Touring the Byway
5 Days / 4 Nights | Gateway City: Cody, Wyoming
We recommend starting your journey in Cody, a rugged mountain town in the heart of the American West. Hear the incredible stories of the town at the Cody Heritage Museum and Buffalo Bill Center of the West, learn about the pioneers who pursued Western expansion at the Historic Cody Mural and Museum, and experience life on the frontier at Old Trail Town before spending the evening at Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel.
On Day Two drive, the 46 thrilling miles on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Twist and turn your way on WY-296 stopping at scenic overlooks, ultimately reaching an elevation over 8,000 feet at Dead Indian Pass, and defying gravity as you cross Wyoming’s highest bridge, Sunlight Creek Bridge. After a stop in Cooke City, Montana, make your way to Yellowstone National Park. Spend Days Three and Four in Yellowstone exploring the jaw-dropping scenery and dozens of famous geological wonders, hot springs, cones, towering volcanic spires, plunging waterfalls, mud pots, geysers, and of course Old Faithful. By the time you explore both loop routes, you’ll have seen all the most popular locations in the park. Tuck into one of Yellowstone’s on-site lodges for the evening and marvel at the blanket of stars sparkling overhead.
On Day Five, enjoy a leisurely drive through southeast Yellowstone on your way back to Cody, via the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway. Pause at the Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center for a breathtaking view 280 feet over the Shoshone River. From there, we wish you a safe passage if you’re continuing your journey on another Wyoming Scenic Byway, or a safe and pleasant journey home.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Often referred to as the “Smithsonian of the West,” the Buffalo Bill Center of the West weaves together stories of the Yellowstone region and the American West in five different museums. Immerse yourself in the geology and natural environment of the region at the Draper Natural History Museum. Get to know William F. Cody in the Buffalo Bill Museum. Experience the traditions, values, and culture of regional Native Americans at the Plains Indian Museum, and enjoy artists’ depictions of the West at the Whitney Western Art Museum. The Cody Firearms Museum houses more than 4,000 firearms used in the American West.
The creation of Yellowstone National Park and protection of its astounding resources was not without challenges. The first Park Act called for administration with no cost to the United States, which unfortunately, did not protect the land or the wildlife from poaching and squatters. Finally, recognizing that America’s National Parks needed cohesive management, the National Park Service was established in 1916. Fortunately for all visitors since then, Yellowstone has remained a beautiful place with incredible wildlife and more thermal features than anywhere else in the world. It is best to allow at least one whole day to travel each of the two park loop roads. If you enjoy stopping at both the Visitor Centers and the natural attractions, it may take two days to thoroughly explore each loop.
Situated halfway between Cody and Yellowstone on the North Fork of the Shoshone River, Wapiti is named after the Cree Indian word for elk. As you pass through, you can catch a glimpse of Wapiti’s landmark attraction, the Smith Mansion, a five-story, 77-foot high, twisting, rustic structure hand-built without blueprints by the late Francis Lee Smith. He spent every spare moment working on this project for 22 years, that eventually morphed into a tangle of rooms, balconies, and staircases. Made from logs Smith hauled from Rattlesnake Mountain by pickup truck, Smith was hit by falling lumber while alone on a balcony. His body was discovered two days later.
Completed in 1910 at 325 feet, the Buffalo Bill Dam was one of the first concrete arch dams built in the United States. Water held by the dam is used to irrigate more than 93,000 acres of beans, alfalfa, oats, barley, and sugar beets. Be sure to watch the film, view the taxidermy and savor close up views of the reservoir.
Explore a rare collection of ghost-town relics, authentic buildings, and historic furnishing in this reconstructed frontier town where Cody started. Original cabins used by outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a Wyoming saloon frequented by Cassidy’s “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang” were moved to the site, along with the cabin of “Curley,” a Crow scout who helped guided Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry to the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. Several pioneer graves on the property include mountain man John Johnson, portrayed by Robert Redford in “Jeremiah Johnson.”