By Melynda Harrison
Everyone knows that Yellowstone National Park makes for a classic family vacation. Strolling the boardwalks around Old Faithful and taking photos of the Yellowstone River’s Lower Falls from Artist Point are things everyone should do in their lifetime. I’m sharing my tips for planning a family trip to Yellowstone National Park.
The Greater Yellowstone Area is also a perfect basecamp for families who like outdoor adventures – from mellow to hardcore. Think soaking in hot springs at the Boiling River, rafting down the Yellowstone River with a guide, or hiking to the top of an easy summit with panoramic views of the Yellowstone Caldera and the Teton Range.
My family lives about an hour north of Yellowstone and we’ve been taking our kids hiking, soaking, backpacking, and cross-country skiing in the park since they were just weeks old. Now, at ten and eleven-years-old, our boys race up the trails with mom and dad trailing behind.
When planning a trip to Yellowstone, first make your hotel or campground reservations. The lodges in the park can fill up a year in advance. If you didn’t get a jump on it, try the hotels in gateway towns like Jackson, Wyoming (south of Grand Teton National Park), West Yellowstone, Montana (on the west side of Yellowstone), or Gardiner, Montana (north of the park).
Once you know where you want to stay, you can plan your Yellowstone itinerary. Decide what adventures you want a guide for: fly fishing, wildlife watching, rafting, horseback riding, mountain climbing, or skiing (winter only, of course). Then, plan the rest of your trip around those activities. Grab a family-friendly hiking guidebook or peruse the park’s website for easy adventures you can do on your own.
Yellowstone Leisure Time
On any family trip to Yellowstone, we make sure there is some downtime. We like lunching at the picnic area near Cascade Falls, where our kids would run through the meadow when they were little. Wading in the Madison River near the Madison Information Station and Trailside Museum is never a waste of time. And leisurely wandering one of the trails, while the other four million visitors to Yellowstone are on the boardwalks, means we get time alone in Wonderland.