The Best Guide To Yellowstone National Park With Kids
Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park in the United States and remains one of the most popular. If youre planning to visit, start with this comprehensive Guide To Yellowstone National Park With Kids. Before you even begin planning, know that lodging reservations for the busy summer months, begin to fill a year in advance. Because Yellowstone spreads over such a large area, youll enjoy the vacation even more if you plan lodging and activities near each other. When you do, youll have more opportunities to take in Yellowstones natural beauty. Of course, youll want to hike, visit the geothermal features, and search for wildlife, but also consider adding extra ways to enjoy nature through horseback riding, white water rafting, or memorable experiences like a chuckwagon dinner. No doubt, a visit to Yellowstone National Park is a memorable vacation, so keep reading and discover family-friendly recommendations for your trip!
Together with the help of our community of traveling families, weve compiled important tips to remember before you head out on a Yellowstone family vacation. Given that youve got enough details to keep straight, read through these tips as you start to research with our Guide To Yellowstone National Park With Kids.
Norris Geyser Basin And Steamboat Geyser
Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest and hottest of Yellowstones geyser basin. It has been active for over 100,000 years!
It is also one of the most popular spots in Yellowstone, thanks in part to its proximity to the gateway town of West Yellowstone. During the summer months, the large parking lot can fill up by 10am.
The biggest attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which is the tallest geyser in the the world. It sprays up to 300 feet in the air when it erupts, but the eruptions are unpredictable so you never know if you are going to be lucky enough to see it.
The geyser does have minor eruptions more frequently. These eruptions shoot water 10-40 feet in the air and are still great to watch.
There is a 1.5-mile boardwalk that encircles the Back Basin portion of Norris where Steamboat Geyser is located. There are several other geysers, rapidly boiling springs, and colorful thermal features to enjoy along the path.
The other section of Norris Geyser Basin to explore is Porcelain Basin, which is devoid of trees due to the volatile, acidic nature of the surrounding area. It gets its name from the milky white hue that some of the springs give off.
Yellowstone Big Gun Fun
If youve never shot a gun before or are looking for an opportunity to shoot some semi-automatics, rifles, and old school guns this might be a good spot for you . Although you can go through alot of ammunition in a short time, I bet youll never forget it.
The employees make your safety the #1 priority. I was a bit intimidated when we tried it, but Big Gun Fun assigns one employee for each group to guide you through the entire process from getting your hearing protection gear to supervising while you shoot the guns. You must be 12 or older and it is recommended that you make an appointment or go in early in the morning to avoid crowds. The typical hours are 11:00 am-10 pm and packages range from $30-$35 per person and for a few extra dollars, you can shoot at zombies.
You May Like: Kid Friendly Activities In Cleveland Ohio
Camping Near Mammoth Hot Springs & Lamar Valley
Mammoth CampgroundMammoth Campground is the only campground that is open year-round in Yellowstone. They have 85 non-electric campsites. They can accommodate tents and RVs. Reservations can be made online.
Slough CreekSlough Creek is the closest campground to Lamar Valley. It has 23 non-electric campsites for tents and small RVs. Reservations can be made online.
Take A Stagecoach Ride To An Old West Cookout
The northern portion of Yellowstone National Park near the Tower-Roosevelt area is filled with classic Western scenery. Rolling hills dotted with sagebrush conjure up visions of the Old West.
Head over to the Roosevelt Corral and go for a stagecoach ride across the plateau. The stagecoach is an especially great option for families with kids too young to horseback ride.
Or up your cowboy ante even more and take the stagecoach to the Old West Dinner Cookout held most summer evenings. Keep an eye out for bison, pronghorn antelope, and elk along the way. Then, fill up your plate with steak, baked beans, corn muffins, and other classic chuckwagon dinner items.
Recommended Reading: Cleveland Kid Activities
One Of The Coolest Places In The World
Actually, I think it could be added to the coolest places in the world list.
I dont think there is another place quite like it.
Now we can see why it was the United States first park in the national park system. Thank you Teddy Roosevelt for having the vision to protect these unique places of natural and culture beauty for years to come.
If you dont know what to see in Yellowstone, lets talk about some of the best Yellowstone attractions you cant miss down below!
Yellowstone National Park is actually in three states: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Most of the park is in Wyoming.
Visiting The Waterfalls Of The Yellowstone River
When planning to visit the Upper and Lower Falls of Yellowstone River, I would advise you get there as close to 9am as possible. Not only will you beat the main crowds, but youll find plenty of parking too. We arrived at the Lower Falls before 9.30am and they were bathed in the most beautiful light from the sun. Any later in the day and we would have missed this photo opportunity.
You May Like: Cleveland Things To Do Kids
Swim In Boiling River Hot Springs
Where the Boiling River meets the Gardner river you can swim during the day. There is a place to park, but the parking lot cannot accommodate an RV. Practice caution when getting in the water. The water coming off the Boiling River is scalding and will hurt you. You will want to wear water shoes to walk through the water. Also, do not put your head underwater because of microorganisms living in the water.
Upper Geyser Basin Trail
There are several paths to Old Faithful, one of the most popular destinations within the national park. One way to reach the Old Faithful area is via the Upper Geyser Basin trail, which will get you to the largest concentration of geysers in the world. The path is wide and paved, so kids will have no trouble hiking the path. But you might have a harder time deciding which sites to visit first: spouting geysers, colorful hot springs or steaming fumaroles. Some of the trails iconic points of attractions include Castle Geyser, Morning Glory Pool, and Grotto Geyser, in addition to Old Faithful.
You May Like: Fun Things To Do In Syracuse Ny At Night
Admire The Grand Prismatic Spring
Last, but CERTAINLY not least, add a visit the Grand Prismatic Spring to your trip to Yellowstone National Park with kids. Of all the stunning sights that Yellowstone has to offer, the Grand Prismatic Spring is far and away the most majestic and awe-inspiring. At 160 ft deep, its the largest hot spring in the U.S. and the third-largest in the world. The springs incredible rainbow colors give it an other-worldly appearance. Needless to say, Grand Prismatic is Yellowstones most photographed thermal feature and to many the main reason to visit Americas Oldest National Park.
This was our favorite place we saw while we were there. This area is extremely popular with tourists and its important to plan your visit ahead in order to avoid frustration, traffic and massive amounts of people. Also, make sure to give yourself 1 to 2 hours for your visit, more if you are planning to hike to the overlook. Make sure to walk across the bridge past an out of this world steaming spring, to admire the vibrant blue and orange colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
As you enter Yellowstone National Park, look for signage to the Midway Geyser Basin. The Grand Prismatic parking lot is incredibly busy and priority seems to be given to the many visiting tour buses. Traffic can be heavy at times and is often impeded by visitors parking along the roads and around the parking lot entrance.
How Many Days Do You Need In Grand Teton With Kids
Three days in the park is the sweet spot for visiting Grand Teton National Park. Since traveling with kids can mean slower travel, three days allows you to see a lot at a leisurely pace. If you dont have that much time or are planning to combine a trip to Yellowstone or Jackson, Wyoming, I would plan for a day and a half to two days so you can adequately explore the park.
Recommended Reading: Stuff To Do In Mystic Ct
When To Visit Yellowstone National Park
Summer is by far the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park with kids. The weather is at its best and the kids are out of school. All the park roads and facilities are open during the summer. Because this is the best and most popular time to visit, expect crowds and expensive prices on lodging.
Other great times to visit weather-wise and crowd-wise are April, May, and September. But do your research, because not all roads and facilities may be open during these months.
TIP: Plan and book your lodging EARLY! Start your day EARLY to avoid crowds!
Visit Mormon Row Historic District
Mormon Row is a great opportunity to give your kids a historical background to the area. Settled in the early 1900s by mormons , the area houses a collection of old barns and buildings that are fun to explore and photograph. While technically, its not inside Grand Teton National Park, the area has become synonymous with Grand Teton since professional and amateur photographers flock to the area to snap the iconic picture of the Tetons framing the historic barns. Its a fun outing and a good place to see the sunset or have a picnic.
Also Check: What To Do With Kids In Cleveland Ohio
Things To Do Near Yellowstone With Kids
While there are plenty of things to keep you occupied within Yellowstone itself, there are also two additional things to do near Yellowstone, particularly you are travelling with young kids. They both give you a chance to view wildlife that is naturally found within the park but which can often be elusive. And which one you visit will depend on how much time you have at Yellowstone and what gates you are entering or leaving through.
Getting Around Yellowstone National Park With Kids
There is not any public transportation in Yellowstone. The park is very very large so the best way to get around is with a rental car if you are flying. Having a rental car allows you to explore the park on your own schedule and gives you a ton of flexibility.
You may have some trouble with a rental car if you are flying into the West Yellowstone airport. There are some cars available but the selection is pretty small. The international airports in Salt Lake and Bozeman have a great selection of rental cars and if you book ahead of time, you should not have any troubles getting a car.
Also Check: Things To Do Baytown
Check Out The Junior Ranger Program
Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the self-guided Junior Ranger Program is a great way to introduce kids to the natural wonders of Yellowstone. Booklets are available for just $3, and upon completing the age-appropriate activities listed inside the booklet, participants will receive an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch thats modeled after the National Park Service patch.
Become A Junior Ranger Or Young Scientist
There are two programs which are often in the top 10 things to do in Yellowstone for kids. They are the Yellowstone Junior Ranger and the Young Scientist Program. Both are seriously fun things to do with kids in Yellowstone Park.
The Junior Ranger Program gives younger visitors to the park the chance to become a Junior Ranger. Suitable for children between the ages of 4 and 13+, the activity booklet which costs just $3 is available to purchase from the visitors centres and has activities which must be completed to become a Junior Ranger.
The activities include hiking a trail or boardwalk, completing an age-appropriate activity on geysers, wildlife and habitats, and finally, attending a ranger-led activity. After completing the activities and getting them verified in a visitors centre, kids earn a Junior ranger badge for their age group.
The Young Scientist Program is suitable for children aged 5 or more and has a booklet which is available to buy from either the Canyon or Old Faithful Educational Visitor Centres. The program is designed to allow children to solve mysteries by combining investigation through both visitor centre and field work. Like the Junior Ranger Program upon completing, kids are awarded a Young Scientist badge.
Top Tip: Get your kids ranger or scientist booklets on your first day so they have time to complete their tasks towards their badges.
Recommended Reading: Things To Do With Kids In Cleveland
Enjoy The Drive Around Yellowstone With Kids
Yellowstone is so beautiful and one of the best ways to see all of the natural beauty and wonders along the scenic roads in Yellowstone.
The Grand Loop Road is about 140 miles and will take you by most of the things to do in Yellowstone with toddlers. You can make this drive in a day but you can easily spend more time depending on traffic and how many things you stop to see along the way. You can easily break the loop up to see it in multiple days.
Here are some of our favorite and most scenic drives in the park:
- Lamar Valley to the Northeast Entrance
- Hayden Valley
- Dunraven Pass and Mount Washburn
What To Bring To Yellowstone National Park
Plan for changeable weather: Bring jackets and rain gear. Snowstorms can blow in unexpectedly even in June or later.
Bear Spray: Stay back from wildlife, and dont let the kids run ahead on a trail. If you wont need it for other parts of your trip, donate it to the park rangers on your way out of the park. Use your judgment- if you are staying on heavily trafficked trails, this may not be necessary. You can rent bear spray in the Canyon Village section of the park.
The wind can be brutal: Be careful with hats. Either leave them in the car or make sure to have a chin strap. Hats are notorious for blowing off into geysers or hot springs.
Binoculars: Youll want to check out the wildlife without getting too close.
A full tank of gas: Youll be driving long distances, and dont want to run out of gas. There are a few gas stations within Yellowstone to fill up as needed.
Read Also: Things To Do In Canton Ct
Grand Prismatic Spring And The Midway Geyser Basin
Grand Prismatic Spring, although crowded, is a must-see if you travel to Yellowstone National Park. This enormous hot spring has a brilliant blue center surrounded by a ring of orange, yellow, and green hues. Watching the steam rise from the rainbow of colors is an otherworldly experience for children and adults alike.
Take memorable photos at the Midway Geyser Basin. Photo by the author
In addition to the Grand Prismatic Spring, the Midway Geyser Basin is also home to the an enormous geyser crater called the Excelsior Geyser, as well as the Turquoise Pool and Opal Pool. It’s best to plan this stop earlier in the day if possible because the parking lot gets packed, and you can end up having to park far away on the road. We recommend bringing a stroller or a carrier for young children. There is a boardwalk that is easy to walk on, but there are no railways that will deter wild toddlers from trying to get too close.
Phelps Lake Jumping Rock
For older kids who want some thrills, jumping off Phelps Lake Jumping Rock is sure to satisfy. Located on the North Eastern corner of the lake is a jutting out rock that looms 20 feet above the water. The thrill isnt just jumping from the rock, but the cool glacial water that gives a good zesty zing when you make contact. Youll start the 2.5 mile hike from the Rockefeller Preserve, so you have a little time to work up a summer sweat before you jump into the frigid water.
Read Also: Things To Do With Kids Cleveland
Plan For The Unexpected
Yellowstone is wild. Its not a visit to Disneyland. Road closures and delays are very common. In the span of our visit, there was a natural fire and an overturned fuel truck that caused closures for days. Not to mention bison traffic jams and routine road maintenence that the park does every year. I say this not to turn you off but to prepare you so you can adjust your expectations.
Great Yellowstone Hikes For Families With Kids
Yellowstone National Park offers so much to see and do that family make it a point to return. While the dramatic canyons, gushing geysers, and lush forests are a big draw, its the time families gets to spend together as they view natures wonders that complete the experience. Whether youre enjoying each others company in the comforts of your Yellowstone vacation rental, or attempting one of these top Yellowstone hikes for families, make your Yellowstone vacation one for the books.
Read Also: What To Do Around Mystic Ct