Not only is Cody Wyoming an ideal place to see the heritage of the old wild west, but is a doorstep to some of the greatest scenic drives in the Northwest, as well as the gateway to the East entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, a world-class museum, displays through photographs, artifacts, and oral histories what the United States Federal Government did to 1,000’s of Japanese people, many which were US citizens after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. With no evidence, other than they were influential people in a community that looked like the enemy, these Japanese Americans were detained in several locations across the country for the duration of the war. The center displays through the eyes of the Japanese, what life was like in this detention center during the war. The Cody Mural and Museum, where the mural painting displays the westward movement of the Mormon pioneers through content and history and is rich in color. The museum showcases historic artifacts and the building of the Sidon Canal which made life in this dry environment possible. On the West side of town is Old Trail Town, where Buffalo Bill established the first town site of Cody City in 1895. Sitting here now is 27 cabins dating from 1879 to 1901, including the “Hole in The Wall Cabin” built-in 1883 where Butch Cassidy and other outlaws used as a hideout. In addition, the museum has an extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles, Wyoming frontier memorabilia, and Indian artifacts. The Center of the West Museum displays an extraordinary array of objects, displays and artifacts which tell the story of the American West. From the contemporary lives of the Native people’s culture and traditions to the rich stories about Buffalo Bill Cody’s history as a western man and the times in which he lived. The firearms museum displays 7,000 historically firearms which tell the story of the West, the story of gun culture, and the story of the people who used them.
The Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway winds its way through the Absaroka Mountains following next to the Shoshone River with beautiful views of the colorful cliff walls. As the highway passes by the Buffalo Bill Reservoir it enters the Wapiti Valley where the scenic views are spectacular with the lush green grazing fields and the mountains as a back drop on both sides.
Just a few miles North of Cody is the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway which runs for 47 miles crossing the Shoshone National Forest through the Absaroka Mountains to Clarks Fork Valley and ends at the Beartooth Byway. After the Battle of the Big Hole in 1877, Chief Joseph fled East along this route running from the US Calvary to avoid being forced onto a reservation.
The 68-mile Beartooth Byway winds through Southwest Montana and Northeast Wyoming and ends at the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The byway provides breathtaking views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains with high open alpine plateaus, countless glacial lakes, waterfalls and provides automobile traffic accesses to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States. Along the highway is over one million acres of prime wilderness with untouched alpine mountain landscape and lush forest. The highway passes through one of the highest and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states and is the highest elevated highway in the Northern Rockies. In Montana the highway peaks at 10,350 feet and Wyoming at 10,947 feet, the highest elevated highway for both states.
Covering more than two million acres and the many varied landscapes makes Yellowstone a wonderland in itself. With 80% of the park being forest and 15% grassland and an abundance of water, makes for a perfect habitat for animals to thrive such as Deer, Moose, large herds of Bison, Elk and the ever so powerful Grizzle Bear and smaller Black Bears, not to mention all the little critters and many species of birds including Bald Eagles. Yellowstone is a prime example of 1,000’s of years of complex geological history, where Geysers, Thermal Pools, Terraces, Fumaroles, and Mud Pots, are still active geological features. However, the park is not only about what is happening far below the soil we walk on, the park is full of awe-inspiring beauty.
In the Heart of Yellowstone is the Grand Loop Road, which resembles a large figure eight. Around the loop road can be found all the major sight’s within a short walk or short drive off the main loop, don’t worry, there is five entrances to the park which lead to the grand loop road. Depending on the entrance one takes, the drive can be up to 225 miles with the Grand Loop being 170 miles of this. Plan on two to three days to see what the park has to offer. The Northeast entrance passes through the Lamar Valley where large herds of Bison graze along the river. Leaving the valley, the highway passes by the Lamar river waterfall before it merges into the Yellowstone River where the highway joins the Grand Loop Road. Entering from The East, the highway winds its way through the Absaroka Mountains next to the Shoshone River along the Buffalo Bill scenic byway to the entrance station about 55 miles West of Cody. The East entrance road cork screws its way through the mountains via the Sylvan Pass at an elevation of 8,530 feet before slowly descending to the East shore of Yellowstone Lake, the highest elevated lake in North America at 7,733 feet. The highway winds its way around the upper part of the lake before crossing the mouth of the Yellowstone River just before joining the Grand Loop Road.
We have all heard so much about the Grand Canyon; however, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is just as spectacular, just nowhere near as big. As a matter of fact, the length is only twenty miles, 1,000 feet deep and 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide. The inspiring beauty of this canyon is where the Yellowstone River has carved dramatic colors and shapes into the canyon walls and where the upper falls plunges 109 feet and the lower falls plunges 308 feet. With 45 named falls and hundreds of unnamed falls makes Yellowstone the perfect place for the tranquil sound and the beauty of water rushing over the cliff walls and boulders. The beauty goes much further, like the grace and beauty at Mammoth Springs where mineral hot-laden water finds its way to the surface sculpting colorful terraces or the drive across Golden Gate bridge, the most challenging bridge ever built-in Yellowstone, original built-in 1885 where 14,000 cubic yards of solid rock had to be blasted away from the cliff and hauled away by horse and wagon. The view from the pullout of the bridge cork screwing its way around the colorful cliff wall is unbelievable. The drive around Yellowstone’s mountains and valleys is definitely full of surprises, and the memories will last forever.