In the summer months there are 5 entrances that can get you into Yellowstone National Park. While there are endless things to do and see inside the park, there are also some great things to do just outside of it. Here are some of the cities and attractions just outside of Yellowstone. And if you are looking for more information about Yellowstone visit our Yellowstone National Park page.
Table of Contents
- 1 – North entrance: Gardiner, Montana
- 2 – Northeast entrance: Cooke City, Montana
- 3 – East entrance: Cody
- 4 – South entrance: Jackson Hole
- 5 – West entrance: West Yellowstone
1 – North entrance: Gardiner, Montana
The north entrance is the original entrance to Yellowstone. As seen by the Roosevelt Arch that you drive through to get to the current Yellowstone entrance. It is a quaint western town that is the only entrance to Yellowstone that is open year round.
The town has an amazing view of Yellowstone National Park and has a nice Visitor Center and a selection of stores and restaurants. The Yellowstone River cuts right through the hilly town which adds to it’s great landscape.
They have lodging and hotels available for guests that want to visit Yellowstone and enjoy the comforts of a small town. We found a delicious pizza joint called Yellowstone Pizza Company where we ate on the roof! Check it out here.
2 – Northeast entrance: Cooke City, Montana
Cooke City is just outside the northeast entrance of the park. This entrance and outgoing road, US Highway 212, is said to be the most scenic drive from the park. Going this way, you pass through the Beartooth Mountains, which is beautiful! Hwy 212 is closed east of Cooke City to cars November through April, so keep that in mind.
Cooke City is a very small town that also has a western feel to it. It has several restaurants and small shops as well as lodging if you can’t find any openings inside the park. If you will be in Yellowstone for an extended period of time, I would suggest taking a day trip out of the northeast entrance to see Cooke City and drive Hwy 212 through the mountains.
3 – East entrance: Cody
Cody is probably the “biggest” town that is close to Yellowstone. There are a bunch of stores and shops, big and small, a grocery store, restaurants, fast food, and a nice little playground right in the center of town.
Cody is about an hour outside of the east entrance and has plenty to offer. We left Yellowstone for a weekend for a camping trip at Buffalo Bill State Park North Shore campground which is right on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir just outside of Cody. This campground was really neat. It was right on the water, surrounded by mountains, and all the campsites were positioned towards the water.
One of the bigger attractions in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West museum. This is actually like 6 museums in one – the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper National History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, and the McCracken Research Library.
When we entered the Art Museum area with our family (4 kids) and my sister-in-laws family (2 kids) the security guard quickly called in reinforcements. Seriously, we saw the look of fear in his eyes when 6 kids under 8 years old entered. Another security guard showed up and they followed close behind until they realized that NO, we were not going to let our kids run wild in here. We found the perfect place for them to sit and draw pictures in the art museum.
So, there’s pretty much something for everyone here. The kids really enjoyed the Draper National History Museum where we learned a lot about Yellowstone’s wildlife and ecosystem.
After checking out the museum, take a walk down the main street in Cody. There you’ll find plenty of restaurants to eat at and a few taverns to enjoy a cold one. Then at 6pm each night, outside of the Irma Hotel, there is a gun fight re-enactment. They close the street down and have an old western shoot-out!
Follow up the shoot-out with a trip to the rodeo. Cody features a nightly rodeo with gates opening at 7pm!
That’s a full day of old-western style entertainment!
Last, but definitely not least is the drive from Cody, heading west toward Yellowstone. This may have been my favorite stretch of the entire trip! You drive right in a valley between two large mountains and go through tunnels that go right through the mountain. I was pretty sure the RV would fit driving in the first time and luckily it did!
4 – South entrance: Jackson Hole
Well, this constitutes more than just Jackson Hole. Just south of Yellowstone, there is the whole Grand Teton area, which is amazing! We’ve already written about 5 Family Friendly Things To Do By The Grand Tetons , so definitely check that out.
Teton Village has the feel of a quaint ski town similar to Vale, Colorado. Here you can ride the tram, shop in the boutique stores, or eat at any of the great restaurants.
A few miles south of the Teton Village is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This is also a ski town which is evident by the large hills that surround the city all with ski trails. The city is centered around the town square. This is a nice little park to walk through to sit and at one of the many benches and enjoy a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop or ice cream from Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream shop.
Jackson Hole is an upper end town and has endless shopping and eating options. The great thing about this town is that is a great place to visit in summer or winter!
We also visited Slide Lake which was amazing!
We really enjoyed the Tetons and everything around it. If you are in the Yellowstone area it is worth it to make the extra trip to the Grand Tetons!
5 – West entrance: West Yellowstone
I can’t give much insight into West Yellowstone because we never actually made it there. We were on the road out one evening and ran into a huge traffic jam. We were tired and hungry, so after waiting a while, we turned around and headed home. If you’ve visited West Yellowstone and have any must-see’s for the area, let us know in the comments!