Continuing with our trip to Wyoming, we spent three nights at Elephant Head Lodge, located about 10 minutes from the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The lodge and cabins are located on a hill with amazingly figured red rocks framing the backdrop and a view out over the Shoshone River. The name of the lodge comes from one of these figural rocks – the head and body of an elephant stand sentinel on the ridge. www.elephantheadlodge.com
The lodge and most of their cabins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the lodge, dining room and trapper cabin built in 1910 by Buffalo Bill Cody’s niece, Josephine Thurston and her husband Harry W. Thurston.
A natural spring in the front yard was the reason Harry Thurston chose the cabin site, and today, wildlife wander through the yard daily for their morning and evening drinks. If you sit quietly, birds, chipmunks and squirrels are also usually busy around the water. Mule deer does and fawns browsed and cavorted about the yard daily, a buffalo bull had been stopping in every few days and mountain sheep girls made an early fall appearance while we were there. The water is also used for the lodge and it was wonderful! We filled up the gallon pitcher provided in our cabin and all our water bottles for when we were out hiking. The altitude definitely makes you dehydrated, so I would recommend packing some powdered Gatorade to take on your trip.
Kevin and Debbie Millard are the current owners of the lodge and they are fourth generation Wyoming natives with ranching backgrounds. Debbie and their staff were so welcoming and friendly. Kevin was on a packing trip so we didn’t get to meet him. Ellie, a blue heeler, is the lodge guardian and greeter, but she’s a bit standoffish and prefers you just say hello and not give her a pet.
We stayed in one of the Bill Cody Cabins and ate dinner and breakfast at their restaurant. I have to say everything we tried was DELICIOUS!!! The steaks were tender, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth divine and the fried chicken was up to our “southern fried” expectations and then some – crispy golden brown and perfectly seasoned while still maintaining a juicy interior. MMMmmm. We tried some of the local Yellowstone brand beer and it was yummy too.
And breakfast was good too. I had to get one of their famous cinnamon rolls just to see what they were all about (you know, so I could write about them) and they were huge! Three people could eat on one. Their dining room is open to the public for breakfast and dinner and they can arrange bag lunches for you daytime excursions.
As restaurants are far and few between in this area, expect to pay quite a bit for dinner at all of them, but breakfast is usually pretty reasonable. They also offer a bar in the lodge common room where guests can share their “sights” for the day, wind down and relax. The common room also houses the lodge computer with the only internet access.
The river is just across the road below the lodge and has a trail running along it so we decided to do some afternoon exploring. We checked out the bear spray from Debbie in the lodge office and headed down the hill. This is a horse/game trail and wildlife lives here – including deer, bear, buffalo, sheep, moose, etc., so you never know what you might run up on. We heard rustling in the bushes … but it was only the mule deer mamas and babies heading up to the spring. We packed a few “cold drinks” and sat down by the river to watch the trout jump and await some more wildlife activity.
We gave up and headed back to the lodge about dusk, and look what we saw on the trail! BEAR TRACK!
Since Sylvan Pass is dangerously impossible to drive over in the winter, the park closes it down, and most of the Wapiti Valley lodges also close for the winter. They’ll be re-charged and ready to welcome visitors in the spring, so make your reservations now!