by Matt, Apr 2022
Visiting Yellowstone and don’t know what entrance to use?
If you’re wondering about the East Entrance, you’re in luck, because I’ll cover the pros, cons, and many more things you need to know about the East Entrance to Yellowstone.
The East Entrance to Yellowstone is one of the least-used entrances because of its remoteness, lack of hotels by the entrance gate, and distance from the Grand Loop Road (where most of the attractions are). However, it is one of the prettiest drives to enter the park. Also, the closest city to the entrance is Cody, Wyoming, which is deserving of a day or two’s worth of activities itself.
Keep on reading to find out more!
- Looking for a game plan to visit Yellowstone? We’ve got you covered with our Yellowstone Travel Guide. Our travel guide includes a step-by-step daily itinerary and will give you a game plan for seeing the park.
How many entrances to Yellowstone are there?
There are five entrances to Yellowstone. Although more than 90% of the park is in Wyoming, three of the entrances are located in Montana.
What is the most popular entrance to Yellowstone?
The most popular entrance to Yellowstone is the West Entrance in West Yellowstone, MT. Yellowstone receives over 4 million visitors per year.
Regarding entrances, the park provides traffic counts (number of vehicles, not people).
Here they are, in order of popularity (most to least):
|Entrance||Closest Outside City||Traffic Count (2021)|
|West Entrance||West Yellowstone, MT||833,709|
|North Entrance||Gardiner, MT||482,467|
|South Entrance||Grand Teton/Jackson, WY||326,068|
|East Entrance||Cody, WY||210,612|
|Northeast Entrance||Cooke City-Silvergate, MT||130,248|
What is the closest city to the East Entrance?
Cody, Wyoming, is the closest city to the East Entrance. Cody is a small town of about 10,000 people but it has a BIG heart. Its residents are very proud Wyomingites who are authentically “western.”
The city was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody shortly after Yellowstone was set aside as a national park. Cody saw the potential for tourism, and he was right!
However, Cody is a poor “home base” for visiting Yellowstone, because it takes about an hour to reach the East Entrance of Yellowstone, and then another 45 minutes or so to get to the Grand Loop Road.
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Should you use the East Entrance or the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone?
If you’re coming from the east, you really can’t go wrong with the Northeast Entrance or the East Entrance. Both offer breathtaking scenic drives across the Absaroka Mountains into Yellowstone.
Here are the pros and cons:
|East Entrance||Northeast Entrance||Winner|
|Scenic Drive||Buffalo Bill Highway||Beartooth Highway or Chief Joseph Highway||Northeast (barely)|
|Closest Town||Cody, WY||Cooke City, MT||East|
|Nearby attractions inside the park||Lake Yellowstone||Lamar Valley||Northeast|
What attractions are close to the East Entrance?
One of the biggest drawbacks to the East Entrance is that there aren’t many popular attractions in Yellowstone that are close to the entrance. Here are a few sites of interest:
- Avalance Peak Trail. This is a challenging 4.5-mile out-and-back trail that gets to a peak with 360-degree views.
- Picnic areas. There are many picnic areas along the East Entrance Road heading into the park. These are located in really gorgeous areas, often near ponds and lakes, such as Sylvan Lake.
- Lake Yellowstone. This isn’t really “close” to the East Entrance, as it is about 45-minutes away. But it’s the closest major attraction. There are trails overlooking the lake and some geyser formations bordering the lake. There are also hotels and restaurants located on the other side of Lake Yellowstone, which is a massive lake.
- Fishing Bridge. This is a common spot to get out and look at Lake Yellowstone. People used to fish from the bridge, but it’s not allowed anymore.
- Hayden Valley and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Again, these aren’t really close to the East Entrance, but they are located close to where the East Entrance Road meets the Grand Loop Road.
How do I get to Cody, Wyoming, and the East Entrance?
To enter the East Entrance, you must go through Cody, Wyoming, first.
Getting to Cody and the East Entrance basically means driving through the ENTIRE STATE of Wyoming. It’s in a really remote part of the state (the entire state is incredibly remote anyway; it’s the least populated state in America).
There are no interstates that run even close to Cody, so getting there requires a variety of different state routes connecting dispersed, remote towns.
Cody does have a small airport, called the Yellowstone Regional Airport. Despite its name, I haven’t talked to a single person who flew into Cody for their Yellowstone trip. Almost everyone flies into Bozeman, MT, Jackson, WY, or Salt Lake City, UT, which is one reason why the East and Northeast Entrances are the least-used entrances.
That doesn’t mean people don’t fly into Cody — I just haven’t talked to anyone who has.
- Don’t wait to acquire lodging. Lodging in and around Yellowstone can fill up early and quickly. Use booking.com to find great deals on lodging outside the park.
What is there to do around the East Entrance?
Thanks to Cody, there are MANY things to do around the East Entrance. So many that I’ve written an entire article about Cody that you should check out.
Besides visiting Cody, the most popular activities are outdoor activities like camping, horseback riding, rafting, hunting, and staying at resorts.
Are tours offered from the East Entrance?
Some tour companies operate out of Cody, even though it’s 2 hours away from Yellowstone’s main sites (and then another 2.5 hours around the loop).
Most people who purchase a tour do so because they don’t have the time to research or maybe trying to figure out how to visit Yellowstone is daunting (MANY people tell me this!).
DON’T WORRY: We have you covered. I’ve created a travel guide that will give you a step-by-step game plan for seeing Yellowstone. As an added bonus, I tell you all about the park. Basically, it’s like having me as your personal tour guide — only much cheaper than an actual tour.
What is the East Entrance like?
The East Entrance has a small ranger toll booth.
You can pay your park entrance fee here — $35 gets your entire car into the park and it’s good for a week, or you can buy the $80 yearly pass that is good for any park for the entire year.
If you’re disabled, military, or have a 4th grader, you get the yearly pass for free.
You can also buy your pass online before you go.
- Find out all you need to know about the park pass.
What if I get to the entrance before the booth opens?
Yellowstone is open 24 hours per day. If you get there before the booth opens, you can just drive into the park.
If you haven’t purchased your park pass yet, just purchase it later when you see another booth or visitor center.
Please be honest and purchase your pass at some point. Yellowstone is one of the wonders of the world and it’s an honor to visit and only have to pay $35 for a carload for a week.
Is there a visitor center near the East Entrance?
No, it’s much too remote to have a visitor center nearby. The closest one is the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, located at Fishing Bridge near Yellowstone.
Is the East Entrance open in winter?
No, because the East Entrance road/Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway is not plowed during the winter.
The East Entrance generally closes around November 1 and re-opens in May. In fact, it’s one of the last roads to be plowed in Yellowstone!
For more about when the roads are opened, please see my article When is the best time to visit Yellowstone?
Where should I stay near the East Entrance?
We don’t recommend using the East Entrance as a “home base” because it’s far away from the main attractions.
However, if you don’t mind a lot of driving and you’d rather stay in a remote area, you have some good options here. Keep in mind that lodging here is more about the beautiful location, NOT the amenities!! Most of these are cabin-style lodging.
- Pahaska Tepee Resort.
- Shoshone Lodge & Guest Ranch.
- Crossed Sabres Ranch.
- Creekside Lodge at Yellowstone.
- Elephant Head Lodge.
- Absaroka Mountain Lodge.
- Blackwater Creek Ranch.
- The Historic UXU Ranch.
- Bill Cody Ranch.
There are many more resorts, RV parks, and hotels in or near Cody, Wyoming. See my Cody post for more information.
I almost always use booking.com to find the best deals on lodging.
Where should I camp near the East Entrance?
Inside the park
There are no campgrounds close to the East Entrance, but there are some near Yellowstone Lake.
The closest campground is Fishing Bridge RV Park, located near Fishing Bridge.
The next closest is Bridge Bay campground.
If you’re considering camping in Yellowstone, make sure to check out my Yellowstone camping guide.
Outside the park
There are many campgrounds located near the East Entrance that are outside the park. These are mostly run by the Forest Service. For locations and details, see the Shoshone National Forest (Cody) website.
Visiting Yellowstone and need a plan?
Yellowstone is BIG and COMPLICATED. I have been visiting Yellowstone my entire life. I know how to plan out a daily itinerary.
So, I did it FOR YOU! Do yourself a favor and check out my Yellowstone Travel Guide. With a plan in hand, you’ll have an efficient and successful trip! With that peace of mind, you can sit back and listen to me tell you all about the park as you drive around.
My 15-20 minute stories will tell you all about the bears, bison, and wolves of Yellowstone. You’ll learn about how it became a national park, how a guy survived alone in the park for 37 days, and about the dumb things people do in Yellowstone!
My audio guide is the most complete and interesting audio guide created for Yellowstone. It is included with the travel guide. Get them today!
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