Cody Wyoming, Beyond Yellowstone

The Lamar Valley inside Yellowstone National Park is one of the best places to catch views of abundant wildlife. Credit: Cody Yellowstone Wyoming.

Everything to Know for Extraordinary Spring and Summer Visits

Yellowstone National Park is a place that doesn’t need an introduction and needs no gimmicks or snazzy catchphrases to entice visitors to show up at the park’s entrance every year. Yellowstone is iconic, a household name worldwide. From the abundance of wildlife sightings – bison, moose, and bears, oh my! – to the majesty of Old Faithful and other active geysers shooting water into the air and hot springs, Yellowstone is the epitome of natural wonder. 

For many, Cody, Wyoming, population 10,000, is the gateway to Yellowstone. Located 53 miles from the park’s East Entrance, Cody is both a basecamp to explore Yellowstone and an explore-worthy destination on its own. This charmer of a city is a blend of Old West history and modern amenities nestled in the intersection of three mountain ranges: Absaroka Mountains to the West, Bighorn Mountains to the East, and Owl Creek Mountains to the South. 

From adventure activities that fuel your adrenaline to wallet-friendly activities everyone can enjoy, Cody should be a don’t-miss part of any trip to Yellowstone. 

Yellowstone National Park in the Spring and Summer

Cody is about 55 miles and a gorgeous, scenic drive from the East Entrance of Yellowstone. Closed during winter, the East Entrance typically opens to visitors in mid-May, although this is dependent on weather and road conditions. Although things start to get going in May and early June, July and August are the most popular months to visit the park. 

Day Trip From Cody to Yellowstone

Rent a UTV with pre-programmed routes for stunning, unspoiled views of Cody Wyoming.

Cody has plenty of lodging, eateries, and things to do for visitors who want to explore the park but don’t plan to camp there. Driving to and from Yellowstone, plus driving through the park, makes for a sunrise-to-sundown excursion, but the drive is a scenic adventure of its own. An early start and no fixed plans for dinner make for a perfect pairing and a long, fulfilling day. 

Don’t-miss Yellowstone sights include Old Faithful, hiking 1.5 miles to see the vivid colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring from above, and wildlife watching in the Lamar Valley, often called “America’s Serengeti.” Day visitors can pack a lot of sites in, but the key is not lingering in any one place.  

Any day trip to the park merely scratches the surface and will open the floodgates of yearning to plan subsequent trips. That’s not a bad thing, and even if you’ve only earmarked a day to see the sights in the park, it is still very much worth doing. 

Scenic Drive + Education

Take the scenic drive up a notch by listening to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway segment on the TravelStory app. This free one-hour episode was developed in partnership with Cody Yellowstone and will add some historical context to the car ride and is an educational alternative to road trip games. No cell or internet service is required, which is a bonus. Cell service is good in Cody, but reception is spotty once you’re a few miles out. 

Outdoor Thrills in Cody

Wyoming’s rugged outdoor beauty is the perfect landing spot for adventure travelers.

Raft the Shoshone River

Wyoming River Trips has a private put-in area on the Shoshone River, just a five-minute drive from downtown Cody. Credit: Cody Yellowstone Wyoming.

The stretch of the Shoshone River that runs through Cody is very close to downtown and civilization. However, being out on the water – typically Category I through III+ rapids in spring and summer – gives a feeling of remoteness. Wyoming River Trips has a private put-in spot a short, five-minute drive from downtown Cody, which makes their half-day guided rafting trips easy to schedule. 

Explore Cody by UTV

Our off-road journey took place on a very muddy day!

Exploring the 25,000 acres of public lands surrounding Cody in a Polaris Side-by-Side UTV can be wild or mild – driver’s choice! Renting a UTV from Tread ‘N Trails is easy – all that’s needed is a valid driver’s license. All the safety equipment training and pre-programmed routes are included. 

Saddle Up and Ride the Trail

There are many places near Cody where visitors can go on a guided trail ride. Credit: Cody Yellowstone Wyoming.

Explore the wild near Cody and Yellowstone on horseback. Several offer guided rides with mountain views, river crossings, and of course, the ever-present opportunity for wildlife encounters. 

Family Fun and Things Anyone Can Do

Downtown Cody’s Sheridan Avenue has plenty of places to eat, drink, shop, and enjoy the Old West vibes. Fun fact: Bill Cody designed the city’s extra-wide streets to allow horses and carriages to turn easily. Credit: Cody Yellowstone Wyoming.

If you’ve got a multigenerational group that includes older adults and children or want an even mix of high-octane and more sedate activities, these choices are fun and offer a great dose of Western charm. 

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

This larger-than-life image of Bill Cody graces the entrance of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which houses five museums that tell the story of Cody.

This museum complex details the life and history of Bill Cody, the city’s founder and namesake, and other Old West icons like Annie Oakley. Included are exhibits dedicated to Western art, firearms, and the Plains Indians. Standard admission is valid for two consecutive days, so guests can spread out their visit and combine it with outdoor time. 

For a next-level Old West experience, book the Two Mules Chuckwagon Dinner on the grounds of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West from June through August. These dinners are intimate and book fast, so make reservations well in advance. This one is worth planning your day around. 

Cody Nite Rodeo

Summertime in Cody means nightly rodeos, weather permitting. Credit: Cody Yellowstone Wyoming.

No visit to Cody is complete without seeing live barrel racing and bull riding. The Cody Nite Rodeo happens nightly from June through August and includes barrel racing, bull riding, and team roping. A fun, pre-rodeo tradition for many visitors to Cody is the 5:30 dinner at the Cody Cattle Company. Traditional cowboy vittles – brisket, baked beans, cornbread, and more – are served buffet style while guests enjoy lively musical entertainment. Cody Cattle Company is within walking distance of the rodeo grounds, and the show ends in time for guests to move from one venue to the next. 

Unexpectedly Hip Craft Beer Scene

A flight of craft beers with whimsical and comical names.

If you have Old West visions of bellying up to the bar and wetting your whistle with a shot of whiskey, you can certainly live out your dream in Cody, but Sheridan Avenue, which is dotted with shops selling cowboy hats, boots, as well as art and gifts with a Western Flair, is also a solid starting spot to explore some creative craft beers. 

From cream ales to crisp lagers to IPAs with that delightful little bite of hoppiness, this small town is very beer-forward. Places to try: 

  • Cody Brewing Company 
  • WYOld West Taproom 
  • Pat’s Brew House 
  • Millstone Pizza Co. & Brewery 

Cody Yellowstone also offers the Cody Sippin’ Trail Drink Pass as a fun, interactive way to explore local food and beverage options and earn points toward prizes. 

The musical entertainment and dinner at Cody Cattle Company is timed so visitors can enjoy dinner and a show before heading to the Cody Night Rodeo. Credit: Cody Yellowstone Wyoming.

Plan Ahead for Spring and Summer Visits

Cody might be a small city, but the number of people in town soars during summer, with up to 400,000 visitors annually. Visiting during shoulder season is less crowded but may offer fewer options. Popular visitor activities such as chuckwagon dinners and guided outdoor adventures are only offered during summer. Yellowstone’s East Entrance opens based on the weather, so late spring arrivals might mean road closures due to snow. 

A successful trip to Cody balances discovering the fun things to do in town and exploring the beauty of Yellowstone National Park. A weeklong trip is enough time to hit all the abovementioned activities, plus spending at least one full day inside Yellowstone National Park.


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