Yellowstone’s Old West Dinner Cookout


As we prepared for our fourth visit to Yellowstone National Park, we anxiously awaited returning to our “happy place.” We were looking forward to staying at Fishing Bridge RV Park for the first time, since we now own a camper. Hiking, thermal features and abundant wildlife called us, just as it has previously. We knew it would be a great visit to Yellowstone!

But we also were looking for something new. After three trips, we’ve seen pretty much all of the thermal features. We’ve driven the park roads many times. We’ve hunted for wildlife in Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley. And, while we were excited to do those things again, we knew that finding a new experience would make the trip special.

As we planned, we wondered what that special something would be. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that the Roosevelt Cookout was that special something.

Kicking up our feet at Roosevelt Lodge
Sitting on the porch at Roosevelt Lodge, sipping on a refreshing beverage. The front porch is just one of the many things we love about the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room.

The dining room at Roosevelt Lodge quickly became one of our favorite places to eat a few years ago. The ambiance, the food and, of course, its namesake (President Teddy Roosevelt) all contribute to why we fell in love with this restaurant.

As we reviewed all of our Yellowstone National Park dining options, we were reminded that the Roosevelt Lodge dining room does not accept reservations. We also discovered the Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout.

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

Roosevelt Cookout Reservations

The options for the Roosevelt Cookout are to do a one-hour or two-hour horseback ride, or a horse-drawn wagon ride (30-45 minutes) to the dinner site. Of course, we wanted the horseback ride… More new adventures! Based on pricing, the two-hour ride seemed like the way to go.

The horseback ride to the cookout provided great views!
The scenery during the two-hour horseback ride did not disappoint!

We had already made our campground reservations, so now we just needed to add on the horseback ride/cookout. I completed the online reservation form in mid-April and requested our first full day, June 28, for the cookout. I also included that we would be there for several nights so that if the 28th wasn’t available, we would like a different day.

Within a day, we had our reservation for July 1, the last night of our stay. I include this detail to say, make your reservations early!

Two-Hour Horseback Ride to Cookout

We arrived at the Roosevelt Corral around 3:15. Upon check-in, the assistants told us that we could not take anything extra with us. A phone was ok, as long as it was off and in a secure location (i.e. not in your back pocket). We could not take a “real” camera. I could not take a bag with sunscreen. Time to minimize! Note: if you do the wagon ride you can take a small bag.

Horses and Wagons are housed at the Roosevelt Corral.
The corral where all of the horseback riding at Roosevelt leaves out of.

Thankfully, I had my long-sleeve sun shirt with me, so I didn’t come back looking like a lobster! And we just had to suck it up and be ok with photos on the iPhone. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but we weren’t super happy.

Once everyone arrived, the wranglers gave the safety briefing and we turned in our forms that signed our lives away. The kids got helmets and, thankfully, adults were not required to wear helmets! It was time to ride!

The corral staff assigned each person a horse. I, Bonnie, rode Baxter. Grant was on Salt River. As soon as we were on the horses, we were even more excited! While we have both ridden horses before, it had been a while. This was actually the first horseback ride we had done together. And we were in one of our favorite places in the world!

Pro Tip: I always suggest wearing jeans while horseback riding, so be sure to pack a pair in your bag.

Check out our full Yellowstone Packing List here.

The Trail

When we finally took off, our first direction was up! Up the mountain, that is. The horses did great and we were thankful to not be climbing the mountain ourselves!

Once on top of the mountain, we entered wide-open sagebrush. We continued in a direction that was generally away from the lodge/road and along a canyon that neither of us knew was there. We caught a brief glimpse of Lost Creek Falls, plunging over the canyon walls. From there we continued on to Lost Lake.

Ready for the horseback ride to cookout!
Bonnie ready to do a two-hour horseback ride from Roosevelt Lodge.

This is actually a hiking trail and we did see a few hikers along the way. I actually suggested to Grant at one point that we should do this hike, not realizing it was the horse trail.  Thankfully, Grant noticed, in the “special attention” section in our Yellowstone Day Hikes book, that “groups on horseback use this trail regularly.”

Even then, we weren’t 100% sure this would be the trail that we’d take for the horseback ride, but we decided not to hike it, just in case. Thankfully, we made the right decision!

After passing Lost Lake, the trail continued past the Petrified Tree and then around to the cookout location, Yancey’s Hole.

The Cookout

We arrived at the cookout after about two hours. By this time, our rear-ends and legs were ready to walk again!

As we entered the cookout area, the guides told us that the two-hour horseback ride is always the last to arrive and the first to leave. We were a little sad, but the upside is that we got to be first in line for the buffet! Ultimately, we had plenty of time to eat, get seconds, rest and enjoy the scenery.

The cookout dinner did not disappoint!
Grant enjoying a well-done chuckwagon dinner, including the amazing Roosevelt beans.

Dinner consisted of steaks, coleslaw, potato salad, corn, Roosevelt beans, cornbread, watermelon and apple cobbler. Drink options were Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, water or milk. Sadly, no beer or wine. I guess they don’t want folks falling off the horses on the way back to the corral!

The steak may not have been the best one I’ve ever had, but it was tasty, as was everything else! The cornbread is amazing (it’s the same as the Roosevelt Dining Room) and the Roosevelt beans (a bunch of different beans with a yummy “sauce”) were delicious. We definitely went back for seconds of those!

Pro Tip: You can get the recipe for the Roosevelt beans at the cookout! It’s now our “go-to recipe” for cookouts.

Yancey’s Hole

The cookout is held in Pleasant Valley at Yancey’s Hole, which is near Roosevelt Junction, but well off the road. John Yancey built one of the first lodging facilities in the park at this location in the late 1800s.

Yancey's Hole is a great backdrop fro the cookout!
You can’t beat this scenery at Yancey’s Hole for a chuckwagon dinner.

The hotel served not only park visitors, but miners passing through to Cooke City (what is now the northeast entrance to the park). None of the original buildings remain.

This valley is gorgeous, with breathtaking views. It is not hard to understand why it was the site of a lodge at one point. And it was great to experience a “hidden” part of the park.

Wildlife Along the Trail

We hoped that we might see a little wildlife during the horseback ride and we got our wish!

The first critter we saw was an otter at Lost Lake. He was just swimming around, having a grand ole time, like otters usually do!

Not long after that, as we approached Petrified Tree, several folks told us there was a black bear up ahead. Seeing a bear is always a treat, but especially on horseback!

Thankfully, the bear was well off the trail so that neither it nor the horses were spooked. The bear was scrounging around, looking for food, I’m sure. I don’t think it even noticed the 15-20 horses traipsing by!

The stagecoach provides a somewhat easier ride to the cookout.
If you don’t want to ride horses to dinner, you can always ride the stagecoach.

At dinner, we saw two more bears! This bear sighting was even more awesome as it was a sow (mama bear) and a cub. The cub was just the cutest thing ever! Then again, I seem to think all baby animals are cute. Thankfully, the bears were well away from where we were eating, but still fairly easy to see. Again, I don’t think they even realized there were a couple of hundred folks eating dinner nearby.

We also saw a few bison down in Pleasant Valley. But bison are everywhere, so that wasn’t super exciting.

The last bit of wildlife excitement was a coyote with a few pups on our horseback ride back to the corral. Again, baby animals… just the cutest things ever! Grant is now eager to hike out to this location on our next visit to try to get pictures of coyote pups.

You can read more about our tips for finding and photographing wildlife in Yellowstone here.

Final Thoughts

This was a great experience for us. We really enjoyed exploring some new parts of Yellowstone National Park. Add in an amazing horseback ride and a yummy dinner… Perfection!

You can do the horseback ride without the cookout if you want a shorter experience. Yellowstone also offers horseback rides near Canyon. We really liked the experience of the cookout, though.

We both enjoyed the two-hour horseback ride!
Grant on his horse, Salt River.

The food may not have been quite as good as in a dining room, but that is almost always the case when you’re feeding a couple hundred folks at one time. Overall, though, we enjoyed the meal and would definitely recommend the experience.

The wranglers were great! They made sure everyone was safe and having fun. We got stories and information about the park along the way, which provided another layer of detail.

We very much enjoyed our afternoon and evening on the horseback ride to the cookout! If you are looking for a new or unique experience at Yellowstone, we highly recommend the Horseback Ride to Old West Cookout!

Travel Resources
What do you use to find a flight?

We use Skyscanner to find deals on flights. Skyscanner has a great interface and compares tons of airlines for the best pricing and routing. That said, it does not always have every airline and some airlines will have better deals on their website. Still, Skyscanner is a great place to start.
Click here to search for a flight.

What do you use to find a hotel?

We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. You can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
Click here to book a Hilton property.

If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
Click here to search for a hotel.

We recently partnered with Stay22 to add interactive maps to each of our destination posts. This will allow you to see a plethora of hotels and vacation rentals all in one responsive map of the area.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
Click here to search for a vacation rental.

Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
Click here to book a rental car.

How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
Click here to book a cruise.

What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
Click here to rent an RV.

What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
Click here to book a tour.

Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.

We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
Click here to get a AAA membership.

The two-hour horseback ride to Old West Dinner Cookout at Yellowstone's Roosevelt Lodge provided wildlife sightings, great food and gorgeous views!
Enjoy this story? Be sure to pin it on Pinterest and share it to Facebook and Twitter!

2 thoughts on “Yellowstone’s Old West Dinner Cookout”

  1. Hello . I was at you cook out in Aug. it was great !! I been to Yellowstone 8 times & that was my first to your ranch , but I’ll be back next year with my grandkids hopefully doing the horseback. Anyway my husband is retiring and loved your beans , I’ve never got the recipe I’m having a surprise party & wanted to make them any chance I can find them someplace?


Leave a Comment

I accept the Privacy Policy