Yellowstone Adventure Part 3: Over the Bighorn Mountains

Good morning! I’m so excited to share our driving adventures through South Dakota and the Badlands, Wyoming and Devil’s Tower and now our unexpected stop at Buffalo, WY, and the drive up and over the Bighorn Mountains!

We had planned a relaxed drive out to Rex Hale campground and Yellowstone National Park, with a few fun stops along the way. It was relaxed and fun-it was also hot!

Loved the views of snowy mountains as we drove across Wyoming on I90!

This changed our plans, but we were lucky to get a full hook-up spot at Indian Campground in Buffalo, WY, after we left Devil’s Tower.

Indian Campground is great!

At Buffalo, we got off of I90 onto I25 and the campground is right along the interstate. It is easy to get to, and there is not much traffic noise from the road.

The spots are not huge, but there is plenty of room for the slide outs and the picnic table. Both the campground and the spots are level and easy to drive into. The bathrooms, showers and laundry area are very, very clean. Since we knew our next campground did not have a laundry area, I did a few quick loads. It was soooo nice to not need to search for a laundry area at Cody, which (along with taking laundry back home) was our original plan-I guess changing plans is ok!

Nice view on Highway 16 going over the Bighorn Mountains

The youngest enjoyed cooling off in the pool. It was also nice that they had a gift shop and ice for sale.

There are a few restaurants within walking distance, so for a change of pace, we walked over to the Dash Inn and brought back dinner. Burgers and malts were yummy.

Since this was our 1st time driving to Yellowstone, I asked about the routes and roads to Cody and Rex Hale campground. The office guys were very helpful and nice about my questions, though I asked a wrong question.

In fact, we liked Indian Campground so much that we reserved a spot for our return trip from Yellowstone!

We had researched routes at home-a lot! There are so many different opinions- people have different equipment, different driving abilities and different driving tolerances, so it can be hard to decide which way to go.

For example- I’ve read not to drive a truck up to Black Hill’s Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower- it is too steep and rough. But, we took our dually truck there on our 2012 vacation and it was great. I have a favorite family picture on my coffee mug from there that I love seeing every day. It is similar to this one, but I got mine at Walgreens and it has lasted since 2012.

On our way to Yellowstone, we decided to take Highway 16 over the Bighorn Mountains. It is not as long as I90 and not as steep as Highway 14.

My 1st question was ‘Is Highway 16 better than Highway 14?’

The office guys asked about the truck and RV, looked out the window at them, mentioned I90 as an alternative, but said if we took it slow, and use the many turn outs, we should be fine. Many people drive it. And yes, 16 is better than 14.

My 2nd questions was ‘Can I turn at Worland to Greybull?’

Going on to Thermopolis, before heading north to Cody was out of the way, but I was unsure of driving Highway 16/20 north to Greybull and then turning and taking 14/16/20 across to Cody.

They were very comfortable with the 2nd question- yes,16/20 was an easy, flat highway. Yes, taking 14/16/20 across to Cody would be fine and yes, they were totally right.

We could look at a few of the airplanes through the fence, but they are closed on Sundays

After turning north onto 16/20 in Worland, turning west onto 14/16/20 at Greybull and all the way to Cody, the roads were nice. It was fine, easy driving.

It was also easy to drive into the rest area at Greybull. There is plenty of parking space and we had a nice cold lunch from the camper.

The rest area was clean and had covered picnic tables. I wish the Museum of Flight and Aerial Firefighters had been open. It is right behind the rest area, but closed on Sundays- the day we were there. We did walk along the fence and see some of the airplanes though.

If only we could have skipped the Bighorn Mountains and started at Worland, it would have been an easy drive day.

While my 2nd question was fine, I should have listened better or asked a different 1st question.

‘What is the easiest way to drive with a camper to Cody?’ would have been a much better question.

While we obviously made it over the Bighorn Mountains, it was a long, long drive day. The drive from Buffalo to Cody maps out at 3 hours on Highway 16. By taking our time and thankfully, using the pull outs to cool the brakes, the drive actually took us 5 ½ hours, not including the ½ hour lunch stop.

It was a scenic route. The view, the mountains, some snow and a rushing stream along the road were very pretty. I had worried about pulling the camper up the mountain, but the truck worked great. The drive up to Powder Pass, elevation 9666 ft, was fine.

Inflated chip bag from the increased altitude -looks like a yummy pillow!

It was even exciting, the higher altitude inflated our sealed chip bag in the truck. It looked like a pillow! 5 minutes later- it popped!

How fun!

We discovered that about 1/3 of our chip bags had popped in the camper. We imagined a huge mess of chips, but it was fine. They had just broken the seals and not gone flying!

Our problem was coming down the mountain with the camper behind us.

I’m glad the husband knows how to drive, not ride the brakes and down shift into lower gears to slow the truck down. I do not know how, I’ve never had to learn that driving in Iowa.

Soooo glad the husband is driving

Our diesel truck doesn’t have an engine brake.

It has a 6 speed transmission and we were down to 2nd gear, 25 mph when we were going downhill around many of the sharper curves.

Most of the time, he was driving in 3rd or 4th gear.

Especially when towing, it is hard to basically ignore the people behind you- but it is important to drive safely and not overheat the brakes.

Thankfully, other vehicles will pass when they can.

We used some of the pull outs when the husband didn’t need to stand on the brakes to stop at them. Living in Iowa, I had never seen brake check signs or run away truck lanes. After he explained the need for them, I was very glad he was our only driver.

Some of the pull outs are very pretty

We took our time going down the Bighorn Mountains and enjoyed some of the pull out areas while the brakes cooled.

Even though he drove in lower gears and didn’t ride the brakes, they did get warm.

I’m glad the husband had a heat gun, like this one. It is fun to use on funnel cake oil, but very helpful on brakes.

At one pull out, it said the brakes were 200 degrees. We let them cool.

The middle one spotted this rock on a hike while the brakes cooled

At a different one, it said 450 degrees!

It had been harder to stop, so the husband had to push on the brakes more which made them hotter. We went for a small hike and let them cool down longer.

The whole drive over the Bighorn Mountains was fine, though it was a long, tiring drive day.

Thankfully, once we were past the mountains, the rest of the drive to Cody and then to Rex Hale campground was easier driving.

Though the heat changed our plans, everything worked out. We were able to enjoy a few, fun stops on the way out to Yellowstone in spite of the heat.

I was actually glad for our unexpected, overnight stay at Buffalo. It was nice to have full hook-ups in the heat and they were very helpful with my driving questions at Indian Campground. I wish I had asked different questions though.

Later, I’ll share about our return trip from Yellowstone and how we went a different way with help from our campground host.

Happy Camping (or watching chip bag pillows!)

Frugal Campasaurus


  1. We did the trip in the opposite direction stopping at Cody and Buffalo before stopping and Custer State Park! We came to Cody from the East entrance to Yellowstone! The grade was a 7% decline! Later found out campers try to avoid those and that there is an app to help you find out grade declines! We stayed at the Ponderosa campground which was beautiful, clean with a gift shop and tourist tips! From there we took 14, the scenic route to to Buffalo… and omg it had a decline of 8% even than than the from Yellowstone!!! Where was that app when I needed it! We too stayed at Indian Campground, super clean as was Ponderosa with a great laundry… we were pleased with drive from Buffalo to Custer State park, only a couple hills with a 7% decline!!! But we had googled how to get car in manual shift to not have to use brakes!! Yippee so much better and safer!!

    1. Oh how fun! I can’t imagine going on 14, 16 was curvy and steep enough, but being able to downshift and not use the brakes is much better!

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