valleys, and they are often treated to views of wildlife such as bison, elk, bighorn sheep and occasionally, moose grazing in the marshy areas along the river.
The Northeast Gate is 80 miles from downtown Cody. The drive includes the 47-mile Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, offering breathtaking views of the North Absaroka Mountains. The route follows the path taken by the Nez Perce when they famously fled the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Road-trippers can stop at several viewpoints with interpretive signs about the historic and tragic event.
Six more trip tips
Hauck also offered these tips for travelers planning a day-long visit to the park:
- Know where you’re going. Download maps of Cody and Yellowstone National Park before setting out.
- Take the Yellowstone Pledge. Vow to be a responsible and safe visitor by reviewing these easy tips from the National Park Service.
- Download or order free planning guides. Visitor guides are available from Cody Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park and some attractions such as Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
- Set out early, stay late and avoid the midday rush. The National Park Service suggests arriving before the morning rush, which begins around 9 a.m. and staying until sunset, when wildlife watching is at its peak. Also, avoid peak visitor times by seeing popular attractions like Old Faithful Geyser and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m.
- Stock up. Restaurants in the park are immensely popular this year, so consider stocking up at one of Cody’s grocery stores and supplementing restaurant meals with an occasional picnic.
- Midweek is the best time to go. Not surprisingly, there are fewer visitors on the weekdays.
Home of the Great American Adventure, Cody Yellowstone is comprised of the northwestern Wyoming towns of Cody, Powell and Meeteetse as areas inside of Yellowstone National Park and the valley east of the entrance. 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