By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
The Fourth Earl of Dunraven would be pleased.
The pass that is named in his honor, which is the highest altitude road in Yellowstone National Park, will open for the first time in two years on Friday, with all the pomp and circumstance befitting the Anglo-Irish nobleman for whom the nearby Dunraven Peak is named.
It’s been a while since drivers could use the road. It’s been closed for the last two years as part of a $28 million improvement project.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said the work was sorely needed.
“This is a section of road that hasn’t been worked on since the 1930s,” he said.
Since 2020, with Dunraven Pass closed, anyone traveling the northern loop of roads in Yellowstone has had to go miles out of their way to access the Northeast Entrance from the south or east.
“Once again, the circle between Cody, Cooke City (Montana), Lamar Valley, Dunraven and back to Cody will be back open,” Sholly said.
The opening of the road will be celebrated by Park staff, as well as Cody community leaders, as the area is closest to the East Entrance of Yellowstone. There will be an official ribbon cutting at noon on Friday.
And it’s not just Cody leaders who are anxiously awaiting the opening of Dunraven Pass.
“We’re excited to be able to tell people they can venture back to there,” said Katrina Wiese, the CEO of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce.
Nearly 9,000 Feet
The pass, at 8,859 feet, is the highest pass in Yellowstone. The 6-mile road, which splits off from the Grand Loop Road, leads to Mount Washburn and connects Tower Junction with the Canyon developed area.
Nearby Dunraven Peak was named in 1878 by Henry Gannett, a geographer working with the U.S. Geological Survey. Gannett was inspired by Lord Dunraven’s 1876 book, The Great Divide, in which Dunraven devoted over 150 pages to Yellowstone, after his participation in a hunting expedition there in 1874.
The pass on the Grand Loop Road between Tower and Canyon was named for the nearby mountain.
More Road Openings
Dunraven Pass won’t be the only scenic route opening Friday. Two other scenic drives in the area — the Beartooth Highway just northeast of the Park, and Highway 14A over the northern Big Horn Mountains — will also open for the season.
However, other popular routes in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks will be undergoing reconstruction this summer.
“The largest project that we have going on at Grand Teton this summer is the wholesale reconstruction of part of the Moose-Wilson Road,” said Chip Jenkins, Superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. “That’s the road that goes from Moose, where park headquarters in the visitor center is, to the Jackson Hole resort village.”
Jenkins and Sholly both praised Congress for making road construction projects like these possible – especially considering the increased traffic that the Parks have witnessed in recent years.
“Thanks to funding from Congress, the Great American Outdoors Act has provided a significant amount of funding to parks here in Wyoming,” said Jenkins.
At the celebration of the opening of the Old Faithful Inn earlier this month, Sholly noted that construction projects such as these are absolutely necessary.
“We are doing the very best that we can to protect the infrastructure of this park,” he said. “And at the same time, understanding that we’ll continue to have deferred maintenance needs. And we’ll continue to need to make future investments to protect the investments that we’re making today to prevent them from deteriorating into the future.”