Travel, United States

Road Trip Day 2: Driving Yellowstone in One Day, and into Cody, WY

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Lewis Lake

My other half and I love adventurous vacations, which have taken us pretty much all over the world.  Several months ago, we decided that we’d stay in our “own backyard”, and explore what the areas of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Keystone, and Colorado had to offer (click here to see all of our posts for our other days).

They said Yellowstone couldn’t be done in one day… but if you get up early enough, and take the faster way around the Grand Loop, it can!

Per our day one post, we traveled from Denver to Moran, WY to not only stay at the Jackson Lake Lodge for a night, but to also arrive in Yellowstone at the South entrance as well.

yellowstone map gl

If you’ve never been, there are four entrances into the park, all of which are varying distances from lodging at each.  In doing my research, the south entrance was most appealing, not just because it was only 1 1/2 hours away from where we were staying, but also because you drive through the Grand Tetons as well, marking it as the prettiest drive (see short video clip below).  What we didn’t expect was that taking the loop clockwise (starting at 7am), from the south entrance, would result in us not getting stuck in traffic, and always having a parking space at the hot spots!

What to See

Below are the image and video highlights of the most fascinating things we were able to see.  Below these, are my recommendations.

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Videos (for more, click here)

Recommendations of things to see:

  • See Old Faithful – it’s worth it to walk the grounds, grab a bite to eat, and wait for the next eruption.  Note that the General Store has gluten-free sandwich options, as well as a ton of picnic items for a scenic picnic anywhere in Yellowstone! Also note that there is a gas station – definitely stop there to refuel, as it could be a few hundred miles before you see another station!
  • Do not miss a single waterfall!  Wyoming (as well as its surrounding states) has seen a significant amount of overall precipitation, resulting in some of the most spectacular (and ferocious) falls I’ve ever seen.
  • Paint Pots and Grand Prismatic springs – both are very beautiful, and an out-of-this-world reminder that you are, in fact, standing on a Super Volcano.
  • If you are tempted to pull off and take a picture of some of the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen, pull off the road and do it!  No two scenery are alike.  Note they have a lot of wide shoulders to pull over onto.  Do no block traffic to take a picture!
  • Hike the 600 ft. to the Lower Falls to be as close as you can to them!  It was our favorite part of the day!  Note that the trek is not for the faint of heart.  It was steep on the way down and very strenuous on the way back up – especially in the heat (note to bring a lot of water).

Other things to note:

  • If you see wildlife, be respectful.  Don’t try to feed them, and stay at least 100 ft. away from them.  We saw some beautiful bison, deer, a moose, and prairie dogs.  Unfortunately, too many people were getting a little too close.
  • BUG SPRAY and SUNSCREEN – at one point in our drive, it sounded like it was raining on our windshield… it wasn’t rain… the bugs are everywhere, as is the sun!
  • Leave all food and drinks (other than water), in a sealed car.  Wildlife will find their way in otherwise, if they want something bad enough.
  • Buy the National Geographic Guide to National Parks – the maps were invaluable!
  • People tend to come from the north and east entrances and go counter clockwise from there.  Reversing this drive will allow to you continue to move at the full MPH without a long line of traffic (which we saw coming in the other direction).

Cody, Wyoming

We did Yellowstone (and the drive to Cody) in about 10 hours, allowing us time to settle into our hotel, and explore downtown Cody for an evening.

Where We Stayed

While there are many charming hotels in Cody, I signed us up for Irma Inn – the most historic and iconic hotel in downtown Cody.  I love history, and the fact that Buffalo Bill not only built this hotel, but also hosted a whole range of famous (infamous in some cases) people, made this even more appealing.  To make this adventurous, I chose the historic section of the hotel, which meant famous figures actually stayed in those rooms, and in some cases, still haunt them.  (Note: Rooms 20 and 35 are the MOST haunted, with rarely a guest actually sleeping in #35.)

Some notes on Irma Inn:

  • It’s historic, not modern.  This means the inn’s floors are dark, old, and decorated with furniture and art from the 1880s – the wallpaper, lighting, and all other features are restored to take on that era feel as well.
  • There are no elevators – this means you’re hauling luggage up creaky stairs
  • They do have free wi-fi and free parking
  • There is a restaurant and bar (the bar itself is original) in the hotel, along with a large porch with live music. We were eager to explore the town, so we didn’t really experience any of this.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive at about $160 a night for a historic room (and a lot less for a more modern one)

Things to See/Eat/Drink/Experience

While there are plenty of modern conveniences about 1/2 mile down the main strip, we chose to experience some of what downtown Cody had to offer.

City of Cody Mini Golf

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For $5 a person, you can learn a little bit more about the City of Cody, while playing 18 of the most difficult mini golf holes I’ve ever played.  It’s a great early evening activity (and yes, I won).

Wyoming Rib and Chop House

If you’re a meat eater, there’s no way you can pass through Wyoming and not have a  steak!  We headed into Wyoming Rib and Chop House for a steak and a loaded Idaho Baked Potato – both of which I highly recommend!

Rawhide Coffee Co.

There are many places to go for breakfast in downtown Cody however, we were looking for something quick, since we had about a six-hour drive ahead of us.  We stopped into Rawhide Coffee Co. for some gluten-free oatmeal, pastries, and coffee, before heading onto our next destination.  I strongly recommend going here, even if it’s just for freshly brewed coffee – it was excellent!

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