Yellowstone Park with Kids

This is a guest post from Sharlene Earnshaw of Double The Adventure. Sharlene’s last post for us was an excellent list of toddler road trip tips.  Part of her road trip experience was exploring National Parks with her 3-year-old twins. Here are 5 kid-friendly activity suggestions in Yellowstone. Fun! Also, Sharlene just shared that she is the new Blog Editor for our friends at Trekaroo. Congratulations Sharlene!

I have a confession to make: I have been engaged in a love affair for over a decade. It was truly love at first sight, and now I can’t ever seem to get enough. The object of my affection? Our country’s National Park system. I have yet to find a park that I didn’t absolutely adore.

As a matter of fact, I have made it a personal goal to visit every single National Park (yep, all 58 of them) with my children. Last summer, I took my kids to the original National Park, Yellowstone. It exceeded every one of my expectations and now I am on a one woman crusade to convince every family to make the pilgrimage. What should you do once you get there? Here are five family friendly activities that I recommend:

Yellowstone horseback riding

Nothing makes you feel like you are in the Old West more than a horseback ride. Children aged eight and up will love exploring Yellowstone cowboy style on either a one hour or two hour guided tour at one of many different locations throughout the park. If you have children under eight, don’t worry! Our children were two when we visited so we opted to take them on a stagecoach ride and they had a ball. I have to admit that spotting a bison while sitting in a replica of a talley-ho coach was enough to make me get in touch with my inner Laura Ingalls.

Spend a sunrise or sunset in the Hayden Valley

Yellowstone is America’s version of the Serengeti and the best time to see bison, elk, deer, antelope, bears, beaver, or even the elusive wolf, is during dawn or dusk. Animals just seem to be more active during these times and luckily, it’s also when lighting is best for photography. Your children will love the excitement of spotting a bear in a clearing or having a herd of bison cross the road directly in front of your car. There is just something about seeing wild animals in their natural habitat that is magical.

Explore Geyser Basin

Yellowstone is home to 60% of the world’s geysers so no trip to this park is complete without a walk through Geyser Basin. Start at Old Faithful and “ooh” and “aww” as 204 degree water shoots 130 feet into the air above you. Then follow the Geyser Loop Trail out to Morning Glory Pool to marvel at the many geysers, pools, and bubbling pots along the way. Geysers are always erupting and if you get lucky, you may even time your visit to see one of the show stoppers such as Castle or Riverside Geyser. My personal favorite was the multicolored pools. The reflection of the trees on those glassy waters was nothing short of spectacular.

Take a hike

Whether you climb down the switchbacks to the edge of Lower Yosemite Falls or walk through a lodgepole pine forest in search of bubbling mud pots, getting out of the car and onto a trail is a very important part of the Yellowstone experience. There are hikes suitable for all ability levels so everyone has the opportunity to see Yellowstone away from the road’s edge. One of my favorite short hikes was to the Artist Paint Pots. There is just something so fascinating about bubbling mud and at just one mile round trip, it was perfect for our two-year-olds.

Participate in Yellowstone Park’s Junior Ranger Program

One of the activities we can’t investigate until my children are old enough to participate in is the Junior Ranger Program. For $3.00, children aged 5-12 can complete a twelve page activity paper, designed to introduce kids to the wonders of Yellowstone and the importance of conservation. Requirements include attending a Ranger-led program, taking a hike, and completing various age specific activities inside the booklet. Upon completion, the booklet can be returned to any visitor center where a park ranger will review your child’s work and award them with an official Junior Ranger badge. Fun, educational, and a reward at the end. What’s not to love?

Relevant Links:

toddler road trip tips

camping with kids

Yellowstone Park with kids

6 Comments

  1. Great tips, Sharlene! I will join your crusade to visit all of our country’s National Parks. My kiddos would love taking a stagecoach ride — we do so every year in Yosemite. Yellowstone is definitely on our short list!

  2. We definitely want to visit all of the National Parks as well. We did the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore last summer. Next up is the Grand Canyon. After that we’ll probably do something out east, possibly the Great Smoky Mountains. Also don’t forget the National Park passport program, where kids can collect stamps from National Parks in a special booklet.

  3. Great post! That was an awesome trip and hopefully we can go back at least once before we hit up the other 50+ parks on your list.

  4. Great tips for visiting a national park (aka THE national park). I am going to definitely use these tips while traveling across the country next month.

  5. Jr. Ranger is cool, but if you are going to visit a series of National Parks you should look into getting one of the NP passports. You can usually pick them up at visitors centers (that’s where you stamp them too). Kids love them….

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