Whether you are visiting Yellowstone with your kids for the first time or you are returning for another visit, there are several ways you can make your trip family-friendly.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that Yellowstone can be busy. Plan for three to four days in the park to allow you to see all of the popular destinations and leave some extra time for those off-the-beaten-path attractions.
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1. Stay Inside the Park
One of the best ways to make your Yellowstone tours family-friendly is by staying inside the park. This is a great option because you will be able to see all the attractions in a shorter time and it will also save you money.
The most popular places to stay inside the park are Lake Lodge, Old Faithful Lodge, and Canyon Lodge. All of these accommodations have cabins and are great for families with kids.
You will also find some really fun and free ranger-led programs in the park. These are very family-friendly and can help your children learn a lot about the wildlife, geology, and history of the park.
Another way to make your trip more family-friendly is by choosing the right itinerary. You will want to take into account when the best weather is for your visit and also how much you are willing to pay for accommodation.
In the summer months, July and August are the busiest times for visitors to Yellowstone, so it is important to book early to ensure you get a place to stay. It is also a good idea to visit the park early in the morning and late at night to avoid traffic and crowds.
Getting to see wildlife in their natural habitat is one of the best things about visiting Yellowstone, so it’s important to plan your itinerary around this! There are so many opportunities to spot bison, elk, wolves, and black bears in the park.
In addition to wildlife, Yellowstone is home to some of the world’s most impressive geysers and hot springs. You will not want to miss the chance to watch a geyser explode! It’s a truly memorable experience that you won’t forget.
2. Get a Junior Ranger Pass
For kids who love science and learning about nature, Yellowstone National Park offers many opportunities for Junior Ranger activities. These programs are free to participate in and help kids develop their skills, while connecting them to the park.
You can get a Junior Ranger booklet for free at most parks (Yellowstone National Park charges $3). When you’re ready to start, pick up the book at the visitor center.
Once your kid has completed all of the tasks in the book, they will need to return it to the visitor center. Then, a park ranger will ceremonially swear them in as a Junior Ranger.
After they’ve been sworn in, they will receive their badge, which they can wear with pride. This badge is a great souvenir and a perfect way to show off your family’s love for the park!
To learn more about the Junior Ranger program, visit the National Park Service website. There, you can find the different programs available and see if any of them match your interests.
For instance, if you’re interested in the sound of the National Parks, you can become a Junior Ranger Sounds Explorer. Alternatively, if you’re curious about space, check out the Junior Ranger Spaceflight Explorer program.
If your child is an animal lover, they can also explore the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. Located near Old Faithful, this facility is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Yellowstone while learning about wildlife and their habitat.
3. Take a Tour
If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone with kids, make sure to start your booking process early. Whether you are trying to secure lodge reservations or campsites, booking your trip well in advance will help ensure that you get what you need.
We also recommend bringing along binoculars so your kids can get a closer look at the geothermal features and wildlife that they see throughout the park. You’ll also want to have bear spray on hand, as bears are common in the area.
Another great Yellowstone experience is visiting the Grand Prismatic Spring. This huge hot spring has a brilliant blue center surrounded by a ring of orange, yellow, and green colors. It’s a beautiful and unique experience for both kids and adults.
The best time to view this amazing natural feature is mid-day when the sun is in a good spot to maximize the colors. The parking lot will fill up quickly, so be sure to arrive as early as possible.
Old Faithful is by far one of the most famous geysers in the park. It erupts about 17-20 times a day, so plan your day around these eruption times!
To find out when the next geyser is going to erupt, check the National Park Service app or follow the park’s geyser prediction Twitter feed. This way, you can get a sense of when your day will be busiest and schedule your visits accordingly!
If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone with kids, it’s also important to remember that Yellowstone is located on top of a super volcano. This means that you’ll encounter many unique geothermal activities like hot springs, mudpots, and geysers. It’s a great opportunity for your kids to learn about science in a fun and interactive way.
4. Stay at a Lodge
If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone, one of the best ways to make your trip family-friendly is to stay at a lodge. The park has a lot of lodging options, from historic grand hotels to rustic cabins. No matter what you choose, you will have an amazing experience at the park!
Another great thing about staying at a lodge is that you can often reserve a spot in the park. This will save you a lot of driving time during your visit.
Also, staying inside the park will keep you from having to deal with the crowds that can occur in summer when all roads inside the park are open. These crowds can become a real nuisance, especially in the crowded areas of West Yellowstone and Gardiner.
To avoid these traffic jams, it is important to get up and out early on your days in the park. This will allow you to avoid the rush and enjoy the most of the park’s famous sights.
You should also try to arrive at major attractions by 9:30 or 10:00 AM each day, because that’s when you will be able to enjoy them with less crowds. If you can, it is also a good idea to go on the bus tours as early as possible to avoid traffic.
Finally, if you are planning to take your Yellowstone Tour in winter, we recommend booking a tour on a heated snow coach. This will allow you to see parts of the park that are otherwise inaccessible during the winter season. It will also be a great way for your family to experience the park in a new way!
5. Visit Old Faithful
One of the most famous and popular attractions in Yellowstone is Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts 20 times a day. This predictable geyser shoots a column of boiling water up to 100 feet into the air and typically lasts between 1.5 and 5 minutes.
If you’re going to visit Old Faithful, try to get there early and watch the eruption without crowds. Ideally, arrive at 8 am and exit the parking lot before the crowds begin to overwhelm you.
While you’re waiting, don’t forget to walk along the boardwalk trails through the Upper Geyser Basin with your family. Taking your time here will allow you to explore several other notable geothermal features, such as Morning Glory Pool, Castle Geyser, Solitary Geyser, and more!
You can also stop by the visitor center to learn more about the geysers and other geothermal features in the area. There’s a theater that shows informative movies, as well as ranger-led programs for kids.
It’s also a great idea to check out the Old Faithful Inn, which is a National Historic Landmark and a must-see attraction on any trip to Yellowstone. This hotel has a large lobby and several levels of balconies.
While visiting Old Faithful, be sure to pack a picnic lunch and make the most of your time. This will help keep your family happy and entertained while avoiding the stress of driving all day.