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4 Breathtaking Wyoming Destinations Yellowstone Visitors Shouldn’t Miss

These Wyoming Destinations Make Fantastic Detours for Yellowstone Visitors

Yellowstone National Park is one of the continent’s crown jewels; an unparalleled landscape painstakingly preserved as a destination for future generations to immerse themselves in the great outdoors, connecting with nature and discovering new places within themselves.

But the majesty of the greater Yellowstone region doesn’t end at the park’s borders, and every year, millions of visitors miss opportunities to explore the awe-inspiring areas that lie beyond the entrances to America’s first national park.

In particular, there are several Wyoming destinations outside Yellowstone’s East Entrance that are prime destinations for anyone who enjoys incredible scenery, intriguing history, and good old-fashioned adventure. If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, you’ll be glad you budgeted an extra day or two to explore some of these worthwhile Wyoming destinations.

So what exactly makes these places special? Could they possibly hold a candle to Yellowstone itself? Let’s have a look at these four Wyoming destinations and discover why they each make the perfect detour for Yellowstone visitors.

1. Historic Cody, Wyoming

Known as Yellowstone’s ‘front porch,’ the city of Cody is a genuine Wyoming destination full of the sights and sounds of the old American West. Located less than 50 miles from the east gate of Yellowstone, Cody is a perfect base camp for national park visitors.

But Cody is also much more than a place to stay while visiting Yellowstone. It’s full of rich history, as well. Named for William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody himself, the city is home to Cody’s Irma Hotel, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and a world-famous rodeo that thrills audiences all summer long.

From enthralling kids’ activities to its authentic western nightlife, Cody truly has it all, which is why it’s a prime gateway community for Yellowstone National Park visitors. There are all kinds of things to do in Cody, Wyoming, so don’t miss your opportunity to stop in during your Yellowstone visit.

There are also a number of fantastic day trips you can take from Cody, which is what makes this Wyoming destination one of the best places to overnight while visiting the Yellowstone region.

2. Medicine Wheel

Located about 90 minutes east of Cody, high in the Bighorn Mountains, is the Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark. But it’s not just an ancient site — Native American spiritual activities continue at Medicine Wheel to this day, making it one of the most vibrant Wyoming destinations.

It’s one of some 150 similar medicine wheels on the North American plains, in the United States and Canada. However, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is one of the largest, most widely recognized, and best preserved in the region.

As you might imagine, it looks similar to a wagon wheel, with an outer ring some 80 feet in diameter surrounding a smaller inner cairn and 28 spokes. There are another five cairns around the outer ring and a sixth cairn outside the perimeter.

Estimated at nearly 1,000 years old, this medicine wheel was first studied in 1902. It’s been suggested that the Bighorn Medicine Wheel was used by prehistoric peoples to observe the stars, and as a calendar.

If you want to experience a truly unique feature of the Yellowstone region, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is one of those Wyoming destinations you shouldn’t miss.

3. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Less than an hour from Cody, this national recreation area is just a few miles from Lovell, Wyoming, and is one of the top Wyoming destinations for fishing, boating, and other forms of outdoor activities.

Bighorn Canyon is home to some 120,000 acres straddling the Wyoming-Montana border. Bighorn Lake itself boasts a surface area of 71 square miles, with 55 square miles falling within the boundaries of the national recreation area.

If you’re fortunate enough to be visiting Yellowstone with a boat in tow, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is one of those Wyoming destinations you absolutely should not miss. But you don’t need to have your boat with you to enjoy this stunning spot.

At Horseshoe Bend Marina in Lovell, you can rent paddle boats, fishing supplies, and safety equipment. There’s also plenty of food and beverages (even beer!) for enjoying a superb lake day.

4. Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

Whichever way you drive over Beartooth Pass, you’ll need to budget a full day, but you’ll be so glad you did. This is one of the most breathtaking Wyoming destinations you’ll ever see.

With the summit at over 10,000 feet, the Beartooth Highway offers absolutely unbelievable views of the mountains northeast of Yellowstone National Park.

There are two ways for Yellowstone visitors to travel this route:

  • From within the park, head to the Northeast Entrance at Silver Gate, Montana, and take Highway 212 to Red Lodge, Montana. You’ll travel through Wyoming, over the pass itself, back into Montana, and down into Red Lodge. Complete the loop by taking Highway 308 to Belfry, then turn south and follow Highway 72 (which turns into Wyoming Highway 120) into Cody.
  • From Cody, take Highway 120 north until you see the turn for Highway 296 — the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. You’ll follow the byway all the way to its junction with Highway 212, where you’ll hang a right and follow Highway 212 along the route described above to Red Lodge.

The only way to do both the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Beartooth Highway over Beartooth Pass is to begin your trip in Cody, Wyoming.

You can’t do both if you start at the Northeast Entrance, unless you take Highway 212 to Highway 296 (the scenic byway), take Highway 120 north to Belfry, turn left and go to Red Lodge, then follow Highway 212 all the way back over Beartooth Pass and down into Cooke City and Silver Gate.

No, it’s not impossible to follow this route, but it makes for an extraordinarily long day. However you travel them, these two highways are Wyoming destinations you shouldn’t miss.

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