With the Arizona heat, the lockdowns and the lack of travel related work right now, both myself and my family needed a respite. A road trip to Cody, Wyoming was the destination.
THE PLANNED DRIVING ROUTE
Driving gave us the opportunity to stop and sightsee along the way and flexibility in our schedule. The chosen route took us from Phoenix through Utah, Idaho, Montana, Yellowstone National Park and ending up in Cody, Wyoming. We decided on this route to spend a couple of days in West Yellowstone and in a day in the national park.
HOTELS ALONG THE WAY
Hotels along the way have taken great steps to ensure the safety of their guests and follow COVID19 protocols. The Hilton has instituted their CleanStay program. The protocol includes the CleanStay Room Seal, extra cleaning focus on high touch areas, disinfecting stations in public areas, contactless check-in, dining changes and more. We felt very comfortable in the hotels and the staff took all COVID19 standards very seriously.
A number of choices for lodging in West Yellowstone, from cabins to townhouses, campgrounds to hotels are up for grabs. Right in town is the Three Bear Lodge, which offers a full-service restaurant on site and is two blocks from the activity of main street. The lodge follows COVID protocol and housekeepers do not enter your room once you are checked in. The rooms are spacious, comfortable, come with a small fridge and microwave and the rate includes breakfast! Three Bear Lodge offers rooms in the main building or drive up motel rooms that have been recently refurbished. You can check the following site for lodging options.
THE TOWN OF WEST YELLOWSTONE
West Yellowstone, Montana sits just outside the West Entrance into the park and is a great hub for Yellowstone National Park and local activities. The main street, N Canyon Street, is dotted with local restaurants, such as the Slippery Otter and a mixture of local shops. You will find an array of tourist memorabilia on display such as: jewelry, Yellowstone t-shirts, wood carvings, mugs, keychains, candy & jerky, decorative items and too many more to list. You will be hard pressed to leave without purchasing something from one of the gift shops. Stop in the Rustic Candy Shop for some fantastic fudge!
Activities based out of the town of West Yellowstone are plentiful. We rented some bikes at a local shop, Freeheel and Wheel, grabbed a map and took to the trails. We chose the Rendezvous Loop which was a moderate level 6km trail through the Gallatin National Forest. It is a great way to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of the forest. If biking isn’t your thing, you can partake in hiking, fishing, horseback riding, rafting or take a guided tour (https://www.townofwestyellowstone.com/visitors).
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone National Park is 3,471 square miles with 5 entrances into the park. That is a lot of area to cover so plan, plan, plan your visit! We entered the park via the West Entrance and the 7 Day Vehicle Entrance fee was $35.00. You can check the park website for entrance fees, park restrictions and closures, activities, camping sites, safety guidelines, visiting tips, watching wildlife and general questions. Note that right now, there are a number of restrictions on dining, group activities, visitor centers and some campgrounds so do your research. That being said, there was still plenty to do and see during our trip through the park.
Our first stop was the Midway Geyser Basin, one of the estimated 10,000 hydrothermal features in the park. There are four main types of hydrothermal features in Yellowstone: hot springs, mudspots, fumaroles and geysers. They are fascinating to watch and photograph. Our next stop was Old Faithful, which by the way, surprisingly has a schedule for its eruptions. It is one of six out of about 500 geysers that the park rangers are able to currently predict. The eruption doesn’t last long so make sure you arrive 10 – 15 minutes prior to expected eruption and grab a seat on one of the many benches set up in the viewing area. The rest of our drive consisted of stopping at various viewing areas for some photos and taking in the expansive views and random wildlife. We only spent about 7 hours in the park as our goal was getting to Cody so there was plenty we did not see. You can easily spend two, three or more days in Yellowstone.
Our final destination was Cody as we have family there. Cody is about an hour from the Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance. Cody is a popular tourist destination due to its proximity to Yellowstone and extensive outdoor and entertainment activities. You can spend the day in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. There are five museums under one roof, covering five football fields of history. Just down the road is the Cody Firearms Experience where you can learn some firearms history and shoot a few guns from the past, under staff supervision. Wander down main street in and out of the antique, clothing, souvenir shops and restaurants and stop in the historic Irma Hotel. If you time it right, you can take in the Cody Gunfight show that takes place daily (except Sundays) at 6:00pm, out in front of the hotel.
For outdoor activity options, choose from: rafting, horseback riding, sport shooting, hiking, fishing, camping or ATV excursions, just to give you a start. There are local, knowledgeable guides and outfitters to make sure your time outdoors is enjoyable.