A road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is an iconic American adventure. From Denver to Cody, WY, a gateway town to both parks via Yellowstone’s East Entrance, it’s a roughly 9-hour drive. Sure, you could really push it and do the entire drive in one day, but that won’t make it a very fun road trip. Instead, plan to spend a couple of days checking out some of the must-visit towns and cool attractions along the way. Read on for some recommendations on how to make the most of a Yellowstone and Grand Teton road trip from Denver.
The Route: Denver, CO to Cody, WY
Leaving from Denver, follow I-25N to Casper, before taking US-26W/Hwy 20W to Thermopolis. From there, you’ll take WY-120W to Cody, and then US-14W into Yellowstone’s East Entrance. Total drive time: 8-9 hours
Stop 1: Chill out in Casper
A manageable 4-hour drive from Denver will land you in Casper, WY, which is nestled along the North Platte River at the foot of Casper Mountain. Head to Alcova Resort and rent a kayak or boat from their full-service marina to explore Fremont Canyon. This unique geological treasure in between Lake Alcova and Pathfinder Reservoir will wow you with its burnt orange and red canyon walls as you float through two billion years of history.
Break up the drive with a relaxing stop at Hot Springs State Park along the Bighorn River in Thermopolis, WY. Yes, it’s touristy, but who can resist a hot mineral bath? There’s a free bath house in the park where the water stays a constant 104 degrees, or you can opt to pay a small fee for a more resort-like experience within the park at the Star Plunge Pool and Hellie’s Teepee, which offer amenities like water slides, saunas and pools of varying temperatures.
Stop 3: Experience the Wild West
Spend the night in Cody, WY—named after William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody—and you’ll be well-positioned to get an early start along the spectacular Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway, which takes you right into Yellowstone. But first, tap into your inner-Cowboy (or gal) and snag a table at The Cody Cattle Company, before heading over to the Cody Nite Rodeo, which holds nightly rodeo action June – August. For a night cap, step back in time at the historic Irma Hotel.
From Cody, it’s an incredibly scenic 50-mile drive to Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance where your national park adventure awaits.
Photos: Yellowstone National Park Geysers – James Kaiser; Old Yellowstone District in Casper, WY – Visit Casper; Hot Springs State Park – Acroterion/WikiCommons; Cody Nite Rodeo – Park County Travel Council