How do I plan a Yellowstone Family Vacation with kids of all ages?
Heading to America's first national park with your family is almost sure to provide you with a rich encounter with the serenity of the wilderness if you do it right.
The chances you get it right are also pretty high if you do a little needed planning and take a few considerations in mind. Spotting Old Faithful, and geysers shooting water 100 feet into the air for example is something you can do in the evening long after all the crowds have disappeared - although you may have to wait about 80 minutes for the scheduled eruption..
Video: 10 Favorite Family Activities in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is as big as it's reputation - attracts millions of visitors each year and covers thousands of acres over three states. Your kids will marvel at the hot springs, mudpots and geysers as families have since the 1870's when the park first opened, but make sure you attend a safety information session there or skill them up before you depart on your Yellowstone vacation. The statistics are impressive with more geysers than any other place on earth, the biggest buffalo heard, the most successful reintroduction of wolves, and one of the best places to spot a grizzly on an organised tour. Remember these animals are all wild and can run faster than you – keep your distance and follow all the safety advices given.
Camping is the obvious choice for your family vacation to Yellowstone and there are more than 2000 camps available including some front country options. If you are planning on bringing the RV you had better prepare well in advance as there is only one RV friendly camp (Fischer Bridge RV Camp). Of the 12 campgrounds five of them accept advance reservations. These are the fancier ones which often have flushing toilets and good water.
The remaining campgrounds are first in first served then unfortunately with a family this probably and option ou likely don't want to consider given the competition for sites. These sites are also not guaranteed to have a toilet although many have some sort of set up. You will know if you family is set up for camping a bit rougher in any case.
If you are not up to camping check out the Yellowstone accommodation options on TripAdvisor. Yellowstone has a good range of cabins and lodges and the satisfactions ratings are actually better than a lot of other parts of the country with some good value options. obviously this will depend on the time of year.
This video explores seven different places you can visit that will enthrall your kids some of which you may not have considered before. Yellowstone Lake, and then check out the geothermal features in the Mud Volcano area. The journey starts at e Upper and Lower Falls, then off to the grand canyon and on to the Lamar Valley. Mammoth Hot Springs and the Old Faithful geyser is the spectacular finish.
When you get to Mammoth you can view from the upper Terrace and then drive down to the lower terrace when you are ready to park. There is hot spring swimming here and the walk itself around you don't want to do in less than an hour.
There are a few places you will want to check out in the Lamar Valley which is a little less populated by tourists and a little more populated by wildlife. Use the turnouts for wildlife viewing. . The Washbourne Hot Springs are a good choice.
First up if you are driving to Yellowstone (almost everyone) also consider visiting grand Teton national park on your tour. Grand Teton is full of craggy peaks and If you are not camping backcountry most folk take the Grand Loop road which travels around the inside of the park and traces the most famous landmarks like Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. Try also catching the petrified forest for something a little different. Jackson is the southern entrance and also is known as a hip ski town is a good place to begin this longer road trip. At Yellowstone Lake stop at sand point and take a walk to enjoy the scenery of the lagoon and black sands. Check out the old 1890 Yellowstone Hotel further north. Further along is a chance of spotting a moose and bear at Pelican Valley meadows. Look for the opportunities for walks with your family here also. The Hayden Valley is a good place to view the pristine blue water rivers as the disappear slowly out of the valley.
If you are not a traveling American I would really plan your trip here away from the North American vacation times. Yellowstone has a lot of traffic in the traditional vacation times and there are even road blocks in the park. Ironically these are often caused when folk slow down to enjoy a sighting of an animal. As close as you can get the May 1st opening time for some of the campgrounds the better if the kids are old enough to sleep in quality warm sleeping bags without slipping them off. Or worse toddlers can easily fall on the floor off the air mattress or cot and become really cold. Most campgrounds are open by june but the competition is also beginning to heat up by now. The park looks spectacular as the early fall sets in and possible snow in late September.
If the primary concern for your family is wildlife viewing do a little research on the animals you will like to see in yellowstone. The park is huge and the animals have definite preferences on where they like to spend there time at different times of the year. The ranger talks can help in this regard. There is a chance you will catch a glance of some of the big ticket items like Grizzlies and wolves but there are also a whole host of other big mammals you will not likely see elsewhere too easily. Bighorn sheep, bison, deer, elk, moose and black bears are also an important part of the landscape. Ask you ranger what's around and where.
Delta and Alaska Airlines operate flights to Bozeman which is a couple hours from the park, otherwise catch a Skywest flight from Salt Lake city.