An Authentic Mining Town!

The land around Cooke City was originally inhabited by Native Americans. Explorers and fur trappers made forays into the area before the Louisiana Purchase, which brought Lewis and Clark to the area on their expedition.

Some say John Colter, for which nearby Colter Pass was named, was the first white man to explore the area. In 1864 group of men explored the area before being attacked by Indians. By 1875, lead was being mined and smelted illegally, since the land belonged to the Crow Indian reservation.

Nez Perce Indians led by Chief Joseph raided it to make shot. They would be pursued by the U.S. Army into Canada.

Gold was discovered in 1870. The boundaries of the Crow Indian reservation was redrawn to permit mining in 1882. The gold rush was on. Cooke City was incorporated that same year as a rough and tumble mining town replete with saloons, brothels, claim jumping, fights and murders.

The town was named for Jay Cooke Jr., a Pacific Railroad Contractor, with aspirations of connecting the mountain pass to the railway system. Within a year the population of the former territory had grown to almost 300.

Mining waxed and waned until the 1920s, when the area became one of the most prolific gold producing areas in the country. Mines would produce until the 1950s. It would be proven in the 1990s that the prospectors had indeed found the Mother Lode in the late nineteeth century.

The train never materialized, but Cooke City did become the staging site for the creation of the Beartooth Highway in 1931. This opened the northeast gateway to beautiful Yellowstone National Park which brought the bonanza of tourism. Today, Cooke City retains its historical charm with restaurants and shops true to those at the turn of the 20th century.


  • Great location    A little less traveled area around Yellowstone, Cooke City is high on atmosphere. It's just the right size for a stroll around town. This motel is very basic, but it was clean and we slept well here. The staff was very friendly.


  • Good base-camp  - We stayed in 2 bedroom suite. It had full kitchen with lots of room. Two bedrooms with comfortable beds, one nice bath. We brought our own food and enjoyed great meal. The acccess to Yellowstone is great- only minutes from Lamar Valley for elk, bison, wolf viewing. Definitely recommend as comfortable, value priced base camp for Yellowstone adventures.

    Tom J

  • 5.0
    We arrived at 8:30pm and they were waiting for us---we were the last to arrive for the day. We stayed for 3 nights. The surrounding area is delightful and although our rooms were dated, they were clean and the beds were very comfortable. The location was perfect for our needs---we were there to watch for moose, bear, and wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. It was a 30 minute drive between our hotel and this area. The bar across the street had amazing pizza and buffalo burgers. The Soda Butte hotel about a block up the street had good breakfasts and we also enjoyed the bakery about another block up. Ashley, the clerk on duty, provided me with great info about where to go to spot moose as well as good places to eat. The town is about 140 people and most things close up around Sept 15th because the weather starts to turn bad. We would definitely stay there again. We are from a small town ourselves and found everyone to be very friendly. We just fit in. If you are looking for amenities, this is not a place for you:) We had all the basic creature comforts but it is rustic and we found it to be charming. We were there to sleep and did not need much beyond a warm shower each morning:)

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