Park County, Wyoming
Chapters  1 2 3 4

Ride Your Way into Cody Country

Wyoming’s Buffalo Bill country is a place everyone should experience

By Candy Moulton

read more
Bison near Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming

We unloaded the horses near Pahaska Teepee—the historic lodge where Buffalo Bill Cody had a hunting camp—and prepared for a ride into the Cody/Yellowstone backcountry. It took about four hours to reach our first camp, high on a mountain with a few big pine trees, but open views all around. Ours was a small party with a Cody trail ride outfitter. We set up our tents and stowed gear in bear boxes to keep it from prowling animals, then prepared for a dinner of hamburgers and fried potatoes cooked over an open fire.

It was mid-July, but this is high country, and we could see our breath when we awoke. Overnight, a fresh coat of snow turned what had been a summer-time campsite into a winter-like scene. Hot breakfast and sunshine brightened the day, so by the time we had the horses saddled, the snow was melting and everything looked fresh.

Bison near Yellowstone National Park and Cody, Wyoming

We moved camp from the snow-kissed mountain to a new site in the valley of the Lamar River, following the reverse direction of the trip Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe had taken in 1877 as they fled from Idaho toward Canada and freedom.

Each day of our backcountry trail ride, we rode, saw wildlife (deer, elk, moose, hawks, eagles, coyotes and fox), ate big meals cooked over the coals, shared stories around the campfire, and then crawled into sleeping bags and listened to the night sounds of camp: the jingle of the bell that hung around the neck of one of the horses, the thump-thump sound of mules as they grazed near the tents. One day, as we fished in the Lamar River, I thought: this is the kind of place everybody should visit.

A Buffalo Bill century

Elk sculpture at Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming

I was only seven the first time I visited Cody with my family, and the town’s Old West history and great outdoors have kept me coming back ever since, whether its to explore the backcountry by horse or to step back into the days of Buffalo Bill.

Though I was quite young, I still remember going to the Buffalo Bill Museum and seeing the buckskin jacket the famous showman once wore. Started a century ago, the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association has recognized and honored the man who gave his name to a town he helped found. The small museum I visited as a child has evolved into a world-class museum that recognizes not just Buffalo Bill, but celebrates the Plain Indians, firearms, art and natural history of the region.

Elk sculpture at Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming

Now at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, expect to see vintage film of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show as it traveled across the country and to Europe, and the personal items that belonged to Cody and his family. Admission tickets are good for two days and you will want that much time to explore its five extensive museums, including galleries filled with art by C.M. Russell, James Bama and other masters of Western subjects, and a firearms museum filled with Remington, Sharps, Browning and more. The sculpture gardens are places for rest and reflection. The Plains Indian Museum’s collection is enhanced each June when tribal members gather for the Plains Indian Powwow at Robbie Powwow Garden. From tiny tots to stately elders, the dancers step to the drum—the heartbeat of their culture.

Cody adventures

Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming

Many past, present and dare I say future, World Champion cowboys have learned, honed or demonstrated their agility on the back of a bronc or bull while twirling a rope or rounding a barrel in the Rodeo Capital of the World, Cody. With wooden bleachers, Cody Nite Rodeo is just one of several real-deal rodeos you’ll encounter, where you can hear the bulls snort, see (sometimes feel) the dust fly and experience a sport born on the range. From the “Star Spangled Banner” to the Grand Entry to the final ride, this nightly show entertains. I can say from personal experience, Cody’s rodeos are an experience all their own.

Just down the street, I recommend exploring the historic structures that make Old Trail Town. Moved in from locations throughout the Big Horn Basin, this is not a fancy museum, but rather rustic reality. Cabins with small windows, short doors and cracks in the walls stand the test of time.

Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming

For even more adventure, take a river rafting trip, spend a few hours (or days) riding horses at a guest ranch, or sit on the porch of Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel and watch the nightly gunfight (no live ammo in those guns, folks!). The Irma—the hotel Buffalo Bill built and named for his daughter—is also a great place to stay, or to get a bite to eat in the restaurant. Plus, enjoy teatime at Willow Fence Tea Room or eat American classics at the Proud Cut (all of which are just a few of my favorites in Cody).

A place like no other

Geyser at Yellowstone National Park near Cody, Wyoming

For all the things to do in Cody, by far the biggest attraction—outside the Buffalo Bill Center of the West—is the natural landscape surrounding the city. The most famous of landscapes, Yellowstone National Park, is an easy highway drive away—the East Entrance is just 52 miles west down the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway. You might also enjoy the scenic drive up the South Fork through ranching country to see Castle Rock, or along Beartooth Loop with its rolling grasslands and Heart Mountain, as well as the Bighorn Basin Loop drive, where you will see a landscape seemingly untouched by time.

Geyser at Yellowstone National Park near Cody, Wyoming

Whether on a horseback ride into Yellowstone, hiking through Cody Country or cruising a scenic highway, keep your eyes and ears open to experience and see this amazing land and its history.

Discover’s Wyoming’s history and beauty in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.

Candy Moulton is the author of Roadside History of Wyoming, a multi-media producer and frequent contributor to True West Magazine.