Adventure Awaits: The Top 4 Sights to See Near Cody, Wyoming
Written by Nick on April 1, 2023
Sights to See Near Cody, the Heart of the Old West
The American West isn’t some romanticized myth — in Cody, the values that made our forefathers great are still alive and well.
The Code of the West is fundamental to how the members of this community live and work every day. In Cody, you’ll find people that take care of one another, work hard, and finish what they start.
You’ll also find a ton of fantastic sights to see, especially if you’re embarking on an adventure to Yellowstone National Park. Cody is a favorite gateway to Yellowstone, and hundreds of thousands of visitors find out why every year.
Whether you’re in Cody for a few days on business, enjoying a hunting trip with your buddies, or taking the kids to America’s first national park, here’s a list of the top four sights to see near Cody, Wyoming.
1. Buffalo Bill Dam & Reservoir
Just six miles west of Cody on the North Fork Highway, Buffalo Bill Dam was built in 1910. The completion of this dam and the resulting Buffalo Bill Reservoir finally enabled irrigated farming across some 90,000 acres in the Cody and Powell region.
Because of its geographic isolation and climate, the Bighorn Basin was one of the last areas of the US where people settled. Building the dam was a crucial step.
It was originally named the Shoshone Dam, but renamed for William F. Cody — “Buffalo Bill” himself — in 1946 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth. It was Buffalo Bill who worked with a group of investors to found the town of Cody.
Later, he would transfer his water rights to the Interior Department, enabling the dam project to go forward in 1904.
Upon its completion, the dam was the highest in the world, standing at 325 feet high. It was also one of the first concrete arch dams in the US.
Within the dam itself, the Shoshone Power Plant was completed in 1922. This is one of the top sights to see near Cody because it makes for a fun, informative stop on the way to Yellowstone’s East Entrance, and demonstrates just how much had to change before new towns could flourish.
Following the record downpour and historic flooding of the Yellowstone region in 2022, we shared this incredible footage of spillage at the Buffalo Bill Dam.
2. Heart Mountain Interpretive Center
Standing in Cody and looking north, you’ll see an iconic part of the landscape known as Heart Mountain. It makes for quite the scenic view — and even a great hike — but you might be surprised to learn what sits on the other side, just a 15-minute drive from downtown Cody.
The Heart Mountain War Relocation Center is where some 14,000 Japanese Americans were held after being forcibly removed from their communities following the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066.
This concentration camp opened August 11, 1942, and closed Nov. 10, 1945. At its peak, this camp held 10,767 people in 650 military-style barracks surrounded by guard towers.
Established in 1966, the non-profit Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation works to preserve the site and educate visitors about the history of the camp, its significance, and the experiences of the people who were held there.
Aura Sunada Newlin was appointed permanent executive director of the foundation in March 2023.
Visiting the Heart Mountain site is a moving experience that should be one of those must-visit sights to see near Cody for anyone looking to deepen their underestanding of American history.
3. Spirit Mountain Cave
Located on Cedar Mountain, also known as Spirit Mountain, is Spirit Mountain Cave. You don’t need to be a seasoned spelunker to appreciate this beginner cave, which is a frequent stop for cave enthusiasts and anyone looking for sights to see near Cody.
It’s a largely narrow cave with three levels connected by vertical shafts. Ned Frost was hunting mountain lions in the early 20th century when he came across the cave.
Initially dubbed Frost Cave, it was renamed Shoshone Caverns after William F. Cody convinced President William Taft to make it a National Monument in 1909. Yellowstone National Park offials took over management of the site seven years later.
In order to develop and commercialize the cave, the government rescinded the National Monument status. Wyoming Governor Milward Simpson opened it as a show cave in 1957, but that only lasted until 1966, when it was closed again.
After vandals frequented the cave in the 1970s, the Bureau of Land Managment built a gate in 1984. The gate is kept locked.
Anyone wishing to explore the cave can call the Cody BLM office for a permit and key. It’s a unique stop on your Yellowstone adventure and a great place to explore, especially for younger family members.
4. Dead Indian Summit
Accessible via the breathtaking Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Dead Indian Pass is, for some, the best scenery of their entire visit to Cody country and the Yellowstone region.
There are different stories about how Dead Indian Pass got its name, but it’s certain that this area is where Chief Joseph led 700 Nez Perce and 2,000 horses into the Absaroka range to escape General O.O. Howard in 1877.
When escape seemed impossible, the Nez Perce pulled off a tricky deception, misleading the soldiers in order to slip away along through the treacherous Dead Indian Gulch.
By the time the army realized their error, the Nez Perce had gained two days’ time and some 50 miles of distance on their pursuers. Still, a month later, the Nez Perce were cornereed at the Battle of Bear Paw.
For travelers, Dead Indian Summit is one fo the top sights to see near Cody. You can appreciate the region’s history as well as a knockout view. It’s most scenic in early summer, before forest fire smoke begins to cloud the skies.
If you’re in Cody, the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and all its sites are well worth a day of driving. It’s an opportunity for exploration that all too many visitors miss.