Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Best Things to Do In Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park with kids?  Yellowstone National Park is amazing! Your kids will absolutely love it.  There are so many fun things for kids in Yellowstone.

I highly recommend a Yellowstone family vacation. You love all the family-friendly hikes in Yellowstone and exploring the geysers.  In this post, you will be able to read and plan your family trip to Yellowstone. 

Let’s explore all the best things to do in Yellowstone National Park with kids and Yellowstone tips for families to make your trip amazing! 

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Yellowstone National Park with kids

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Let’s Start with Money Saving Tips For Yellowstone National Parks with Kids

4th Grade National Park Pass

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 on 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. Yellowstone with children is possible!

Yellowstone With Toddlers

Yellowstone with toddlers can be challenging. I was very nervous around all the hot pots.  I recommend getting a backpack carrier and keeping them safe inside.  

I also recommend holding hands with kids under 8. 

How Many Days do You Need at Yellowstone National Park with Kids?How much time to spend at Yellowstone

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 still not see everything.

Important Yellowstone Tips for Families

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone family vacation is great! There are a few really important tips when planning your family trip to Yellowstone.

1. 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.

2. Plan Enough Time

Plan enough days to explore this amazing park.  We did not have enough time to explore the entire park on our first trip 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.

3. 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 National Park with Kids Hiking with Kids at Yellowstone

Let’s make a game plan!  What are the best things to do in Yellowstone 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 areas to visit in Yellowstone 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 – Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park with KidsOld Faithful with kids

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 the Old Faithful visitor center. 

Enjoy the Visitor Center

Yellowstone with kids 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

Junior Ranger Program at Yellowstone national Park

The first thing we do when my family arrives at a national park is to head straight for park rangers to inquire about the Junior Ranger program.  This is our favorite thing to do in Yellowstone National Park with kids. 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 awarded a really cool badge.

Collect Badges

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.

Scientific Program

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.

Our Experience

Yellowstone with kids

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!

This area is the best Yellowstone National Park with kids location! 

2. Old Faithful – Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park with KidsOld Faithful Yellowstone with kids

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!

Best Thing to Do at Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Old Faithful 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.

3. Search for Wildlife – Things to Do at Yellowstone National Parks with KidsWild life at Yellowstone

Yellowstone is known for its wildlife! It is not surprising to see bison crossing the street.  We were on the hunt to find bears, 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! This was another one of our favorite things to do at Yellowstone National Park with kids! 

Hot Tip

Bring bear sprayMy 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. 

4. Family-Friendly Hikes in Yellowstone – Things to Do at Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Yellowstone National Park with kids

Let’s explore some family-friendly hikes in Yellowstone!  Like I said early when hiking with kids keep a good eye on them and they will be fine! 

Observation Point – 1.1 miles – Near Old Faithful

Hiking with kids at Yellowstone

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 walkway 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. This is a great family-friendly hike in Yellowstone! 

Upper and Midway Geyser – Mystic Falls Trail

Yellowstone with kids hiking

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 trailhead. There is a parking lot where you can get out and take a short hike. I will say parking is really hard in the busy season!

Fairy Falls Trail

Yellowstone Hiking with kids

Our second family-friendly hike in Yellowstone was the Fairy Falls trailhead.  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

Yellowstone National Park

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 actions of the day.

Yellowstone with Children

The water is so blue. This was one of our favorite things to do in Yellowstone National Park with kids.  One way we help our kids with hikes is by 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

Artist Paint Pot trail is about a 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! 

These are my recommendations for the best hikes in Yellowstone with kids!

5. Picnic – Things to do in Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Yellowstone National Park

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 trailhead.  There are picnic tables available.  Hanging out and enjoying the beauty of the area was fabulous.

Plan a Family Trip to Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone National Park with kids

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! Taking your kids to Yellowstone is a great idea!

I highly recommend going and seeing for yourself the extraordinary landscapes and geological wonders. We went in summer but it is also Yellowstone in winter is amazing as well.

Have fun doing the best things in Yellowstone National Park with kids! 

Family Fun Near Yellowstone

Also, remember that the Grand Tetons National Park is nearby, so be sure to add that to your itinerary!

If You have time Bear World in Rexburg, Idaho is very fun for kids. You can also take a road trip from Yellowstone to Idaho Falls and find some amazing family-friendly activities.

We love National Parks and Yellowstone in my opinion is one of the best West Coast National Parksknow you will too! Have fun!

Facebook Community

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!

 

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75 Comments

  1. Yes! We have TWO fourth graders! Looks like we will be making a trip there this year! Thanks for the great info.

  2. I agree that national park passes are so worth the $80! We buy one every year and soon, I’ll be eligible for the senior price. 🙂

  3. We love hiking and I’ve found with the kids if there is something we are hiking to (waterfall, ravine, etc.) they are much more interested and willing. I think the 4th Grade program is amazing – love it!

  4. I hope to take my kids to Yellowstone soon! Thanks for the money saving tips. I enjoyed reading about your trip!

  5. Fourth grade is the absolute perfect time to take kids to the National park and Yellowstone has so many beautiful and unique things to experience.

  6. This has been on my to-visit list for many years. Seeing your photos bumps it up to the top! Thank you

  7. We have so many grandkids coming up that I think I have the 4th grade pass covered for the next 8 years or so. Now we just need to get out and use it! Thanks for the tips!

  8. This is definitely on my list for a family trip with the kids and grandkids! Thanks for the tips!

  9. We have never done any of the national parks. I really should get on that. This looks like fun. I am kicking myself for not taking advantage of this when my kids were 4th graders.

    1. We live in National Park central so it makes it easy! They are incredible you should come to Utah and we will show you a good time!

  10. We loved Yellowstone, it was one of our best family trips. The National park pass is what we did also great advice.

  11. We visited a few years ago and fell in love. We have a daughter entering 4th grade and can’t wait to return!!!

  12. Not many places in the world where you can play “I spot a bear” 🙂 This is definitely one of those magical places!

  13. Love this! When I take the grandkids this will be a great help! I love Yellowstone since the fires I haven’t been..so glad that to see this!

  14. I love the national parks. We haven’t made it to Yosemite yet but it’s on our list. I the suggestion for hikes.

  15. This is very interesting, thank you for sharing! You are one of my tribe! our family also loves to explore the wilderness and hike around national parks – we are from BC Canada. PerfectDayToPlay.com
    Quick recommendation: I’ve tried to pin this post, but the images I am given are non-pinterest friendly. Look at the posts on my blog how I am adding the actual pinnable image at the very end of the post – same pinnable image I am using for my pins. This may help both your blog and someone like me who wanted to pin this post. Instead I am now going to your pinterest to see if I can find it :)))))))) Cheers!

  16. On our “sand bucket list” (to-do w our kids) for sure! I like that you make it seem so easy and fun with the kids when travel sometimes is not that. Easy hikes and finding wildlife are things we all enjoy, thanks for your insights.

    1. Our kids a pretty good travelers but we have a feisty little one that thinks she might die if she walks to far!

  17. What a great program for every child to have park access. Love Yellowstone and Old Faithful. Didn’t have much time to didn’t here but will come back to do it proper one day.

  18. I’ve been to Yellowstone, but as an adult with a friend of mine as we made a cross country trip. My children are all adults now, but I’d love to take my grandsons when they’re old enough to appreciate it!

  19. Yellowstone is definitely on my list. It’s so far away, though. I want to plan another trip out west in the next few years, and I hope we can include Yellowstone. It looks like such a fun experience.

    1. Yes, I would do a Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier National Park, and then Banff trip if I was going to come out west!

  20. Looks like a fabulous vacation. I really hope to go one day. Maybe someday I will take my grandkids. Great photos.

  21. I totally forgot about the fourth graders program and I have a fourth graders this year, doh! We are actually planning a Glacier trip in September to beat the crowds and Yellowstone in May.

    1. That sounds fun! This year I think we will go to Bryce, Grand Staircase Escalante, and Zions. When my next kid is in 4th grade we will do Yellowstone again and Glacier. I really want to do Redwoods!

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  23. Yellowstone has been on my bucket list for decades, but I just have not been able to get it crossed off. I love that they have these programs for the kiddos, though! What an amazing way to expose them to the natural world around them.

    1. It would be a long trip for you! You would have to plan to fly and then rent a car to drive and see all the National Parks out west! It would be worth it but just a lot more planning.

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