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Yellowstone/GTNP lodging with kids...help please

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We are planning a family trip to yellowstone/gtnp next july with our 3 kids (6,9,12) and their grandmother- we are planning on staying 8 days with 2 for GTNP at jackson lake lodge, then 3 nights at w yellowstone-maybe the yellowstone clubhouse inn-(so kids can swim for a while) then on to either gardiner or lake hotel for the last 3 nights- which would you do? gardnier or LH? all we really care about is if the lodging is clean and the beds are comfy..... kids are generally well behaved, kids who LOVE the outdoors, nature and wildlife- they don't need tv, or entertainment and like to hike...although they can't go much more than 4/5 miles- does that seem like enough time at each place to explore the entire park (as much as possible with little ones?) thanks for your comments...oh, also we want to do a river ride...do you rec. the GT float or a yellowstone river ride? thanks so much!

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    You will have more than enough to do even if you don't hike in Yellowstone(but do if you can). I would plan a full day just watching the Geysers around Old Faithful. Our favorites were Riverside Geyser and Castle Geyser.

    We stayed in a cabin @ Colter Village. Some of the cabins there have 3 or 4 beds.

    In Yellowstone we liked Old Faithful Inn and Roosevelt Lodge. The Lake Hotel is nice too. Mammoth Lodge would be fine, but the Mammoth area is my least favorite part of the park.

    Now lodging in the National Parks aren't deluxe and can even be a bad experience for a lot. Consider it luxory camping. We absolutely loved the lodges.

    If there ever was a lodge to stay at in a National Park it would be Old Faithful Inn. Be careful and don't get it mixed up with the other lodges around OF. It is the historic Old Faithful Inn that you want. And for me, I like the historic wing and those rooms don't have a private bath.

    I would let the kids swim in the firehole river or the little area up by gardiner that you can soak in. (I am blank on the name right now).

    I don't like to move around from hotel to hotel, but I think Yellowstone is one of those places that it is better to.

    Your kids might like The Alpine Slide in Jackson, if they get enough nature type stuff.

    I would suggest the boat ride across Jenny Lake and hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point in the Tetons. It is a very crowded trail, so do it first boat ride in the morning to avoid some of the crowds.

    They might also like to ride horses at Roosevelt. The Snake River wasn't that great for us. I think we just got unlucky. It is very tame and really all we saw was one bald eagle. I thought we might see a ton of wildlife. Our guide said that was the least he had ever seen in all his times down the river. I must say the Yellowstone wildlife more than made up for it. We saw a ton of everything. Even 5 or 6 bears. One within 5 feet of our car.

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    Sorry can't help with lodging because we camp but I would choose the Lake over Gardiner for location.. I like the Mammoth Hot Springs but they aren't what they use to be and Gardiner is a long distance to the other attractions in the park. You can make a trip up to Mammoth Hot Springs on the day you move from West Yellowstone to the Lake. If you really want a great location I'd choose Old Faithful area over West Yellowstone.

    With six nights for Yellowstone you will have 5 full days and you should easily be able to cover all the areas. If your children can do 4 miles a day, that should be more than plenty to see a wide range of places each day.

    Utahtea

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    We are going in 2 weeks with kids 6 and 8. I made res back in October but still had very slim pickings!!

    Day 1: Drive from SLC to West Yellowstone (we live in SLC) Stay in hotel with pool and TV. They have a rodeo several nights a week.

    Day 2: Drive from West to OF, stopping at every danged geyser/hotpot area and Madison Ranger station to get our Junior Ranger materials. We are staying in the Snow Lodge. I have stayed in many rooms in the OF Inn. There is no way in he!! I would stay in a room with a separate bath with kids. The frequent bathroom escort trips would be a pain! I honestly don't care where I stay there. You can always walk over to the OF inn and enjoy it. Plus if you don't stay there, you dont' have to deal with all the tourists gawking at your room.

    Day 3: OF to Grant Village--see the geyser area there and probably boat on the lake in the afternoon

    Day 4: Grant to Canyon. See mudpots and Canyon. There are some short hikes to do plus some good ranger talks at Canyon.

    Day 5: Canyon to Jackson. Long day of repeat driving, then stopping at Colter Bay for some hiking, Junior Ranger, etc etc. Stay in a hotel with pool and TV--yay! Must be in town for the 6 pm shoot out.

    Day 6: Some sort of hike in the park or maybe the Alpine Slide and just walk around Jackson. Need to wear them out for the long drive home.

    Growing up, Yellowstone was practically my backyard and I worked there for a summer. I would say that the whitewater float trip on the Snake is second to none. Go with Barker Ewing--the best. I like boating on Lake Yellowstone--you can rent a rowboat for cheap. There are lots of places to go horseback riding. I wouldn't stay at Gardiner either. Lake is pretty posh for kids, IMO. I would stay at Canyon.

    I will be writing a trip report if we survive this trip :-) Also, scour the nps.gov website for Yellowstone and Tetons. There are some awesome info pages on animals etc for the kids. You can print out the Junior Ranger books before you go, so they can be working on them in the car. In Yellowstone, there is also a free activity book you can get at the cafeterias. You can also look up all the ranger talks and plan those in if you want to. I am not doing any of the ranger guided hikes with my kids because we do better if we hike at our own pace--which can be faster or slower than ranger groups.

    These parks are truly magical places and you will have a wonderful time!

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    Forgot to add that min age for most horseback rides is 8. Float trips the age is usually 6, whitewater trips the age can be 8 given the conditions. Last year you would have been fine, this year everything is running crazy high. I wouldn't make float trip res till next year when they have a better current idea of conditions.

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