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Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton with a 4 year old - Help?

Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton with a 4 year old - Help?

Old Aug 25th, 2010, 11:44 AM
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Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton with a 4 year old - Help?

My husband and I are taking our 4 year old son to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton for 4 days over this coming Labor Day weekend. It is kind of a spur of the moment trip so I have not had a lot of time to research or plan. We arrive in Jackson Hole Thursday evening and have a hotel reserved there for that night. Friday night and Saturday night we have rooms reserved at 2 different lodges/inns in Yellowstone. I think one is in the canyon area for Friday night and the other is the Old Faithful Inn for Satruday night, I think. My husband booked them and I don't have the itinerary infront of me. Sunday and Monday nights we have rooms in Jackson Hole again. We fly home on Tuesday. We have a car rented as well. We are looking for ideas of things to do with our son so we can get out of the car some. I have found some information on taking a raft trip down the Yellowstone River and The Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout. I am looking ofr some other kid friendly activities for a 4 year old. He LOVES horses but I doubt I can find a place where he can ride. I am also looking for any advice or recommendations on what to do, where to eat, etc... We have never been there so we will take anything! I appreciate everybody's time and advice. We are so excited! Thanks!
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 12:23 PM
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I hope you have a great trip.

There are many places to get out and walk in Yellowstone. But I would bring a variety of things for him to do in the car, as well. Yellowstone is a lot of driving and sitting in the car.

We brought our daughter to Yellowstone last October (she was five), and she pretty much hated it. Too much time in the car, not much to see out of the car (in her mind). She loved the water slide at the hotel, though. We have friends who took their daughters (ages 6 and 8) this summer, and the highlight of the trip was also the water slide at the hotel.

It can be a frustrating trip with kids. Yellowstone is amazing, and so are the Tetons. But it can be a long trip for a kid when they're mostly stuck in the car seat.

Are you looking at rafting the Snake or the Yellowstone rivers? The Snake is probably more conducive to a trip with a four year old. Some raft companies won't allow children under the age of six, though. Most of the floating on the Yellowstone is out of Gardiner, MT, and it's fairly wild water.

I think you can have a great trip, but I know we went into the Yellowstone trip with high expectations that were maybe a little too high given our six year old's interest and attention span.
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 12:29 PM
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Ten years ago, we took our then 4 year old to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone in the summer. I just asked him what he remembers from that trip (ten years later) and he said a stagecoach ride in Jackson and taking the gondola to the top of Jackson Hole, the ski resort.

I agree with Kureiff that this trip can bee a lot of time in the car for a kid. I suggest checking out the park service website to get trail maps. We did several shorter hikes and of course, saw Old Faithful. Get out of the car as much as possible even if you cover less territory.
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 12:30 PM
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Have you gone to the Yellowstone web page for kids? www.nps.gov/yell/ then click on the kids. Most of the ranger programs are for kids a bit older than him.

Really, there is so much to see that I would think you would have no trouble keeping him happy. Hopefully you will see loads of bison, bears, moose, etc as well as gysers, bubbling mud, etc.

Do stop at a food store, buy a cheap cooler and some ice and fill it with things for lunch, snacks and drinks in case you get far from places to eat. Donate the cooler to someone at the car rental when you leave.
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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The cooler is a great suggestion! It's helpful to have a lot of snacks and drinks in the car.

There really is a lot to see, it's just that it can take a lot of time to get from place to place. It helps that you're staying in two different locations in the park; that can cut down on all the driving.

I could have used a drink after the whining while waiting for Old Faithful, and then the whining after we drove to our hotel after Old Faithful. The first place we hit was a brewery for a drink.

I really do think you'll have a good time, but I would come prepared with some games, activities, coloring books, or whatever for the car rides.
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 01:44 PM
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We just came back and I think that if you did a float trip that it would have to be the quiet Snake, but I am afraid that your son may be too young. Having just done a float trip, I can't say that I would have been comfortable taking a four year old (it would probably get boring for him
too since it was mostly scenery, not wildlife).

Definitely go to Roosevelt--there are lots of horses there and it was an easygoing atmosphere.

I think he will like all the geysers--at the Old Faithful Visitors Center (hopefully the brand new one is open), you can get great suggestions on an easy geyser loop to take.

When you go through GTNP, you will see two places that are marinas--Signal Mountain Lodge and Coulter Bay, there are little "beaches" where I am sure your son would have fun playing in the water. Also, we ate lunch at both those places, both have good kids menus and the food was good.

As long as you know there is lots of driving, you can be prepared with stuff to do in the car and I hope you see lots of wildlife!


P.S. He will have lots of fun exploring all the balconies at the Old Faithful Inn (it is crowded so he won't be a nuisance and you are your husband can take turns having a drink on the porch.

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Old Aug 26th, 2010, 03:20 PM
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It's been years and years ago that we took our son's when they were 4 1/2 and 16 mos old. They loved the park and all the animals they saw. Old Faithful and the near by geyser areas have a lot of walking trails but this is a very dangerous area if your toddler likes to wonder off. We took a stroller and had both boys in it for the walks around the geysers...it's a lot safer! There is a big paved bike path at the Old Faithful area that leads to geysers that would be ok for letting a 4 year old walk. Just watch for animals. Bison frequent the geyser areas and even though they look big and clumsy..these guys can run..and they run fast!

If you have an umbrella type stroller you can take, I'd take it.

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Old Aug 26th, 2010, 06:37 PM
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We just two 6 year olds and a 7 year old to Yellowstone. We worked very hard to make it fun and age appropriate for them. The Jr. Ranger program was a big hit. Gave some structure to our days and was fun for them to complete.

We spent an entire afternoon in the Mammoth area. Spent the morning playing in the boiling river and then the afternoon having a picnic and tossing a football around on the Ft. Yellowstone lawn ending the afternoon with a Jr. Ranger program on Big Horn Sheep.

We had a stack of brand new trading cards with us. Over 100. We had a contest that whomever saw an animal first, got a card. That kept them engaged during the long drives. During the bison jams that we kept driving into, we would have a contest to see who came up with the best name for each bison. My personal favorite was awarded to the bison in the middle of the road who just could not decide whether to go to one side or the other...Brett Farvre.

We loved the Old Faithful Inn. Just down from our room was a balcony that no one seemed to ever use overlooking old faithful. We spent a lot of time sitting there watching the geysers and playing with their new trading cards. Get up early and do the boardwalk before the crowds come in and then have breakfast at the Inn.

They really liked all the geysers...Dragon Mouth geyser, the mudpots and Castle geyser were the favorites.

We went to Cody and did a float trip there. It was very tame. A 4 yr old could easily do it.

We had a great trip. Just a different trip than we would have had without the kids.

Take the
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Old Aug 27th, 2010, 11:53 AM
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Thanks everybody for your advice and suggestions. Our son is really good in the car so I think he will do ok. I realize that there will be "moments" but overall I am expecting him to enjoy it. He loves animals so I think he will be very excited every time we see something. He has a baby sister now that just turned 1 so we are really looking forward to this trip to spend some time with just him. I am not ready to Disney yet so we chose this because it was a trip my husband and I wanted to always take. We know it will be a different experience with him but I am looking forward to it. I will look into the river trip. The place we found is in Gardiner Montana, it is called Wild West Rafting. They have a scenic float that says all ages. It is a 2 hour trip so I don't think he will get bored. But now I am concerned with the river being too rough.

Has anyone done the Roosevelt Old West Dinner Cookout? What about Red Lodge? I keep hearing about that town. That and the Bear Tooth Highway are kind of far, should we skip it or make it part of the trip? I am thinking we might need to find a place to stay in that area if we try to make it part of the trip. Also, does anyone know any rafting outfitters for the Snake River?

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Old Aug 27th, 2010, 08:19 PM
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While we didn't have kids with us I saw several couples who did.

Waiting for Old Faithful to erupt caused some fidgetting (sp).

We did a lot of hikes and I think Taggart Lake might be a good one for you. I'm sure it's a little too long for him but between walking, carrying and maybe one of those umbrella strollers I think he'd like it. The trail is pretty smooth and no danger spots until you get to the lake.

On the way in and out we saw marmots sunning and staring us down as we approached them.

I think he may find bison walking right by the car either interesting/funny or scary. He's probably too young to be scared.
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Old Aug 28th, 2010, 03:49 PM
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Our children really enjoyed the Roosevelt Cookout, and there is lots of wildlife in the NE section of the park. However, I still remember doing a float trip on the Snake River at age 12--I was bored silly.
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Old Aug 28th, 2010, 04:40 PM
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We did the Beartooth highway last summer and went through and ate lunch in Red Lodge. It was great, but we were on our last day heading back to fly out of Bozeman. Since you are only going for 4 days and are going in and out of Jackson Hole, I wouldn't recommend doing the BT highway this trip. You would have to back track and it is slow going through Yellowstone,especially with a 4 year old. We fell in love with Jackson Hole, You will find lots to do there. Your little one will probably love the visitor center, it has lots of stuffed wildlife that you see in the area. Let him get out and roam though. He will love it if you pump it up to him. My brother took his daughter when she was 3 1/2 to Yellowstone and she is still talks about it today and she's 6. We just took a 4 year old neice to Rocky Mtn. N. Park in Colorado and she loved it.
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