Scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, and unique small-town charm dominate in the tiny outpost of Cooke City (year-round population: 75) and its sister village Silver Gate.
They’re tucked between Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance and the imposing Beartooth Mountains. Outdoor activities loom large for locals and visitors alike—Cooke City and Silver Gate are surrounded by the park and the Gallatin National Forest, granting easy access to mountain trails, trout streams, and winter fun. And though Cooke City’s downtown spans only a few blocks, you’ll find great dining and lodging options.
In summer, travelers can reach Cooke City from the east via the Beartooth Highway; in winter, the only way in is through Yellowstone’s North Entrance, making it a convenient gateway for those coming from northern Montana and Glacier National Park or northern Wyoming. Cooke City also gives you great access to the legendary Lamar Valley where grizzlies, black bears, bison and wolves roam. Stop at one of the valley’s many pull-offs, get out your binoculars and look for some of the wildlife that has made Yellowstone famous.
What to See in Cooke City
Some of the country’s most beautiful drives lead straight into Cooke City. In spring and summer (generally April through October), don’t miss a cruise on the Beartooth Highway (US Highway 212), a stunning, 68-mile route from town through the mountains to nearby Red Lodge, Mont.
The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway (WY 296), another breathtaking road, hooks up with the Beartooth about 10 miles from the park. Once you’re in town, stop by the Cooke City Store. First built in 1886, the general store now stocks dry goods, books, groceries, and maps.
And believe it or not, the trash and recycling center is worth a stop, thanks to its supervisor’s habit of pulling discarded art and clocks out of the garbage and hanging them on the walls.
Things to Do in Cooke City and Silver Gate
The towns are surrounded by wilderness, making it a prime hub for outdoor adventure. In summer, fly-fishing, horseback riding, and hiking are the biggies, with several local outfitters leading guided trips. In fall, elk hunting is popular. And in winter, great snow and miles of groomed trails make the town a major hotspot for snowmobiling. Those who prefer to explore on their feet with also find plenty of powder for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.
Eat & Drink
Head to Beartooth Café for burgers and steak served on a Main Street patio, or grab a pint at the ultra-rustic Miners Saloon. Locals get their morning lattes and breakfast burritos at the Bearclaw Bakery.