Getaway Guide: Spend the Weekend Exploring Yellowstone National Park
Sunset over the mountains near Cody, Wyoming. Photo Credit: Danielrao (iStock)
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park and is filled with unbelievable natural wonders, including geysers, mudpots, hot springs, and wildlife. Cody, Wyoming, located 53 miles from the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, is known as the gateway to Yellowstone and is a town also replete with history and a culture entirely infused with the spirit of the wild west. From museums to outdoor recreation, scenic drives to waterfall hikes, a trip to Cody and Yellowstone is one the whole family will enjoy. We’ve put together an awesome itinerary for you so that you can make the most out of your weekend exploring Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming.
Day One – History, Wild Mustangs, and a Wild West Dining Experience
Getting to Cody, Wyoming has never been easier, thanks to the Yellowstone Regional Airport. Delta Airlines and United Airlines flights arrive daily from Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado, making it one of the most accessible destinations in the Rocky Mountain West for a weekend getaway.
When you arrive on your first morning, head to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West to immerse yourself in the Wild West history of Cody. You’ll find historic footage, artifacts, and educational displays that depict life in 1895 when the town was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody. Buffalo Bill was a famous Union army scout during the Civil War, a bison hunter, and most famously, he was a showman. He started Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a company that performed wild west reenactment shows all over the world. The Center of the West houses art, photographs, and firearm artifacts from this show.
Once you finish exploring the museum, jump on a Cody Trolley Tour to learn more about the town of Cody. This 60-minute tour covers 100 years of history, including historic figures like Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, Native American history in the area, wildlife and the natural landscape, and notable landmarks throughout the town.
Time to refresh and refuel for the afternoon’s adventures! Head downtown for a leisurely lunch at Rocky Mountain Mojoe for gourmet sandwiches and paninis, salads, homemade soups, pastries, and great coffee.
The afternoon and evening are all about the natural landscape surrounding Cody. Start your afternoon at the Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor’s Center, a reservoir created by a 325-foot concrete dam built in 1910. This engineering marvel was once the highest in world, and today, you can enjoy the visitor’s center complete educational displays, and you can walk along the top of the dam, looking out over the Shoshone River.
2,000 miles of premier fishing waters in which you’ll find cutthroat, brown, rainbow, and brook trout surround the town of Cody. You can take a guided fishing trip or head out on your own to renowned spots such as North Fork of the Shoshone River, a blue ribbon trout stream. If you’re excited about water sports, you can also head out on a heart-pumping whitewater rafting adventure. Wyoming River Trips takes guests on half and full day trips through Red Rock Canyon, which promises amazing views, fun rapids, and an opportunity to learn about the wild west history of the region.
For the evening, head back to town to meet up with your guide for a 5:30 p.m. Red Canyon Wild Mustang Tour. On this three-hour tour, you’ll head into the McCullough Peaks Wild Mustang Area for incredible views of the landscape and the iconic wild horses. You may also see antelope, eagles, coyotes, and prairie dogs. The tours provide guests with binoculars, and you also would not want to forget your camera for this experience!
Did you know that Cody, Wyoming is known as the Rodeo Capital of the World? 2018 marks the 99th anniversary of the famed Cody Stampede and the 80th anniversary of the rodeo’s nightly performances. It’s the longest running and only nightly rodeo in the world. The Cody Nite Rodeo action kicks off at 8 p.m. with barrel racing, bull riding, bronc riding, and more. This popular attraction is definitely a must-see during your visit to Cody!
Finally, end your night at Cassies’s Supper Club, a hotspot since it opened in 1922. In addition to being a great steakhouse, this restaurant also has a dance floor and three bars. Kids are allowed in the dining room and banquet room until 10:00 p.m. when the restaurant stops serving food and turns into a bar.
There are lots of lodging options for your stay in Cody, including guest houses, guest ranches, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds. Get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow, you’re headed to Yellowstone.
Day Two – Scenic Drives and Exploring Yellowstone National Park
The beauty of Yellowstone National Park doesn’t just start at the park’s borders. Dubbed “the most scenic 52 miles in the United States” by President Teddy Roosevelt, the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway connects Cody to the east entrance to the park. You’ll pass through the Wapiti Valley and alongside the North Fork of the Shoshone River as well as the Absaroka volcanic mountain range. Right before the entrance to the park, you’ll find a gas station, store, restaurant, and the Pahaska Tepee resort. You can also take a tour of Buffalo Bill’s 1904 hunting lodge and embark on local trail rides on horseback.
There’s so much to see in Yellowstone that it’s hard to experience the whole park in one day, but some highlights include: Old Faithful Geyser and the Upper Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Lamar Valley, and Tower Fall. Expect to see wildlife, including bison herds, throughout your visit, and expect to come home with amazing memories and photographs to last a lifetime.