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Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance (Cooke City-Silvergate): Everything you need to know

image of pay booth

by Matt, Jan 2022

You’re visiting Yellowstone and wondering which entrance to use? You’re in luck because in this post we’ll cover all you need to know about the Northeast Entrance.

This video is a must-watch if you want to see what the Northeast Entrance is like!

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.

5 entrances to Yellowstone

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):

EntranceClosest Outside CityTraffic Count (2021)
West EntranceWest Yellowstone, MT833,709
North EntranceGardiner, MT482,467
South EntranceGrand Teton/Jackson, WY326,068
East EntranceCody, WY210,612
Northeast EntranceCooke City-Silvergate, MT130,248

What is the closest city to the Northeast Entrance?

The closest town is Silvergate, Montana, but Silvergate is so small it’s been merged with another nearby town, Cooke City. Cooke City-Silvergate is a tiny community of about 140 residents!

Silvergate is one mile away from the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone, and Cooke City is 3.5 miles away.

The towns and the entrance are located in Montana, extremely close to the Wyoming border.

Map of Northeast Entrance and nearby Cooke City-Silvergate, MT

How do I get to the Northeast Entrance?

To get to the Northeast Entrance, you must drive there on one of two spectacular roads! These roads are a large part of the experience of entering the Northeast Entrance — they are attractions in and of themselves.

Red Lodge, MT & the Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a 69-mile road that connects Red Lodge, MT to Cooke City-Silvergate to Red Lodge, MT.

Red Lodge is a resort town that offers skiing in the winter and shopping in the summer.

The Beartooth Highway is an intense driving experience with steep cliff ledges and many switchbacks.

It’s an amazing experience that just feels like you just keep driving into the sky! It reaches an elevation of over 10,000 feet, climbing more than 5,000 feet from Red Lodge.

There are scenic viewpoints throughout, offering views of lakes, glaciers, the Beartooth formation, wildflowers, and wildlife. You can also hike and camp along the way.

At the top is the appropriately-named Top of the World store where you can stop for snacks and a restroom break.

It takes about 2 hours to drive the Beartooth Highway, but allot at least 3 hours to enjoy the viewpoints.

3-minute overview of the Mighty Beartooth

Cody, WY & the Chief Joseph Highway

Most people coming through Cody on their way to Yellowstone would enter via the East Entrance.

But it’s also possible to head north through the Northeast Highway. It’s much longer, but does give you the Chief Joseph Highway experience and puts you into the park at Lamar Valley.

To get there, drive 17 miles north from Cody, then turn onto Chief Joseph Highway (Route 296) which will continue for 45 miles until it connects with the Beartooth Highway.

I haven’t driven the Chief Joseph Highway yet, but it’s on my bucket list for sure. As you can see from the map, there are also a lot of switchbacks on this road.

The road follows the path the Nez Perce Indians used as they were fleeing from the US Army in 1877.

The Nez Perce traveled over 1,000 miles through multiple Western states. Along the way, they traveled through Yellowstone National Park — Yes, it was a National Park at the time (created in 1872).

Some tourists in the park were taken captive by the Nez Perce on their way through, and a few were shot and killed!

The Army waited for them in present-day Cody, thinking they had the Indians trapped. But Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce through an impossible pass in the mountains and escaped.

Today, you can drive that route in your vehicle!

What is there to do around the Northeast Entrance?

The Northeast Entrance is very remote and much less developed than the other entrances. Most of the activities are outdoor-related.

Lamar Valley

image of lake and mountains
Trout Lake, in Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley is the number one thing to do at the Northeast Entrance and is the main reason many people use this entrance (as well as the desire to drive the Beartooth Highway).

Lamar Valley is maybe the best place in the Lower 48 states to view wildlife. There are bison, elk, wolves, bears (grizzly and black), moose, and more.

There are many hikes in Lamar Valley as well. Just make sure to carry bear spray! (see the Cooke City General Store, below).

image of bison
This guy said hi to us last time we were there!

Solitude

One of the best reasons to come to Yellowstone this way is the solitude. You won’t be alone (there was a 40-minute wait at the restaurant in Cooke City last time we were there), but there’s certainly a feeling of peace and being far away from civilization.

Red Lodge, MT

Red Lodge was once a mining town but turned to tourism when the mines ran out. It was THE reason the Beartooth Highway was constructed — to bring tourists through this little town.

People today like to eat and shop here on their way into Yellowstone.

Cooke City Montana Museum

image of small town
Cooke City, MT

This is a quaint little museum with very friendly and helpful staff. It’s free but donations are welcome, especially if you’re using the wifi (it’s the only place in town to get wifi). They offer free admission, free maps, and free advice for your travels!

Crazy Creek Falls

Located on the Beartooth Highway about 10 miles out of town is a gorgeous little waterfall called Crazy Creek Falls. It’s just a short walk/hike to get there from the main road.

Clarks Fork Picnic Area

Located right on the Beartooth Highway only a few miles out of town, this would be an amazing place for a picnic before or after driving the Beartooth!

It has a roaring river right by it and is super easily accessible.

Outdoor Activities

As I mentioned, this area isn’t very developed. The main attractions here are outdoor activities such as:

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Horseback riding
  • Hunting
  • ATV riding
  • Snowmobiling

There are many companies — some are resorts — that offer guided tours.

Yellowstone Trading Post

This cute little general store offers the bare necessities as well as apparel and Native American jewelry.

Cooke City General Store

image of cooke city general store
Cooke City General Store

This is an old, authentic, general store. It’s really like going back in time when you enter the store, and the massive counter is all original.

You can also rent bear spray and scopes for wildlife viewing here.

image of old cash register
Old-timey cash register at the General Store

Clay Butte Firetower Lookout

Located further up the Beartooth Highway, about 20 miles out of town, is this fire tower lookout. These fire tower lookouts are great spots to see mountain vistas!

Resorts and Wildlife Tours

There are resorts that offer lodging and a wide range of activities, such as the Skyline Guest Ranch.

You can also book wildlife tours with companies that will take you into Lamar Valley and help you find wildlife.

These tours can be a bit pricey, so I recommend my much more affordable self-guided tour of Yellowstone. I’ll show you where to go and I’ll tell you about the wildlife in my audio guide.

What is the Northeast Park entrance like?

image of northeast entrance booth
Northeast Entrance booth

The park entrance is about a mile from Silvergate. It’s a small, historic log building that is a National Historic Landmark.

Here’s a quote from the official Yellowstone website about this interesting little entrance booth:

According to its listing as a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the entrance station “subconsciously reinforced the visitor’s sense of the western frontier and the wilderness he was about to enter. The building was not only the physical boundary, but the psychological boundary between the rest of the world and what was set aside as a permanently wild place.” The station is considered “the best of its type remaining in the National Park System.”

Yellowstone National Park website

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.

What if I get there 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 the Northeast Entrance open in the winter?

Technically, the entrance is open. But the road to approach the entrance, the Beartooth Highway, is closed.

So the only way you can “enter” the Northeast Entrance is to drive through Lamar Valley, exit the park into Silvergate, and then reenter the park.

Where should I stay at the Northeast Entrance?

image of grizzly lodge
Grizzly Lodge in Silvergate, MT

Grizzly Lodge

The last time we visited, we stayed at the Grizzly Lodge and loved it. The accommodations were simple but the area was gorgeous. It had a grassy area to play games with a stream running by it. They had a huge bonfire at night where you could meet other travelers and roast s’mores.

Skyline Guest Ranch

I’m also aware of the Skyline Guest Ranch resort, and it gets wonderful reviews online.

If you’re looking for a more upscale experience with guided activities, this looks like a great place to stay.

Roosevelt Lodge

Roosevelt Lodge is located inside Yellowstone on the other side of Lamar Valley. It’s about an hour away from the Northeast Entrance.

But if you’re entering the park through the Northeast Entrance to see Lamar Valley, Roosevelt Lodge could be a great landing spot.

There are over 100 rustic little cabins you can stay in. It’s the most rustic place to stay in Yellowstone.

Other places in Cooke City-Silvergate, MT

There are plenty of other places in Silvergate and Cooke City that I’m sure would be just fine. We usually use booking.com when finding and booking accommodations in part because it usually offers free cancellations until a few days before.

Where should I camp near the Northeast Entrance?

There are many campgrounds located around the Northeast Entrance, both inside the park and outside the park.

NOTE: This is Grizzly Bear country! Hard-sided trailers are recommended for camping. Make sure your food and water are stored in your vehicle and make sure to have bear spray.

Pebble Creek & Slough Creek

These are located in Lamar Valley inside Yellowstone. They are small campgrounds and highly competitive. Make sure to see my post about camping in Yellowstone for more information.

Tower Fall Campground

This is also located inside Yellowstone, near Roosevelt Lodge at the other end of Lamar Valley. Again, see my post about camping in Yellowstone for more.

Soda Butte & Colter Campground

These two campgrounds are located right by each other, just outside of Cooke City. They are run by the Forest Service. We’ve camped at Colter Campground before and it’s spectacular.

These campgrounds cost about $20 per night, and they are first-come, first-served.

Where should I eat near the Northeast Entrance?

I haven’t eaten at any of the restaurants (we brought our own food), but I heard from a local that Cooke City has the better restaurants.

Here are a few that get good reviews:

  • Bearclaw Bakery. Good spot for breakfast.
  • Beartooth Cafe. This was crowded when we were there, which is a good sign!
  • Miners Saloon. Wasn’t that crowded when we were there, for some reason, but the reviews seem OK.
  • MontAsia. This is a hybrid word from Montana and Asian. It serves Malaysian cuisine tucked away in the mountains of Montana!
  • Pilot’s Perk. Little coffee shop and sandwich place.

My suggestion is to just drive through the two towns and see what looks good to you.

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 itinerary. 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 comes with the itinerary. Get them today!

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