Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone with kids? Yellowstone National Park is amazing! Your kids will absolutely love it.
Yellowstone is a family vacation I highly recommend. Let’s explore some tips to make your trip amazing!
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Let's Start with Money Saving Tips
Do You Have a 4th Grader?
National parks have an amazing 4th grade pass that allows all 4th grade students and their families free entry to all of the parks, including Yellowstone National Park. The pass is called, “Every Kid in a Park.” Every year, beginning September 1st, all 4th graders have access to the pass. It expires August 31st, so you have the entire summer after 4th grade to use it.
We have used this pass, and it has been awesome! It is a great way to save money and explore all the amazing beauty of the national parks. It is very simple to sign up for the pass. Go to the Every Kid in a Park Website and fill out the necessary information. You can print out your temporary pass. You will be given an official pass when you arrive at your first national park. It is a neat collectible for the kids to have.
National Park Pass
If you are planning on visiting three or more parks in a year and you do not have a 4th grader, the national park pass, is also a great way to save money. As of February 2021, it costs $80. You can purchase this pass on the US Park Pass on their Website.
Safety Tip for Yellowstone with Kids
Word of Advice….be cautious and watch your children. There are dangers all around. As fascinating as it is to see all the incredible sites at Yellowstone, it is important to be smart. Watch where you are going and follow the rules.
If you have toddlers, I recommend getting a backpack carrier and keeping them safe inside.
I also recommend hold hands with kids under 8.
How Many Days do I Need at Yellowstone with Kids?
We all know kids have a shorter attention span. Yellowstone is huge and involves a lot of driving. Keeping kids in a car too long is never fun!
I recommend 2 days if you have little kids. You will have to choose certain areas of the park that you think your kids will like the most.
If you have older kids you can accomplish more sites in less time but you may want to go on longer hikes that take more time!
Honestly, you could spend a week or more in Yellowstone and not still not see everything.
Important Yellowstone National Park Planning Tips
Yellowstone National Park is a great family vacation. There are a few really important tips when planning your trip.
- Book Early – We booked our trip in February and our trip was planned for August. Hotels and campsites were already filling up that far in advance. We like cabin camping and booked a KOA cabin near the west entrance of Yellowstone.
- Plan enough days to explore this amazing park. We did not have enough time to explore the entire park but, we loved what we did see! We thought of our kids and really wanted them to enjoy the experience in regards to time spent in the park.
- Be Flexible – Sometimes the park is busy. It is a very popular summer destination. Traveling from one side to the other side of the park can be congested at times. Also, your drive can be interrupted by wildlife crossing a street.
Let's Make a Plan for Yellowstone with Kids
Let’s make a game plan! What are the best spots at Yellowstone to stop with kids!
Here are some of my favorites:
- Visitor Center/ Old Faithful
- 3 stops – Upper, Midway, and Lower Geyser
- Artist Paint Pots – 1 mile hike but so cool
- Lamar Valley – Finding Wildlife
There are more areas that are amazing but with kids I find you have to pick and choose some of the best spots and go until they get tired and can’t go anymore!
1. Visitor Center - Old Faithful
Old Faithful is a great place to start your “Yellowstone with kids” adventure! One thing that amazed us about Yellowstone National Park is that it is massive!
Where is the Yellowstone Visitor Center?
At many national parks, the visitor center is the first place you see on your way in. Not Yellowstone. You have to drive deep into the park before you arrive at Old Faithful visitor center.
Enjoy the Visitor Center
Take time to enjoy the visitor center itself. There are hands-on exhibits and activities to entertain your children. You could probably spend half a day in the visitor center and the adjacent area, which includes Old Faithful and walking trails.
I am glad we made stopping at the visitors center a priority, because the activities there are amazing!
There are some great programs to check out before you start exploring the area.
Junior Ranger Program
The first thing we do when my family arrives at a national park is to head straight for a park rangers to inquire about the Junior Ranger program. Yellowstone has many options to choose from. Please note that some of these programs do cost money.
The Junior Ranger program is designed for kids ages 4 and up. You will purchase your book and begin the activities inside. Once your little one has completed the age appropriate activity, he or she will be award a really cool badge.
Some families may go out of their way to collect these badges from as many national parks as they can, as each has a different badge. If you keep your eyes open while at Yellowstone National Park, you’ll probably see a kid with a backpack covered with badges from parks around the country.
The scientific program is designed for children 5 and up. The cost is $5. It is so worth it! Once you purchase your book you are given a measurement tool that will tell you how hot the water around Old Faithful is.
It is absolutely awesome! Your child points the device and it measures the temperature. When you complete your book you will receive a badge or a key chain.
We purchased the scientific program for my then 8 year old who loves science. Our entire family had so much fun measuring all of the different boiling pots. It was well worth it, as it entertained everyone but also gave us a real understanding of how dangerous walking around Yellowstone can be. Some of the temperatures were very hot and could easily scold a child if they fell in.
Purchase your own Thermometer
During the pandemic the scientific program was not available. We decided to purchase a thermometer that would measure the water on Amazon. It is inexpensive and makes your Yellowstone with kids adventure so much better!
Exploring Old Faithful
Old Faithful is what we were most excited about when coming to Yellowstone with kids. It is pretty amazing watching this geyser explode out of the ground like clockwork every 35 to 120 minutes! It was so impressive!
This will probably be the highlight for most kids! They will probably remember how impressive and awesome it is to see the water shooting up so high.
You will want to gather around the designated location to view the geyser early so that you will have a great seat. The anticipation is really exciting for the kids as well.
2. Search for Wildlife
Yellowstone is known for wildlife! It is not surprising to see bison crossing the street. We were on the hunt to find bear, wolves, elk, moose, badgers and otters.
The excitement the kids had when we spotted an animal was priceless. I love hearing my kids get excited and laugh when they saw something!
Bring bear spray. My cousin was walking along one of the wooden plank trails and a bear walked right out in front of her!
Another great tip for finding wildlife is heading to Lamar Valley in the early morning or evening hours.
3. Go for a Hike
Lets explore some kid friendly hikes! Like I said early when hiking with kids keep a good eye one them and they will be fine!
Observation Point – 1.1 miles – Near Old Faithful
This is a great, short hike. As you go up to the point you will get a different view of Old Faithful and the thermal features and geysers that surround the area.
This path has a wooden, bridge-like walk-way above all the hot pots. It will be important to hold little children’s hands. And honestly, if I had a child under 4 I would invest in a backpack carrier, just for extra safety.
Upper and Midway Geyser – Mystic Falls Trail
Just north of the visitor center, or if you enter on the west Yellowstone entrance, you will see the Upper Geyser Basin and Midway Geyser Basin.
These are the first two stops we made. Our first stop was the Mystic Falls trail head. There is a parking lot that you can get out and take a short hike. I will say parking is really hard in the busy season!
Fairy Falls Trail
Our second hike was the Fairy Falls trail head. I will say that I have a very anxious child and he was very scared. I don’t blame him, the ground is so thin in spots that if you were to step on it you would fall right through.
There are certain pathways that keep you safe, but as a child this could seem very intimidating. We did not walk too far on this path because of his fear.
West Thumb Hike
We decided to finish our trip with one more hike to see West Thumb. It was very beautiful. Our kids did struggle a little bit with the length of the hike. It wasn’t long, but the kids were worn out from all the prior action of the day.
The water was so blue. One way we help our kids with hikes is playing games along the trails. We have to be pretty creative and for the most part it pays off! Sometimes we will make believe we are in search of treasure in a faraway kingdom, with trolls and other beasts lurking around the corner.
Artist Paint Pots
Artist Paint Pot trail is about 1 mile hike. Do this hike while your kids are fresh! When you arrive there are wooden planks that you can walk along. Bubbles of liquid pop and explode which is awesome to watch! This hike is worth it!
Picnic Spots at Yellowstone
Kids love the idea of having a picnic! Finding a great spot to enjoy a nice picnic wasn’t too hard! We headed to West Thumb Geyser Basin trail head. There are picnic tables available. Hanging out and enjoying the beauty of the area was fabulous.
Plan a Trip to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is unlike anything you have probably seen before. It really is a beautiful and thrilling location. It has a lot to offer!
I highly recommend going and seeing for yourself the extraordinary landscapes and geological wonders. We went in summer but it is also amazing in winter check out Yellowstone in Winter.
Also, remember that the Grand Tetons National Park nearby, so be sure to add that to your itinerary!
You can also check out my Bear World post for other ideas near Yellowstone National Park. Also, as you travel through the park take time to read this funny post of the 15 Best Worst National Park Reviews! You will love them!
We love National Parks and know you will too! Have fun!
If you have any questions join my Facebook Travel Community. You can ask any questions you have about upcoming trips and everyone is happy to help you plan your trip. I also try to give exclusive travel deals that companies send me. It is a great group to join!