Surrounding Yellowstone National Park is arguably some of the most scenic country in the United States – clearly, Teddy Roosevelt agreed. Branching in all directions into Wyoming and Montana are highways that highlight the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains and river valleys. You can see much of it from the comfort of your car, with plenty of places to stop, stretch your legs and take some memorable photos. Plan one of these scenic drives as a day trip from your destination, or map one into your overall road trip. Wherever you’re traveling near Yellowstone, we have a scenic drive for you.
This 68-mile National Scenic Byway winds its way through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming, extending from Yellowstone National Park at the Northeast Entrance to Red Lodge, MT. Along US Highway 212, this drive offers some of the most dramatic views the area has to offer. At its peak, the road rises to 10,947 feet at Beartooth Pass in Wyoming, with views of the northern Rocky Mountains, Beartooth and Island Lakes, and more. Along the way, there are many places to stop for a scenic picnic or a hike. The highway is closed through the winter due to dangerous driving conditions, so this drive can be done between late spring and early fall, once the snow and ice have melted to a manageable level.
Just north of Yellowstone’s North Entrance in Gardiner, drive this scenic loop through Paradise Valley. This renowned area is where the magical Yellowstone River valley is flanked by the Gallatin Range and the Absaroka Range on either side, creating 360-degree views of beauty. This loop includes two highways, US Highway 89 and 540, which both run north-south, and you can drive it in either direction. It’s common to see bison, elk, and bighorn sheep on this stretch, so keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. If you’re looking for a beautiful place to stop and take it all in, head to Mallard’s Rest Fishing Access Site. While on US Highway 89, about thirteen miles south of Livingston, pull off the freeway at milepost 42 and follow the gravel road for about a block, then stop at the switchback in the road.
From the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, you can head north into southwest Montana on Highway 287. You will find rewarding vistas and access to some of the best fly fishing in the state with this scenic drive that’s just over an hour from point to point. You’ll start in the city of West Yellowstone and head north on Highway 191 to connect with 287, heading west. You’ll first pass the massive Hegben Lake Reservoir, then continue along the Madison River with inspiring features like Hilgard Peak and Sphinx Mountain in the Madison Range to the east. The end destination of this drive is Ennis, an old west town that attracts anglers from all over the world.
For views of Wyoming’s rugged, wild west landscape, travel the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway just east of Yellowstone National Park. Starting in Cody, Wyoming, the drive is about an hour-long on US Highway 14, past the Buffalo Bill Dam, through Buffalo Bill State Park, the Wapiti Valley, ending at Sylvan Pass and the East Entrance to Yellowstone. Throughout the drive, you’ll be following the North Fork of the Shoshone River, with more and more rocky peaks rising up around you as you close in on Yellowstone. And don’t forget to carve out some time to spend in Cody itself to explore its history and find out why people call it the “Rodeo Capital of the World.”
Highway 191 is the main route connecting Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park’s South Entrance, with a total drive time of about 90 minutes. With two of the country’s most scenic parks as bookends, you can imagine there’s beautiful scenery sandwiched in between as well. Heading south from Yellowstone’s South Entrance, you’ll follow the Snake River and notice access to scenic points like Oxbow Bend and Grand Teton’s most impressive lakes, including Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake. You’ll be in awe of the striking, jagged mountains of the Tetons the entire way. In the warmer months, when Teton Park Road is open, you can make this drive into a loop, exiting onto the park road at Jackson Lake and rejoining Highway 191 at the Moose junction.