National Parks

From Wildlife Watching to the Old West Cookout: 11 Top Things to Do at Tower Roosevelt in Yellowstone

Tower Roosevelt in Yellowstone
The Tower Roosevelt area in Yellowstone offers trail rides. credit: Catherine Parker

In a quiet corner of Yellowstone National Park, the Tower Roosevelt Junction is a getaway for exemplary wildlife viewing, stunning views of the Tower Falls and the Old West vibes of Roosevelt Lodge. The Northeast Entrance and Montana are minutes away. This area is a favorite with adventurous families, anglers and wildlife watchers. From where to stay and where to eat, here are the top things to do at Tower Roosevelt in Yellowstone.

Table of Contents

Top 11 Things to Do at Tower Roosevelt in Yellowstone

  • Take a Scenic Drive
  • Learn About Geology at Petrified Tree
  • Stop by Tower Fall
  • Spot Wildlife in Lamar Valley
  • Take a Hike
  • See Yellowstone River
  • Take a Horseback Ride
  • Reserve a Guided Tour
  • Hop the Stagecoach
  • Enjoy Cowboy Coffee and a Grilled Steak
  • Spend the Night in a Cabin  

Yellowstone  at a Glance

Year Established: 1872
Located: Northwestern Wyoming, Idaho and Southern Montana
Size: about 3,471 square miles
Top Features: Geothermal Geysers, Wildlife Viewing and Historic National Park Lodges


A Family Guide to Yellowstone National Park

Why Visit Tower Roosevelt Area of Yellowstone

Located in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, this area gets far fewer visitors than other areas. For animal lovers and wildlife spotters, its a must since this area for its Lamar Valley. For anglers, the Yellowstone River is another top for its trout.

scenic drive Yellowstone National Park
Take a scenic drive while in Yellowstone. credit: Catherine Parker

Take a Scenic Drive in Yellowstone

Mammoth to Tower-Roosevelt on the Grand Loop

The upper part of the Grand Loop Road is 18 miles long between Mammoth and Tower-Roosevelt Junction. It offers wildlife, and this area is called the Blacktail Deer Plateau. Pull-outs like Undine Falls, Petrified Tree and Phantom Lake.

Take the Blacktail Plateau Drive, an unpaved 6-mile one-way scenic bypass to the Grand Loop Road. Slower going, it takes visitors through alpine meadows and forests.

Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon on Grand Loop

Heading south on the Grand Loop of Yellowstone, this route is 19 miles long. It offers views of Mount Washburn as it heads to Canyon Village. Drives will also pass Dunraven Pass at 8,859 ft.

Beartooth All-American Road

From the Grand Loop, travelers head for the Northeastern Entrance at Tower Junction. US Highway 212 is the Beartooth All-American Road and passes through Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, before heading through the pristine Absaroka Range (last services for over 50 miles).

At the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway or Wyoming Highway 296, roadtrippers can head into Cody, Wyoming.

Stop by Petrified Tree

Located off the Grand Loop Road, west of Tower-Roosevelt Junction, the turn-off for Petrified Tree is .5 miles down the road. The tree offers a parking lot and a boardwalk. In the area, the Lost Lake Trailhead can be found.

Due to Yellowstone’s geothermal activity, geology in the area is unique. Visitors can spot Rhyolite, a volcanic rock in Yellowstone and used in some of the buildings, like Old Faithful Inn.

For the largest concentration of petrified trees in the world, a hike to Specimen Ridge is a must. The Petrified Trees of Specimen Ridge is a strenuous back-country 3.0-mile in-and-out hike, 4.5 miles east of Tower Junction.

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Tower Fall in Yellowstone
Tower Fall is an easy walk from its parking lot. credit: Catherine Parker

Visit Tower Fall

Tower Fall is a 132-foot (40-m) waterfall on the Tower Creek. This area is easy to visit with a short walk from the parking lot to an observation platform. This is one of the top things to do in Tower Roosevelt. SEO

The area offers the Tower General Store, which has restrooms and a water filling station. It also offers a cafe, ice cream, groceries and souvenirs. The store is open from late May until late September.

Wildlife Viewing in Lamar Valley

According to several park rangers, this is one of the best places for wildlife. This area is a favorite for bison and elk, and predators like wolves and grizzlies like to hunt here. It will take a bit of luck and a little patience to spot wolves and bears.

Bison are abundant in Lamar Valley, where they graze on grass and have water sources. Wildlife is most active near dusk or dawn, though I have seen bison in this area in the middle of the day. Binoculars or a spotting scope are helpful in wildlife spotting.

Yellowstone Wildlife

  • Bison
  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Black Bear
  • Wolf
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Mule Deer
  • Coyote
  • Pronghorn
  • Pika
  • Marmot

Remember to keep 25 yards from wildlife and 100 yards from wolves, bears and mountain lions. Please adhere to all posted signs from Park Rangers alerting visitors of wildlife activity.

Bear Safety in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park features two types of bears: black bears and Grizzly bears. Knowing the difference is important since each species uses different behavior.

Park Rangers offer some guidelines to reduce bear encounters:

  • Hike in groups of 4 or more.
  • Make noise while hiking by wearing bear bells and talking.
  • Carry bear spray. Keep it accessible when hiking, and know how to use it.
  • Keep campsites clean.

Bear spray is advised and can be rented in the park. Visit a visitor center or ranger station for more information.

To learn more, attend a ranger program in Yellowstone National Park. I did, and it’s a great way to learn more about bears. My boys loved the bear programs, and I felt more confident afterward.

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Hiking in Yellowstone
My kids found a tiny creek while hiking in Yellowstone. credit: Catherine Parker

Hiking in Tower-Roosevelt Area

The hiking in Tower Roosevelt is more rugged, with long trails and more elevation gain. For easier hiking, consider both Mammoth Hot Springs Area or Canyon’s Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Lost Lake Loop—A 2.8-mile (4.6 km) roundtrip trail with a 669-foot elevation gain that departs from Roosevelt Lodge and passes Lost Lake and the Petrified Tree.

Yellowstone River Picnic Area Loop Trail—A 3.7-mile (6.1 km) roundtrip trail with a 456-foot elevation gain.

Slough Creek—A 3.4 mile (5.4 km) in-and-out trail to the first meadow. The trail is 3.4 miles (5.4 km) to the second meadow.

Garnet Hill Loop—A 7.6 miles (12.5 km) roundtrip trail that passes Elk Creek and the Yellowstone River from its trailhead close to the gas station at Tower-Roosevelt.

Hellroaring Trail—A 6.2 miles (10 km) roundtrip trail that uses the Yellowstone River Suspension Bridge to Hellroaring Creek.

Mt. Washburn—A 2.5 mile one-way trail with a 1,400 feet (425 m) elevation gain to reach the fire lookout station at the summit.

The corrals at Roosevelt. credit: Catherine Parker

Horseback Riding at Roosevelt Coral

The northeast corner of Yellowstone offers horseback riding. This area is especially picturesque with its rugged landscape of sagebrush, evergreen trees and mountains. Rides travel across the flats near Garnet Hill, then head up a hill and ford a stream. The longer ride continues past Lost Canyon to Petrified Tree.

Horseback riding is available from early June to Labor Day. A late afternoon horseback ride is available at the Old West Dinner Cookout. Reservations are required, as are closed-toed shoes.

Rides depart from the Roosevelt Corall at 105 Roosevelt Lodge Rd. Rides from from one and two hours Riders must be 8 years old, 48 inches tall, weigh under 240 lbs, and understand English. The one-hour ride is $89 per rider, and $135 for the two-hour ride.

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Yellowstone Wagon Ride
The wagon rides out to the Old West Cookout. credit: Catherine Parker

Take a Stagecoach Ride

For those who want a feel of the Old West without riding a horse, the Stagecoach Adventure awaits. In the park’s early days, visitors used a Tally-Ho Stagecoach to get from one area to the next.

Now, guests will travel down an old stagecoach road in an authentic replica as they make their way through Pleasant Valley, passing sagebrush and enjoying the scenery.

Rides depart from the Roosevelt Corall at 105 Roosevelt Lodge Rd. Rides are 45 minutes long and open to all ages. Stagecoaches run from early June until Labor Day. Adults are $1,9, and kids (3 to 11) are $10, with those 3 and younger riding for free. Reservations are required.

Take a vintage bus tour in Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful Inn with kids.
Take a vintage yellow bus to tour Firehole Drive on the Geyser Gazers Tour. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Take a Guided Tour From Roosevelt

Yellowstone National Park is a marvel, and there is so much to see. I recommend taking a guided tour. I have been on my trips and found the guides very knowledgeable.

When staying at the Roosevelt Lodge, the Wake Up to Wildlife tour takes guests on a dawn wildlife excursion with one of its experienced guides. Tour participants will explore Lamar Valley, looking for elk, bison, bears and wolves, among other wildlife.

Tours depart from early June until Labor Day from 7 to 7:30 a.m. and last 4 hours. Muffins and juice is available on the bus. Adults are $121 and kids (3 to 11) are $60.50 with those 2 and younger riding for free. Binoculars are welcome.

Biking at Tower Roosevelt

Cyclists will find dedicated bike trails in Yellowstone. Bikes are allowed on vehicular roads, though use caution during peak periods when there is a lot of traffic, including motor coach traffic.

The Mount Washburn Bike Trail is in the Tower Roosevelt Area. It is three miles to the top of Mount Washburn froom Chittenden Road parking area. A cyclist will climb 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles. Bikes are not allowed on the hiking trail to the summit.

Bikes are available for rent at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, which is open from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. Adults, kids, trailers, bike trains, and helmets are available for rent from one hour to all day.

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Junior Ranger badge. Things to do at Old Faithful with kids.
After completing the requirements for a Junior Ranger badge, turn it at the Junior Ranger Station near the Madison entrance. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Kids  in Yellowstone

Junior Ranger Program

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them with after they complete their booklets.

Kids love Yellowstone, and kids love animals, so buy a Junior Ranger booklet at the nearest park bookstore. In Yellowstone, the Junior Ranger booklets are $3, but kids who complete their booklets get a patch.

Yellowstone National Park divides the Junior Ranger booklet into three age categories with age-appropriate activities. Kids 4 to 7, 8 to 12 and 13 and older each complete as many activities as their age.

Old Faithful Visitor Education Center also offers a Young Scientist Patch Program. Buy the $5 booklet at the Old Faithful Visitor Center’s gift store. The visitor center also checks out a pack of equipment needed to conduct experiments. It is best suited for students spending a couple of days in the Old Faithful Area to finish the program.

Please turn in your Junior Ranger booklet at Yellowstone’s National Park Junior Ranger Station, located near Madison on the west side of the park.

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Picnic table in Yellowstone
A picnic table near Tower Roosevelt. credit: Catherine Parker

Picnic Areas near Tower Roosevelt

  • Yellowstone River Picnic Area near Tower Roosevelt Junction
  • Buffalo Paddock Picnic Area
  • Soda Butte Creek Picnic Area in Lamar Valley
  • Warm Creek Picnic Area near Northeast Entrance

At Tower Fall, visitors will find Tower Fall General Store. It sells groceries and ice cream. It also offers a restaurant with burgers and sandwiches. Open seasonally from late May until late September. The general store offers restrooms and a water bottle filling station.

Old West Cookout
Old West Dinner Cookout starts is a stagecoach ride or horseback ride to dinner. credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Eat Near Tower Roosevelt 

Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room 

Located inside the Roosevelt Lodge, its dining room is a family-style restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is stick-to-your-ribs favorites like oatmeal, pancakes, French toast and skillet dishes with eggs. There are fruit and yogurt options as well.

For lunch and dinner, the options Montana Beef options like burgers and bison burgers. Lighter options include salads and sandwiches. There is a cocktail menu available, and it includes favorites like whiskey sours and vodka mules. The Roosevelt Lodge serves several locally produced. spirits and wines.

The Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room is open from early June to Labor Day weekend. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., with brief breaks between breakfast and lunch and then lunch and dinner. The dress is casual, and reservations are not accepted.

covered wagon ride
The Old West Cookout starts with a covered wagon ride to Pleasant Valley. credit: Catherine Parker

Old West Cookout

From the Roosevelt Corral, the only way out to the Old West Cookout is the old-fashioned way: by horse. Located in the stunning Pleasant Valley, diners will have to saddle up a horse for the trail ride or take a covered wagon.

After the ride, guests are greeted by cowhands, each working on a task, from cooking to chopping wood to brewing coffee over the wood fire. The menu is simple but substantial.  Each diner gets a steak (12 oz. serving for adults, 6 oz. for children),  potato salad, baked beans, cole slaw, chuck wagon corn, corn muffins, watermelon and fruit cobbler. There are several beverages served.

The Old West Cookout is offered from early June to early September. Adults are $84 with the wagon ride or $113 with the horseback ride. Kids (3 to 11) are $65 with the wagon ride and kids (8 to 11) are $100 with the horseback ride. Reservations are required for this popular activity.

Our Experience at the Old West Cookout

When we pull through the wooden arch of the Roosevelt Corral, I know this is going to be an evening to remember.

After we checked -in, we watched the horse wranglers outfit the horseback riders and get them on their way. The horses in the Roosevelt Corral are chosen because of their docile nature and range in age from 20 to 37.

The wagon riders were next, as we climbed aboard our brightly painted yellow wagons with five padded benches. I immediately started to hum Surrey with the Fringe on Top when I saw the wagon’s canvas cover protecting us from a passing mountain shower.

Each wagon had a pair of draft horses with a driver and another wrangler who kept us entertained with stories of the land and lore. As the wagon creaked and ebbed out of the corral, I couldn’t help but smile. This felt like a great moment.

The wagon train of eight wagons continued up through the valley unnoticed by the pronghorn and the mule deer. The wagons are as much a part of the rhythm of the valley as the swaying grass.

After a 45-minute ride through the majestic scenery, the wagon train pulled into the camp at the edge of the valley. As we climbed down from the wagon, I looked up and saw the horseback riders switch back and forth down a ridge to join our group.

The Meal

We walked into camp and were drawn to the smoking coals, where a blue granite-ware coffeepot was percolating some Campfire Joe. I had two cups before I blinked my eyes. I will not lie: This Mom is fueled by caffeine. My kids grabbed a lodgepole pine stump to sit on and listened to a cowboy rattle off tall tales.

Off on the edge of the camp, a cowboy crooner sang the songs of a bygone era as men gathered to recount tales of recent animal sightings. The dinner bell rang, and all turned to the promise of a hearty meal.

We lined up and waited for our turn. As the first few walked past, I saw plates piled high with steak, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread and apple crisp, with watermelon slices on the side.

As I finally get my rustic campware plate, I turn and find a seat at one of the long family-style tables. Sitting in an unseen valley all to ourselves with a plate heaping full of steak, enjoying the way the pines lit up in the late afternoon sun, it didn’t get any better than this.

Like all great moments, it had to end. But before I left, I got another cup of coffee so strong it would put hair on the chest of an eight-year-old.

We loaded back up in the wagon for the ride back to the corral. When we arrived back, the sun was low in the sky, but the memory of a perfect meal in a perfect valley will live in my heart forever.

Roosevelt Lodge
The exterior of the Roosevelt Lodge. credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Stay Near Tower Roosevelt

Named after Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the U.S. spent time camping in this area. This lodge evokes the spirit of the West–wild and free. It was built in 1920 out of logs sourced nearby. 

The Roosevelt Lodge is a log building with a restaurant, two fireplaces and a lounge area with a bar. It also offers a reception desk for checking into the nearby cabins.

Along its deep front porch, visitors will find a line of rocking chairs. The lodge offers two types of cabins and they are clumped together. The Roosevelt Lodge is open from early June to Labor Day weekend.

Frontier Cabins 

These cabins feature two full-sized beds with an en-suite bathroom with a shower only. The Frontier Cabins feature a fan, an alarm clock and heat. All linens are located in the cabin.

Rough Rider Cabins 

The Rough Rider Cabins offer 1, 2, or 3 full-size beds. There is no attached bathroom, but a bathhouse is located nearby. There is a fan, an alarm clock and a stove with wood for heat. All linens are located in the cabin.

Rough Rider Cabin in Yellowstone National Park
The inside of my Rough Rider Cabin in Yellowstone National Park. credit: Catherine Parker

My Stay in a Rough Rider Cabin 

My Rough Rider Cabin had three double beds, a dresser with a mirror and a pot belly stove that the kids loved. It’s a rustic cabin, meaning simple, with a couple of overhead lights and not much else. Like most of the rooms and cabins in Yellowstone, it does not have a TV, a radio or air conditioning.

Outside our cabin, I found a couple of picnic tables, where I set out the lunch for us. They sat down and gobbled up some sandwiches before finding a stream. I chased butterflies from one wildflower to the next, trying to get the perfect photo.

My boys also spotted a small mule deer next to the last row of cabins. They started in vain to stalk it. My daughter found wild raspberries dotting the bushes. I can’t believe this place, it’s made for kids.

We whittled away a couple of hours playing and chasing before we needed to check in for our next excursion. Luckily, it’s located right around the corner in the Roosevelt Coral.

Camping near Tower Roosevelt

This is a quiet corner of Yellowstone to camp. However, due to the flood in June 2023, camping is limited in the area.

Slough Creek Campground

Seasonal from mid-June to mid-October

  • Reservations are accepted through
  • 16 sites without hookups, RV limit 30’
  • Vault Toilets
  • No Running Water or Dump Station

Peddle Creek Campground

This campground is closed to flood recovery

  • Seasonal during summer
  • 27 sites without hookups
  • Vault Toilets

Tower Fall Campground

This campground is closed for 2024

  • Seasonal during summer
  • 31 sites without hookups
  • Vault Toilets
Old Faithful Geyser with a Rainbow. Old Faithful Inn with kids.
Spend an unforgettable family vacation with your family at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

History of Yellowstone National Park

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park became the world’s first national park, an idea that would flourish worldwide for the next 150 years.

Approximately two million years ago, a supervolcano erupted in the Yellowstone region, forming a caldera, or basin. It’s at the center of Yellowstone National Park and measures 45 miles across, home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world.

The railroad arrived at the northern edge of the park in 1883. Then, the first roads started to bisect the park, allowing visitors more access to the geothermal features and the animals. More people meant a need for more lodging, so Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Old Faithful Inn are a few of the surviving early lodges.

Yellowstone was on the western frontier, so the U.S. Army built a fort to enforce the law and chase away poachers. You can see the old Fort Yellowstone at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Yellowstone is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting visitors from around the world.

If It’s Your First Visit

On my first visit to Yellowstone National Park, I made every newbie mistake.

  • Didn’t make reservations.
  • I camped in the same campground and didn’t move around the park.
  • Didn’t research.

When the time came to plan another trip, I wanted to see more of the park. I planned a Grand Tour, much like the first visitors did over 100 years ago.

I started in one area and explored before relocating to another area. It worked out great, minimized the driving and maximized the enjoying.

Grand Prismatic. What to see in Yellowstone National Park with kids.
See Grand Prismatic Spring when exploring the Yellowstone National Park, near Old Faithful. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Top Places to Explore in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park offers cafes, general stores and restaurants. However,  be prepared to picnic for lunch and grab some snacks and sandwich ingredients in Bozeman or Jackson.

Tower-Roosevelt isn’t the only thing to see in Yellowstone National Park. Explore the other corners of the park for more family fun.

  • Old Faithful Inn and Geyser
  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
  • Lake Yellowstone
  • Lamar or Hayden Valley
  • Mammoth Hot Springs

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Where’s Yellowstone National Park

It’s 320 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. Unless you arrange a tour, you will need a car to explore.

Three airports serve Yellowstone National Park.

  • Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)—Bozeman, Montana, offers everything you need to outfit your family for a national park adventure, from food to equipment.
  • Jackson Hole Airport (JAC)—The busiest airport in Wyoming is a regional airport. Jackson is a quaint town with an Old West flavor.
  • Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD) in Cody, Wyoming, is a regional airport located east of Yellowstone.

Getting Around Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $35 per vehicle.

Seasonal closures affect Yellowstone National Park. Only July and August are the months when all roads and facilities are open.

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Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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