Yellowstone’s Old West Dinner Cookout Review – A Remarkable Experience

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Last Updated on May 19, 2024 by Bonnie

For our fourth trip to Yellowstone National Park, we were looking for something new. After three trips, we’d seen pretty much all of the thermal features. We’d driven the park roads many times. We’d hunted for wildlife in Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley. And, while we were excited to do those things again, we wanted to do something to make this particular 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 Old West Dinner Cookout was that special something.

Two pairs of legs kicked up on the rail of a fence, looking out at the parking lot surrounded by trees.
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 on previous trips. The ambiance, the food and, of course, its namesake (President Teddy Roosevelt) all contribute to why we fell in love with this restaurant. We make a point to return any time we visit Yellowstone National Park.

As we reviewed all of our Yellowstone National Park dining options for this trip, we were reminded that the Roosevelt Lodge dining room does not accept reservations. We also happened across the Roosevelt Lodge Old West Dinner Cookout on the Yellowstone National Park Lodges website.

We both loved the idea of a horseback ride with a cookout as well!

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Old West Dinner Cookout Options and Reservations

The options for the Old West Cookout are to do a one-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 horseback ride seemed like the way to go.

At the time, they offered both a one-hour and two-hour horseback ride to the cookout, so we opted for the two-hour horseback ride to the cookout. Sadly, the two-hour ride is not presently (as of May 2024) an option for the Old West Cookout. You can take it separately, though.

A point-of-view shot from a horseback rider with the horse's head in the foreground. beyond that is a trail of horses leading on a path through green hills with a mountain in the distance.
The scenery during the two-hour horseback ride in Yellowstone 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 was not 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 p.m. 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.

A wooden, square arch with the words "Roosevelt Horse Corral" on it with two cars parked next to the arch. The are several pine trees throughout the picture.
The corral where all of the horseback riding the Roosevelt leaves from.

Thankfully, I had my long-sleeve sun shirt with me, so I wouldn’t come back looking like a lobster! And we just had to suck it up and be ok with photos from our phones. 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.

Bonnie, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sitting on a horse tied to a rail.
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 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.”

Ranger's Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes (20th Anniversary Edition)
Ranger’s Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes (20th Anniversary Edition)
Roger Anderson (Author); English (Publication Language); 286 Pages – 02/14/2021 (Publication Date) – Farcountry Press (Publisher)
$24.93 Amazon Prime

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 Old West Cookout

We arrived at the Old West 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.

Grant Sinclair enjoying a bite of steak at the Old West Cookout in Yellowstone National Park.
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 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 Setting for the Old West Cookout

The actual Old West 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 here in the late 1800s.

A large group of people sit at several picnic tables in a valley.
You can’t beat this scenery 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!

A yellow stagecoach in a valley with elk antlers in front of it.
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 cared there were a couple of hundred folks eating dinner nearby.

We also saw a few bison down in Pleasant Valley but bison are everywhere in Yellowstone, so nothing to get too excited about.

The last bit of wildlife excitement was a coyote with a few pups on our horseback ride back to the corral. Again, baby animals are 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.

Sadly, we were not able to get photos of most of these since we couldn’t take pictures while riding and didn’t have a camera with a zoom lens. But, we do have the memories for ourselves!

Final Thoughts on Yellowstone’s Old West Dinner Cookout

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.

Grant sitting on a horse in front of several vehicles. He is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
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 of hundred folks at one time. Overall, 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 Dinner Cookout!


Travel Resources
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2 thoughts on “Yellowstone’s Old West Dinner Cookout Review – A Remarkable Experience”

  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?

    Reply

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