53 miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone

Welcome to the Wild West: More than any other Yellowstone gateway town, Cody has staked its identity on keeping the era of cowboys and Indians alive and kicking. No wonder, considering the town’s history: The famed Old West showman William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody helped found the place in the 1890s, and his work securing a railroad stop and dam spurred the town’s growth. Today, that Wild West flavor still permeates Cody, from the main drag shootout reenactments to the rebuilt historic Old Trail Town to the cowboy hats and belt buckles you’ll spy downtown. 

Set in the gorgeous Bighorn Basin and ringed by three sets of mountains (the Bighorns, Absarokas, and Owl Creeks), this area would be an outdoor haven even without its proximity to Yellowstone. The Shoshone River flows right through town, and the 50-mile scenic drive from Cody through the Wapiti Valley to Yellowstone is by far the most visually stunning way to approach the park. After you’re through playing outside, Cody makes a primo basecamp for browsing galleries, catching a rodeo, and checking out a collection of stellar museums. Buffalo Bill would be proud.


Getting There: Cody is a 4-hour, 177-mile drive from Jackson if you take U.S. 89 north and U.S. 14/16/20 east through Yellowstone; it’s another hour if you go via U.S. 26 east and WY 120 west outside the park borders (which you’ll have to do fall through early summer). From Sheridan, it’s 147 miles and 3 hours away on U.S. 14 west. If you’re traveling from Cheyenne, take I-25 north and U.S. 20 west 392 miles and nearly 6 hours to get to Cody. Be aware winter storms can quickly make the roads treacherous: Call 888/996-7623, or 511 (in state) or 307/772-0824 for road and travel information. Online, visit www.wyoroad.info.

Visitor Information: The Cody Chamber of Commerce, 836 Sheridan Ave. (307/587-2777; www.codychamber.org), visitor center is open daily 8am to 7pm in summer (to 5pm Mon–Fri fall–spring). The Park County Travel Council (307/587-2297; www.yellowstonecountry.org) is also a great source of info. 

Getting Outside

The very best outdoor recreation opportunities around Cody are in Yellowstone itself. Beyond that, the Shoshone National Forest lies between the park and town and offers trails that grant access to the North Absaroka and Washakie Wildernesses, plus a number of peaceful campgrounds along the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Closer to town there’s Buffalo Bill State Park, a small preserve on the shores of Buffalo Bill Reservoir. If water sports such as boating, fishing, waterskiing, and windsurfing are your thing, it’s well worth a stop; two campgrounds accommodate RVs and waterfront picnic areas abound. In winter, Sleeping Giant Ski Area attracts local alpine skiers, Nordic fans glide several groomed trails, and ice climbers flock to the South Fork Valley. Sunlight Sports, 1131 Sheridan Ave. (307/587-9517; www.sunlightsports.com), carries a full suite of camping, climbing, and skiing equipment plus rentals. Sierra Trading Post, 1402 8th St. (307/578-5802; www.sierratradingpost.com), sells top-brand gear and apparel for steep discounts.

Several Cody outfitters also run tours into Yellowstone, which are great for people who don’t want to deal with mountain driving over Sylvan Pass or high-season traffic hassles in the park. Among them: Cody Wyoming Adventures (307/587-6988; www.codywyomingadventures.com), Experience Yellowstone (307/272-6671; www.experienceynp.com), and Grub Steak Expeditions (307/527-6316; www.tourtoyellowstone.com). Expect to pay anywhere from $175 to $550, depending on tour length.

Climbing: The canyon of the Shoshone River on the way to Yellowstone is a magnet for rock and ice climbers, offering routes ranging from rookie-friendly to challenging. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (307/733-4979; www.jhmg.com) runs day climbs in summer ($185–$245 per person) and ice climbs in winter ($220–$290). Major ice fans should plan their trips to coincide with the Cody Ice Festival (www.codyicefest.com), which hosts climbing clinics, speakers, and plenty of parties.

Fishing: Trout-laden waters and dependable solitude make Cody an angling heaven. Fly-fishing is tops on the easy-access Shoshone River, including its North Fork and South Fork. The Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone, Wyoming’s only Wild & Scenic River, is another favorite. About 80 miles south of town, the slow-moving Big Horn River appeals to beginners. And boat fishermen cast into the waters of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, home to lake trout, browns, cutthroats, and rainbows. Tim Wade’s North Fork Anglers, 1107 Sheridan Ave. (307/527-7274; www.northforkanglers.com), carries all the equipment you’ll need and can lead you right to the fish on a variety of guided trips, from floats to riverside strolls (rates start at $300–$350 for a half-day trip). 

Float Trips/Rafting: The supremely scenic and relatively mild (most sections are Class II or III on a 5-point scale) Shoshone River makes Cody a fine place to get out on the water. The longstanding outfitter Wyoming River Trips, 233 Yellowstone Ave. (307/587-6661; www.wyomingrivertrips.com), guides in the lovely Red Rock Canyon, the Lower Canyon, and the North. Red Canyon River Trips, 1119 12th St. (307/587-6988; www.codywyomingadventures.com), offers floats and rafting trips in those areas, plus the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone. Shorter trips cost about $30 and half-day outings about $75.

Golf: Sneak in a game at the 18-hole course at Olive Glenn Golf and Country Club, 802 Meadow Lane ( 307/587-5551; www.oliveglenngolf.com), Cody’s lone option. Fees are $45 for 9 holes and $68 for 18, cart included.
Hiking: There’s no shortage of excellent trails around Cody. Closer to town, hoof up the steep Sheep Mountain or Heart Mountain trails for big views of the Bighorn Mountains. The Shoshone National Forest also offers several hikes along mountain creeks, into wildlife-packed basins, and up to the high-elevation Beartooth Plateau. 

Skiing: Sleeping Giant Ski Area, 348 North Fork Hwy. (307/587-3125; www.skisg.com), is a fraction of the size of the resorts around Jackson, but lift tickets also cost a fraction ($36) of what you’d pay there, and this two-lift operation is a great spot for families. Cross-country skiers find almost 12 miles of track at North Fork Nordic Trails, 183 North Fork Hwy. (www.nordicskiclub.com), near Pahaska Teepee Resort, just outside Yellowstone’s East entrance.
Snowmobiling: Private permits for snowmobiling inside Yellowstone are tough to get, so sledding on a guided tour is often your best bet. Gary Fales Outfitting, 2768 North Fork Hwy. (307/587-3970; www.garyfalesoutfitting.com), is the only Cody-area park concessionaire and leads day trips among the geysers and along Yellowstone Lake; trips cost $375 per double snowmobile. DIY sledders can explore an extensive trail network in the Beartooth Mountains, the Bighorns, the Wyoming Range, and stretching along the Continental Divide; check out the Wyoming State Trails Program website (www.wyotrails.state.wy.us) for trail maps. 

Windsurfing: Wyoming’s strong winds make the 8-mile-long, 4-mile-wide Buffalo Bill Reservoir a popular windsurfing destination. It’s best experienced from June to September. There is a boat ramp near the campground on the north side of the reservoir, just off U.S. Hwy. 14/16/20. There are no places to rent a windsurf board in the vicinity.

Special Events

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s five museums hold several fun and fascinating events throughout the year. Tops among them are the June Plains Indian Museum Powwow, where traditional Native American dancers compete for prizes, and the September Rendezvous Royale, a Western art show and auction with seminars and artist studio tours. Contact the center (307/587-4771; www.centerofthewest.org) for details. And if you’ve never been to a rodeo (and even if you have), don’t miss the annual Cody Stampede (307/587-5155; www.codystampederodeo.com), held leading up to the Fourth of July: It’s a classic Western good time, complete with a parade, craft fair, and plenty of ropin’ and ridin’. 

Where to Stay
Cody’s lodging options include high-class inns, historic hotels, and budget-friendly basics. If you’re in the market for a larger cabin or rental home, check out the 80-plus choices managed by Cody Lodging Company, 1302 Alger Ave. (307/587-6000; www.codylodgingcompany.com). The Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) game in Cody is also strong, with a variety of affordable choices, and VRBO (www.vrbo.com) offers several upscale homes in the Shoshone River canyon. 

Where to Eat

Cody has a rep as a steak-and-potatoes kind of town—and you’ll certainly have no trouble finding a burger or a T-bone—but recently, more variety has been creeping into the dining scene. For a morning bite, Peter’s Café & Bakery, 1219 Sheridan Ave. (307/527-5040), attracts locals with traditional breakfasts and fresh-baked pastries, plus lunch and dinner. Locals say the best espresso in town can be had at the Beta Coffeehouse, 1450 Sheridan Ave. (307/587-7707). And one of the liveliest rodeo hangouts you’re likely to visit, the Proud Cut Saloon, 1227 Sheridan Ave. (307/587-6905), offers monster steaks and burgers. And that name? It’s an homage to a stallion that stays feisty even after gelding.

Cody After Dark
Cody hosts a pair of dinner-and-music shows. One, Cody Cattle Company, 1910 Demaris St. (307/272-5770; www.thecodycattlecompany.com), is more family-friendly and features a chuckwagon-style buffet dinner and a live “cowboy band.” Open early June to mid-September; shows start at 6:30pm. Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue, at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West at 720 Sheridan Ave. (307/578-7909; www.cowboymusicrevue.com), takes the music side of the show a bit more seriously; performances run early June to late September at 6:30pm. There’s no better place to warm up your dancin’ boots than Cassie’s Supper Club (see above). The Silver Dollar Bar, 1313 Sheridan Ave. (307/527-7666), is another local favorite watering hole with pool tables, but be aware the scene can get a bit colorful late at night. For a more relaxed evening, sample the local suds at Pat O’Hara Brewing Company, 1019 15th St. (307/586-5410; www.patoharabrewing.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.