With easy access to high alpine tundras and deep river canyons, Cody is the perfect home base for year-round adventure. The laid-back, western charm of the town pairs easily with the backdrop of vast wilderness and abundant wildlife. From easy-going scenic drives to whitewater rafting, there’s something for every level of adventure.
Whitewater rafting the Shoshone River (July-August)
Between the east entrance to Yellowstone and Cody, the North Fork of the Shoshone River runs parallel to the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, once described by Teddy Roosevelt as “the most scenic 50 miles in the world.” Snow runoff normally peaks in late spring and early summer, making that the best time to run the class III-IV rapids though you can still raft the lower river through Cody late into the summer. Riparian wildlife is also abundant on this stretch, so plan a morning outing for the best chance to spot a family of otters or a bald eagle. There are multiple outfitters based in Cody offering full or half-day trips. With an experienced river guide, there are plenty of whitewater and scenic float options for beginners, children and people with disabilities.
Alpine lakes and wildflower hiking (July-August)
A drive up Beartooth Pass (elevation 10,947 ft.) offers hikers easy access to high alpine lakes and wildflower-studded tundra. An easy three-mile out-and-back hike takes you to Island and Night lakes. For a longer hike at 11.5 miles round trip, make sure to visit Beauty and Beartooth lakes. Indian paintbrush, arnicas, and other wildflowers carpet the tundra through August or September. In the summer, afternoon thunderstorms can roll in quickly and unexpectedly, so plan on an early start.
Wildlife watching in Lamar Valley (August-October)
Yellowstone is home to the highest concentration of mammals in the Lower 48 and there’s no better place to see them than Lamar Valley. Crowds start to wind down in September, giving late summer visitors a chance to watch the bison and elk rut without standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Bears also begin to return to lower elevations to prepare for their winter slumber, making them easier to spot from the road. Many wildlife species are more active at dawn and dusk, so plan on being there around sunrise or sunset for the best chance to see them.
Sleeping Giant Zipline (June 15 – September 15)
Three miles outside of Yellowstone’s east entrance lies Wyoming’s largest zipline course, run by the non-profit Sleeping Giant Ski Area. A network of five ziplines tucked into the scenery offers views into Yellowstone and the Shoshone National Forest, and whisks riders through the trees at speeds up to 45 mph. A full tour of the ziplines takes about two hours and costs $95 per person, and family discounts are offered as well. If you’re short on time you can also do a single ride across the Shoshone River for $20. For more information visit www.zipsg.com.
Mountain Biking Desert Trails (September-October)
Shade can be scarce in the high desert, so when the summer heat begins to back off it’s one of the best times to hit the trails near town. Dozens of miles of mountain bike trails can be found within minutes from Cody, offering easy family cruises to rocky, technical challenges. Warm up at the Beck Lake Trails, where you can find 10 miles of flowy, purpose-built mountain bike trails ranging from beginner to advanced. Just a few miles north of town is the Outlaw Trail Area, where intermediate and advanced riders can test their skills in rock gardens and on exposed ridgelines. For a more remote desert ride, head out to Cody’s very own Slickrock Trail, where riders follow cairns along a sandstone slickrock playground for 7.4 miles. For route information, maps, and trail conditions, download an app such as MTB Project or Trailforks.
Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (year-round)
Seventeen miles northwest of Cody, Highway 296 connects to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone and the Beartooth Highway. The 46-mile route tops out at over 8,000 feet, offering sweeping views of the Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges. Though the byway is open year-round, this route is a must-drive during the summer months when grassy hills dotted with pine trees set the foreground for grand mountains lining the sky. Pull-outs along the way give travelers the chance to take in the scenery, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to watch the sunset than from Dead Indian Summit Overlook.