Wyoming Road Trip: Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

After spending two full days barely scratching the surface in Yellowstone National Park, I exited through the Northeast Entrance in the direction of Cody, Wyoming.

Anticipating a quick 68-mile, and relatively flat drive into Buffalo Bill territory, little did I realize the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway would bring me through the splendors of the Shoshone National Forest.

The byway, also known as Wyoming Highway 296, runs nearly 46 miles between US 212 and Wyoming Highway 120 (seventeen miles north of Cody). The road follows the route Chief Joseph traveled as he led the Nez Perce Indians away from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877.

Snaking through the valley floor of the Absaroka Mountain Range, the two-lane paved road gradually winds and weaves to a climb that is neither for the hurried nor novice driver.


Pullout near Sunshine Bridge

Where to Stay

Find family-friendly accommodations in Wyoming from traditional hotels to private vacation rentals through Stay22.com:

Pullout points allow for scenic photos, with a gravel parking lot and pit toilets near the breathtaking Sunlight Bridge spanning the terrifyingly deep and rocky gorge cut by the roaring rapids of Sunlight Creek.

Deep Gorge near Sunshine Creek

Deep Gorge near Sunlight Creek

Shortly after the bridge, plaques and markers at the top of Dead Indian Pass describe historical accounts of the Nez Perce War. The pass is located near Dead Indian Creek, Dead Indian Gulch, Dead Indian Mountain, and Dead Indian Mesa, all of which present an opportunity to discuss or ponder both the lasting impact of war and ethical behavior between human beings.

Markers Near Dead Indian Pass

Markers Near Dead Indian Pass

Descending towards Cody, the landscape changes to buttes and hillsides covered in red clay soil. Pens of branded cattle mark the beginning of a flat expanse of grassland stretching as far as the eye can see.

A sprawling metropolis compared to the mountainous country dotted by the occasional ranch or rustic cabin, Cody is a fine place for a hearty meal and a comfortable bed.

AmericInn Cody

AmericInn Cody

Ready for a hot shower and decent cup of coffee after camping the previous night in Yellowstone, I checked into a two-room suite at the AmericInn and seized the opportunity to re-group and relax. I gladly ran a load of campfire-scented dirty laundry while scoping out amenities that include a sauna in the pool and spa area.

As I just wandered down to the front desk for a fresh chocolate chip cookie, a group of friends is playing a lively game of cards at the tables near the field stone fireplace in the hotel lobby. The sound of laughter makes me happy after such an unexpectedly reflective, yet rewarding, day on the open road.

AmericInn Lobby

AmericInn Cody Lobby

I’m writing this story as part of a spontaneous adventure exploring the sites and scenery around AmericInn locations in Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota. AmericInn is giving away ninety-two $200 vouchers as part of the Fill-Inn-to-Win game running through August 31. Read more information here: https://www.roadtripsforfamilies.com/americinn-fill-inn-win-game/

Good luck and happy trails!


About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.