So you decided to take a trip to Yellowstone National Park? Of course Cody, Wyo., is a convenient stopping place on this journey and might be where you have decided to rest your head for a bit during this trip. Cody is just outside Yellowstone's East Gate, after all!
But let's be honest, you plan to spend your days seeing the geysers, waterfalls, and bison that have made this area so famous, right?
Ok, stop right there! Do you realize that by simply driving to Yellowstone and not stopping to explore the surrounding area you are missing out on America's first national forest, not to mention great historical opportunities in and around the Cody area? Heck, you may not even know that you are missing the chance to hike a mountain that has, no kidding, traveled south about 30 miles and inverted itself as it did so!!
My family and I did this exact thing when we came out West from Wisconsin on our second big family vacation in 1994. While we did drive through the Shoshone National Forest and see some of its amazing vistas, we didn't take the time to learn about all of the spectacular things we missed. Fast forward 19 years, and I am now a resident of the beautiful, charming community of Cody. I would like to share a few lesser known hikes with you, in the hopes that you will take the time to savor the awe-inspiring area surrounding my new hometown.
Heart Mountain: There is a stunning mountain looming to the north of Cody. It is a sacred place for the Crow Indians and rises above the area where the only internment camp existed in Wyoming during WWII. This mountain is also beyond unique in that is literally moved southeast during a massive rock slide over 48 million years ago.
To get to the base of the mountain, you will have to take a series of gravel country roads (i.e. some pretty good sized rocks and potholes, so take your time!) before you get to the trailhead, which is on land owned by the Nature Conservancy (sorry folks, no dogs are allowed on this trail). The hike is just shy of 8 miles round-trip and has an elevation gain of 2,650 feet. Due to this gain in elevation, this hike may be a bit strenuous for those not acclimated to the area, but if you take your time and have your sunscreen and lots of water, you will not only be able to summit a Wyoming treasure, but you will be able to have amazing views overlooking the Bighorn Basin.
If the hike is just too much for you, you can always take in the history provided by the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, which tells the story of the over 11, 000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans who were removed from their homes on the west coast and relocated to an internment camp at the base of Heart Mountain following the attack on Pearl Harbor during WWII.
To get to this hike, take US 14 north for 13 miles, turn left onto Rd19 (Heart Mountain Interpretive Center will be on your right), and drive for 1.6 miles before continuing straight onto Ln 13 H for another 8 miles to trailhead parking
Lower Clarks Fork Canyon: This is a great hike with little elevation change in an easily accessible canyon on my beloved Shoshone National Forest , America's very first national forest. This hike is actually along the Morrison Jeep Trail, so the wide, rustic road offers you open walking as you traverse through open rolling hills and boulder fields as you take in the sheer rock faces on the south side of the river. You can easily walk for about 5 miles before you must decide if you will stay on the jeep trail and ascend a series of elevation-gaining switchbacks, go a bit further on the road next to the river before it turns into a foot path, or head back to the trailhead.
On this hike you have an excellent chance of seeing several different types of wildlife. If you look closely, you may even see old evidence of some big bears moving VERY large rocks/boulders around looking for grubs!
To get to this hike, take WY highway 120 north from Cody for about 29 miles, turn left onto Rd 1ab and drive 3.5 miles, veer left onto Canyon Rd/Co Hwy 8Vc, and follow this to the end. If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you can drive down to the parking area near the river. If not, I suggest you park at the end of the road and hike the extra quarter-mile on the road down to the trail.
Avalanche Peak: To show that I am not anti-Yellowstone, I thought it was important to add my favorite hike in the park. It is just inside the east entrance of the park, right after you go over Sylvan Pass. This relatively short hike, just over 4 miles roundtrip, does gain about 2100 feet in elevation, but hey, you also lose that much on the return trip ;).
This hike gets you to the top of Avalanche Peak with an amazing view of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding peaks of the Shoshone National Forest.
To get to this hike, head west from Cody on US Highway 20 and enter the park. After you go over Sylvan pass you have to stay alert for the parking lot on the left-hand side and a sign with the trail name on your right.
Now please be aware that this is bear country, both black bear and grizzly bear, so please learn how to stay safe in this area before you venture out on the trail. You can learn more from the Wyoming Game & Fish, but I always carry bear spray and make plenty of noise when I hike around here!
Hope to see you soon in Cody Country!
Kristie Salzmann grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. After a successful military career, she switched paths to live her dream in Cody, Wyo., where she works for the Shoshone National Forest. She's a runner, hiker, biker, camper, backpacker and climber who blogs about her experiences at anappetiteforadventure.wordpress.com. Kristie is passionate about trying new things and loves to be in nature, especially the lands surrounding Yellowstone
A Local's Guide to Cody, Wyo
By Kristie Salzmann
July 23, 2013
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