Yellowstone is one everyone’s bucket list at some point in time. If it’s not, you should add it now and do it while your kids are young. Yellowstone is a GREAT place for family vacations. There is a ton for kids to do and explore and it has the most incredible scenery. Here is my Yellowstone with kids from A to Z; what to see and do with kids in Yellowstone National Park.
This little geyser basin has, not too surprisingly, some gorgeous colors, and beautiful views. It also has some mud pots (boiling mud), which fascinated the kids.
Or buffalo..according to the wildlife experts at Yellowstone, Bison and Buffalo are synonymous. Your will see tons everywhere. They look super gentle, but don’t get too close, they can be temperamental and run at speeds up to 40 MPH.
Crowds at Yellowstone is a fact of life in the summer. You can plan your day to avoid them as much as possible by getting out early and late in the day. They can also be a great sign of interesting wildlife; when there is a big crowd on the side of the road, there is usually something interesting near by (grizzly, bald eagle, etc.).
Don’t wait to plan your trip to Yellowstone!! Accommodations and restaurants within in the park book out a year in advance. If you are even thinking you might want to go, book it now. We planned our trip six months in advance and campgrounds were still available, but even those were starting to fill up. Don’t wait, plan early.
The main sights in Yellowstone are laid out in a figure eight. It can take a couple of hours to drive along each loop of the figure eight, so if you can group the sights you would like to see together in certain regions of the park, you will be driving the eight a lot less. Even better, if you can stay near the middle of the figure eight in Canyon Village, you will be centrally located for starting your day.
One of the hot springs within the West Thumb Basin is submerged in Lake Yellowstone. They named it fishing hole as people used to catch fish from the lake and then cook them in the hot spring.
Wherever you find the crowds, you will most likely also find a grizzly. These creatures keep their distance from the crowds, but when viewed from afar are adorable and mesmerizing. Keep an eye out for bears while you are hiking, but you don’t have to be too scared, all the grizzlies are radio tracer tagged and the rangers keep an eye on them when they start getting too close to populated areas. You can also rent (or buy) bear spray form kiosks at the visitor centers if you will be doing a lot of hiking in remote areas.
There is so much history at Yellowstone. As the first national park, there are beautiful buildings which honor Yellowstone’s long and storied past. Stop by the Old Faithful Inn to take in the wonder of it all.
Yellowstone can get really hot in the the summer. Most of the thermal basins have no shade, so take plenty of time to keep those kids motivated with ice cream stops at the various visitor centers.
Get everyone excited for your upcoming trip by watching some classic Yogi Bear Jellystone episodes.
Most of the major sights of Yellowstone (Old Faithful, Geyser Basins, West Thumb, Wildlife, etc.) are within 2 miles of their associated parking lots. Many of the walks are on wooden boardwalks (ie. stroller friendly) and are super interesting and weird, so they captivate the attention of the little ones. Yellowstone is SUPER kid friendly, particularly for kids 5-10. The only thing we (ahem, I) had to be careful about was not trying to pack too much into one day and totally exhausting our kids (just one more thermal basin, it’s only half a mile…). For tips on hiking with kids, visit here.
The wildflowers of Yellowstone are beautiful. Go early in the season (June) for the best wildflowers and the smallest crowds.
In the north west corner of the park, the mammoth hot springs are not to be missed. These hot springs terraces vary annually based on how much water is flowing and are incredibly beautiful. Bring your hats and sunscreen, there is no shade here.
With its milky pools, the Norris Geyser Basin is a gorgeous (and smelly) walk. This 1.5mile boardwalk is a perfect hike for kids with lots to see.
The most famous and the most predictable, but not the largest or the longest eruption time, Old Faithful is one of the first stops on any Yellowstone itinerary. Get there early to get a good viewing spot before the crowds.
At the visitor center, they have a listing of which geysers erupt when (for the ones they can predict). Some are very predicable to the minute, whereas others, they give you a window of minutes or sometimes a few hours. It takes a lot of patience, and a backpack full of snacks, to wait for some of the less predictable ones.
We had so many questions about how geysers and hot springs worked and the rangers were amazing. We joined a ranger walk/talk around one of the thermal areas and learned so much! All our questions answered!
The colors at the springs are unbelievable. The grand prismatic spring (pictured below) was by far my favorite of the entire park.
Sunset and right before is the best time for spotting wildlife. We would have an early dinner and head out afterwards, for some wildlife viewing and sunset watching.
We got stuck in a traffic jam for about thirty minutes before we found out that it was because a herd of bison were wandering down the road. There is a ton of traffic in Yellowstone and it is often caused by the wildlife, so when you find yourself stuck, keep your eyes open, something wonderful is probably about to happen.
Upper Geyser Basin, immediately to the North of Old Faithful is full of incredible, colorful hot springs, and predictable geysers that are worth waiting for.
Not only does Yellowstone have more thermal features than the rest of the world combined, but it also has stunning views. The main roads are dotted with pullouts for view spots labeled and not. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was stunning with drives along both rims of the canyon, there are views for days.
This was our first stop in Yellowstone and it was probably my favorite of the entire trip. The stunning colors of the hot springs set against the scenery of Yellowstone Lake is stunning.
Before you go, layout the Yellowstone map and figure out all the spots you want to view. There are so many interesting things to see, make sure you plan your itinerary with a map in hand, so you can group sights together that are near each other.
Too cold to swim in, but really pretty to look at, Yellowstone Lake is a gorgeous backdrop for West Thumb, fishing bridge, or just an evening glass of wine on the porch of Lake Lodge.
After days exploring Yellowstone, the kids and I would zonk out as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Yellowstone is incredible, but with so much to see and do each day, we were exhausted at the end of each day.
What are your favorite parts of Yellowstone National Park? What are your favorite parts of Yellowstone with kids? We had an incredible trip and I can’t wait to go back and do it again.
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