In 2021 we finally did an activity we had been wanting to do for some time: the Old West Dinner Cookout, put on by Xanterra, the concessionaire for Yellowstone.
The Old West Dinner Cookout is a cookout in Pleasant Valley in Yellowstone, where they serve you a steak dinner and cowboy coffee, and sing cowboys songs while the sun sets. To get there, you can ride a stagecoach or a horse. This experience did not disappoint – everyone in our party really enjoyed it!
If you’re thinking about doing the Old West Dinner Cookout, keep on reading for more information.
The Old West Cookout is located at Roosevelt Lodge at the Tower-Roosevelt junction (link) in Yellowstone. As you arrive at the Lodge, you can’t miss the parking lot and horse corrals to the south.
- Tower-Roosevelt is only about 30 minutes from Yellowstone’s North Entrance.
Gathering and formalities
We gathered around to hear an employee tell us what we could expect and what rules we had to follow.
From my memory, he said not to pet the horses until they gave us permission, and to only eat one steak until the second dinner bell is rung. Oh, and that the bathrooms were a disaster, so go now or brave the nasty bathrooms at the dinner site.
Stagecoach or horseback
If you book the Old West Cookout, you have two options for getting there: stagecoach or horseback. I probably would have chosen the horseback ride (options: 1 or 2 hours) if it were just me, but my entire family was with me (including my parents), so we opted for the stagecoach.
The stagecoach ride is also cheaper.
The horseback riders arrived at the cookout destination about the same time as the stagecoach.
- Learn all about horseback riding in Yellowstone
The Stagecoach Ride
An employee helps each person climb a step ladder into the stagecoach.
The stagecoach had plenty of legroom, from my memory.
The stagecoaches are yellow, a nod to the early Yellowstone stagecoaches that were used before automobiles.
The ride crosses over the main road, then travels on a dirt road for about 20 minutes (if my memory serves correctly).
We saw a big bison along the way.
Every employee we met was very professional, kind, and knowledgeable. We never felt like they were just “herding” us through or didn’t appreciate that we were there.
Near the end, they told us that they have to defend the Old West Cookout to the park service every year. One reason I’m writing this review is so others, and the National Park Service, know how nice this experience is so it can continue to be there for tourists for years to come.
- Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get essential travel tips for visiting the West.
The ride ends in Pleasant Valley. It used to be called Yancy’s Hole, after a man named John Yancy who had a cabin here. When his cabin burned down, the Roosevelt Lodge was built as a replacement.
It’s a nice little valley and a quiet getaway from the crowds.
They had a few antlers and other things that our kids enjoyed playing with.
A stream flows through the valley and they gave us a chance to approach the horses.
An employee literally rang the dinner bell when it was ready, and everyone got in line.
The steaks are cooked on a propane grill.
You get one serving to start with, but after everyone has been served they ring a second dinner bell letting you know you can go back for seconds, thirds, and more.
I don’t believe they ran out of food.
Yellowstone is known for having bad food, but I really loved my food! The steak, baked beans, cobbler — I want some right now!
- Learn about the best places to eat in Yellowstone.
We don’t drink coffee, but supposedly the cowboy coffee is really good. They served it hot from the campfire the entire time, I believe.
A cowboy played music while we waited for dinner and while we were eating. He even took requests for popular country songs, though he made no promises that he would be able to honor all requests.
Gather ’round the campfire
After dinner, we all gathered around the campfire for a little entertainment. They told some jokes to get the crowd loosened up, then had the crowd join in on some songs.
Just a reminder – they told us the bathrooms were nasty and to go before leaving the parking lot. We still saw many people using them.
Cheryl had to use the restroom and said it was indeed gross. So you’ve been forewarned! LOL.
The Send Off
After we got loaded up on the stagecoach for the return ride, they rode past the cooks and campfire workers. Our stagecoach had to come up with its own cheer to tell them thanks.
With little time to prepare, all we could come up with was “Wagon 8, Thanks for the Steak, We appreciate!” Not Shakespeare, but hey, it was fun!
How to get reservations
For more details, and to get reservations, see the Old West Dinner Cookout website. You can reserve them online or by calling Xanterra.
Of all the paid experiences I’ve had in the park, including the Lake Yellowstone boat tour and the horseback ride at Canyon, this was my favorite. I highly recommend this experience to enhance your Yellowstone visit.
Visiting Yellowstone and need a game plan?
Planning a vacation shouldn’t be stressful. We created a step-by-step itinerary so you can visit the best places at the right times.
Not only that, but we’ll tell you about the park while you drive with our audio guide!
Stop planning and start having the vacation of your dreams now!
- Yellowstone Itinerary
- Yellowstone Trip Planner
- How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Yellowstone: everything you need to know
- Yellowstone’s North Entrance (Gardiner, MT): Everything you need to know
- Can I Ride Horses in Yellowstone?
- What are the best places to eat in Yellowstone?
- The Complete Guide to Yellowstone Lake & the Lake Area
- Canyon Village & the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Old West Dinner Cookout
- National Park Service