Yellowstone National Park is one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. I highly recommend that time be with your kids when they are young. Your family will make memories that will last a lifetime and will most likely lead to them bringing their kids to Yellowstone Park someday too!
We have been to Yellowstone multiple times and have spent a total of 6 weeks exploring the park and surrounding area. It is really one of those places that never gets old. Yes, it can be busy and yes there are touristy areas but if you are willing to get off the beaten path it can feel like you are the only ones there.
Here is my list of 17 reasons you should add Yellowstone Park to your family travel list:
They really are amazing to see in person. The fact that all of this power is right under your feet and then basically erupts in this powerful geyser at a pretty set time everyday is so cool to see in person.
To view geysers you have a few options in Yellowstone. The ones we recommend are Old Faithful and Loan Star Geyser.
Old Faithful is one of those tourist traps in the park and is almost always busy but it is still worth it to go and see it. If you want to try to catch it when it isn’t busy or to get a different perspective on it you can see it at night. Or else just brave the crowds and take it in.
It is going to take a little more work to see this Geyser but it is totally worth it. You can either bike or walk to the Geyser (it is 4 miles round trip). This geyser has no sitting or ropes blocking you off from it. Instead you could literally walk right up to it – but obviously you DON’T want to do this.
Seeing a Geyser like this out in the middle of nowhere is really cool. Plus there is a nice stream you can play in and hang out by while you wait for the Geyser to go off. Please not it is about 3 hours between when the Geyser does blow so you could be sitting around for a while.
Also note when we were there it went off for a few minutes and we thought that was it. But we were wrong after stopping for a few minutes then it really went off. It lasts for quite a while then!
Have you ever been in a Bison traffic jam? It is almost guaranteed to happen if you spend any amount of time in Yellowstone. These guys walk around like they own the place (which they do!) so be prepared to spend some time sitting in your car waiting for them to move along.
It is pretty amazing when they walk right by your car window or when you see a whole herd of them heading down the street right at you!
There are some pretty amazing hikes with unbelievable views. Some are really easy and others are more challenging. Our advice is always to do at least one challenging one. Hiking up to the summit of a mountain is such a rewarding thing for you and your family.
I can tell you it is worth the struggle and effort to get up there! Just be prepared with bear spray, layers and the right shoes.
Hikes we recommend doing are:
Easy level: Pelican Creek
At .6 miles this is a nice easy stroll along the shores of Yellowstone Lake and through the forest. It is located by the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center. Part way through the hike you can stop to let the kids run around on the beach. When we did this hike there was no one else there!
2.3 miles round trip hike that takes you through a variety of terrain with a little bit of an incline. Our oldest continuously says this is one of his favorite hikes. Make sure to keep your eyes out for the Marmot colony as you get close to the water. The old forest you walk through is a pretty cool experience. We enjoyed stopping and having everyone be quiet for a few seconds so you can really feel the silence of the forest.
6 miles round trip up to the summit of a mountain – that is over 10,000 feet high. At the top you can go into a lookout tower and take a break for a little bit before the much easier hike down. This is also a great place to view wildflowers. This hike is difficult but also so amazing and a great challenge to take on as a family.
I already mentioned the Bison but there are so many other kinds of wildlife you can see in Yellowstone. Of course the one everyone hopes to see – from the safety of their car – is a bear! Chances are pretty good that you will see one if you spend a week or more exploring the park.
When you are driving through the park keep your eyes pealed or also know if there is a traffic jam there is a good chance that people have stopped because there is a bear or other animal on the side of the road.
Seeing a bear in the wild is a pretty amazing thing. But be well aware of bear safety and do not get out of your car or ever approach the wildlife. This includes bison and any other animals that you might see. Remember that story of the people putting the baby bison in the back of their SUV. . . not a good idea these are wild animals so leave them alone or contact a park ranger if you think there is a problem with an animal.
The Grand Prismatic is one of those places that doesn’t even feel or look real. The immense heat you feel when you are walking on the boardwalk and the surreal colors you see makes it seem like someone painted a picture and is blowing hot air on you.
Seriously it is quite the experience and is so unique to stand and look out at this crazy collection of colors and to imagine the power and heat that is in the ground right under your feet.
This is another high tourist area but I guarantee it is somewhere you will want to stop to see. P.S. not wear a hat or anything that can blow away! You will see when you get there all of the hats that tourists have lost while visiting the Grand Prismatic.
Wait did you read that right? YES! They even have beaches at Yellowstone. No these beaches are not like Florida beaches. But being on a beach with the mountains surrounding you is a pretty cool thing and sometimes the kids just need a way to kick back and relax for a while and the beach is the perfect place to do that.
We recommend checking out the beach area by the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center or else by the picnic areas on Yellowstone Lake.
The Boiling River
This place is so cool! You have the boiling hot water coming from the hot springs mixing with the cold water from the river and it makes it the perfect temperature to sit in it. Bring water shoes and hold on tight to your kids – the current of the river is strong – so stay in the correct areas.
You can walk into the boiling river and find the perfect place to just sit and relax. Or you can explore and find the places where the water is coming in the hottest and the coldest. Such a cool experience!
Visiting Mammoth Hot Springs feels like you are on mars or some other planet. The structures that are there are so unique and interesting to look at it. Then after you take the short walk to see all of the amazing sites you can head over to the museum or go to the restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat.
Mammoth Hot Springs is also where you can usually spot the Elk hanging out on the lawn of the town eating the grass. Yes this is Yellowstone. Elk just hanging out right outside the window while you are eating your lunch!
Hang out at a Lodge
Yellowstone has a couple of lodges throughout the park and we always enjoy spending time sitting in the rocking chairs on the porch and just relaxing. The lodges also have restaurants and bars so feel free to grab a drink before you sit down.
Have you ever seen a reverse sunset? You can see one while sitting at the Lodge down the road from the Lake Hotel. What it is is the reflection of the sun setting on the Mountains across the lake. It is pretty amazing.
Fishing Bridge is an area of Yellowstone that is located by the Lake Hotel. They have the hotel here along with a campground. We really enjoy this section of Yellowstone since it tends to be less busy then areas like Old Faithful or Mammoth Hot Springs. Yet there are still some really cool things to do!
Mud Volcano and Sulphur Cauldron are really cool and you totally know you are getting close to it when you smell the sulphur (we would call the smell dragon farts). It is a fun area to get out at and do the short hike on a boardwalk to check out all of the mud volcanoes and seeing the smoke come out of the cave – which of course comes from dragon that lives there :)!!
If seeing wildlife is at the top of your list then driving through Hayden Valley is a must. Based on the layout of the valley it lends itself to being a place where animals are frequently spotted especially Bison.
Plan time to stop at one of the pullouts and just hang out for a while with a picnic lunch and a set of binoculars and see what you can find. If you are looking for animals – dusk is usually going to be your best bet. People also come to Hayden Valley to capture amazing sunset pictures.
Did you know there was a Grand Canyon in Yellowstone?! There is and it is beautiful. It isn’t as large as THE Grand Canyon but it is still pretty amazing. We recommend checking out the iconic Artist Point and going on Uncle Tom’s trail.
The power of the water going down into the canyon is so magical and the views will take your breath away.
Where to Stay:
Yellowstone is a HUGE place and we always recommend giving yourself at least 1 week to explore it. Being RV travelers ourselves we recommend taking an RV and staying a few days in each section of the park. You can of course stay at the cabins and hotels if you prefer to travel that way.
If you only stay in say West Yellowstone it is going to take you at least 2 hours (possibly more depending on the bison traffic jams) to get to the other side of Yellowstone. It is that big. Hence the reason behind staying a couple nights in each section of the park.
That way you can more throughly explore that area of the park in those couple days vs. having to spend so much of your day driving. Here is a recommended week stay:
2 Nights in Fishing Bridge
2 Nights in Mammoth Hot Springs
1 Night at Roosevelt area
2 Nights in Old Faithful
If you have more then a week then add on a few days at any of these places or plan on spending some time at the Grand Tetons or Cody, Wyoming.
Here is a post on the campgrounds in Yellowstone to help you better understand where to stay when it comes to RVing or campgrounds: http://www.crazyfamilyadventure.com/yellowstone-camping/
Going to Yellowstone is going to be different the your typical family trip. This is the wilderness and there aren’t a bunch of attractions but instead a lot of time and the great outdoors!
If you can go into the trip knowing cell coverage is going to be spotty and you may not be on the internet all week (come on you can do it!). Then you can really sit back and enjoy your trip.
There are a variety of convenience stores located throughout the park. But take note you will pay convenience store prices. If possible I recommend doing your grocery shopping before you come so you have the food you want at the prices you want. This is another reason that having an RV is a great way to go. Then you have a fridge and kitchen with you!
Like I mentioned before there are restaurants throughout the park but they aren’t all known for their good food and most of them are cafeteria style. Also be sure you check the hours since they do open and close throughout the day.
Here is a list of 12 things to bring with you when you go to Yellowstone: http://www.crazyfamilyadventure.com/12-things-to-bring-to-yellowstone/
Going to Yellowstone Park is one of those things that should be on your families bucket list. We went when our kids were young (the first time we went our youngest was 3) so it is totally do able with kids of all ages.
I can guarantee it will be a trip unlike any other you have done and there will be memories made that your family will remember forever!
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