Young Kids in Yellowstone

Old Aug 4th, 2011, 07:21 PM
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Young Kids in Yellowstone

We just got back from our kids' first trip to Yellowstone. We have 2 kids--6&8. Here was our itinerary:
Day One: SLC (home) to West Yellowstone
We stopped off in Idaho Falls (sort of the half way point) to see the Museum of Eastern Idaho. They get some great traveling exhibits. We saw the Bodies exhibit. The 8 yo loved it, the 6 yo said no thanks. There were some nice permanent exhibits and a really great kids room. This was a really nice place to break up the drive. In West, we pretty much just hit the pool, they got to watch CABLE TV (whoo hoo), and we got some pizza. I love the 2 book stores in West--they are both awesome.

Day Two: West to OF
This was geyser hopping day. First, we visited the Madison River Ranger station to get the Junior Ranger books (an absolute MUST in ANY National Park or monument). We heard a great talk about wolves and walked along the Madison River. The kids loved watching the Uintah ground squirrels. We stopped at Fountain Paint Pots and Midway Geyser basin and took the Firehole River drive and the drive to Ojo Caliente spring. We got to OF and looked around the Inn. Then we went over to the new visitors center which is really, really cool. Got to see OF erupt--fun. Then we walked around to see the Lodge and then check in at the Snow Lodge. We had dinner at the Snow Lodge and it was ok. Nice kids menu.

Day Three: OF to Grant Village
We started the day by walking around the OF geyser basin. Tip for parents--you can rent bicycles and ride the bicycle route along the basin, then walk over the river to look at some geysers. I thought this would be a good idea--our kids were really tired of geysers and walking by this point Then we went to West Thumb and walked that basin. At Grant, we looked around the visitors center--lots of neat stuff on the 87 fires and a good movie too.

Day 4: unplanned side trip to Cody, stayed in Canyon
It was POURING rain. We stopped at Fishing Bridge visitors center which was neat. But there was no way we were hiking in that deluge just with rain jackets. So we decided to go to Cody. 2 hour drive--kind of long but very pretty. We hit the McDonalds there for lunch--play land is always good after that kind of a drive! The Buffalo Bill museums were AWESOME. We spent 3 hours there. Just so much to see. We all really liked it. We drove through the Hayden valley in the evening, which was great for wildlife watching. Make sure you bring binoculars (even better, a spotting scope) to Yellowstone!!!! The kids really liked all the bison.

Day 5: Canyon to Jackson
First stop Canyon visitor center to get the Junior Ranger badges. They have a really great display on the Caldera. I learned a lot. Then we went to ARtist Point. I had intended to hike some of the rim trails but everything was closed due to a recent fatal grizzly mauling. Fine with me--bears and kids, not a good mix!!! We did do a forced march around the mud pots where we saw a bull bison 15 feet from the trail. Yikes. Then we drove straight to Jackson. We were all tired by then and DONE after all the driving. The kids hit the pool in Jackson. My husband walked around town with them and the BEST thing ever was the stage coach ride--and they got to ride on top AND--they got to watch the horse PEE. Seriously. 900+ miles on the road the peeing horse will be their number one memory. That night we got awesome pizza from my fav, fav place--Mountain HIgh Pizza Pie.

Day 6: Jackson to home
We started with breakfast at my fav spot--the Bunnery. Then they HAD to have another carriage ride. At that point, I figured we would do Jackson on a long weekend trip, so I consented to go to the Ripleys Believe it or Not museum. The kids loved it. Me? PASS. Then we hit the road for the 5 hour trip home.

Lodging: In West Yellowstone, we stayed at the Clubhouse Inn. Very nice--one block off the main drag, close to visitors center, pool, fridge, microwave. For Yellowstone--I had called in October 2010 and still could not get 2 nights in the same place!!! At OF, we stayed in the Snow Lodge cabins. I had never stayed in any of the cabins in Yellowstone--always the hotels. Well, I like the cabins! They are roomier than the hotel. They are quieter and there was a deer outside our window in the morning. At Grant, we stayed in Lodge A--small room, only a shower/no bath (not good for my kids). At Canyon--we stayed in the Beaver Creek cabins--very nice, very new. Best place we stayed in Yellowstone. In Jackson, we stayed at the Painted Buffalo Inn. Good enough. Close to town so an easy walk. I think the Antler Inn might have been better--about the same price/locale but a block off the main drag. Things were a bit noisy for us.

Planning: I am OCD about planning. I spent a lot of time on the www.nps.gov site. I downloaded the park newsletter and the Junior Ranger books so I could really plan each day--e.g. Ranger presentations etc. I made up bingo cards for each day (e.g stuff to look for--raven, marmot, pine tree, etc) based on where we were in the park. The best game in Yellowstone is the License Plate game. We got every state but Hawaii, Vermont, and Maine!

On not hiking: This is hard for me. I am a pretty hard core backpacker and I grew up in Idaho spending lots of time in Yellowstone. But the 2 mile geyser basin hike was a lot for the kids. And the geysers really do stink. So I sucked it up and we really did the hop in and out of the car tour of Yellowstone. When they are older we can do more trails. I just want them to have fun and love the park as much as I do.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 02:58 PM
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Great trip report! Thanks for all the details! We are considering something similar with young children in the spring. Will take many of your plans into consideration for ours.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 03:07 PM
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Bison peeing is pretty interesting too. LOL
Sounds like a great trip and one they will remember.
We went a couple of years ago in Mid- June and didn't think it was crowded. I have considered going a little later in the summer because I want to swim in the firehole river and in the boiling river areas/Was it very crowded?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2011, 08:35 PM
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I honestly didn't think it was too bad. I have been there when it was worse.
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Old May 13th, 2012, 04:11 AM
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Thanks for the report. We are planning our first trip in August with 2 kids - 7 & 9. Cody sounds like a good rainy day option.
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Old May 20th, 2012, 06:53 AM
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how was the weather in August. We are planning our trip with 5 kids (4,8, 9, 13, 15)in Mid August this yr (2012). Does Grant Village have air conditioner? any advices what to pack esp. for kids? thanks.
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Old May 20th, 2012, 09:45 AM
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StantonHyde,

Thanks for this great trip report! I don't know how I missed it last summer. Your details on family travel with small kids are very helpful to many, I'm sure.

Living in UT, I'm sure your kids have seen a horse pee before. Have to assume what made it "special" was that it was the carriage horse, on their carriage, in the middle of Jackson?!

PedalerPaddler,

Canyon is farily high altitude and you shouldn't need A/C even in August. If you have never visited the western Natl Parks before, remember to pack layers! It can be cold at night even in Aug, a warm jacket is best. A wind proof layer is good too, I even take a ski hat and gloves just in case a summer snow storm hits. It can snow in Yellowstone any month of the year....
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Old May 21st, 2012, 04:51 PM
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Dayle is right--make sure you have a fleece for each child--for early morning and evening chill. I packed the usual shorts and t shirts, but also packed 2 long pants/long sleeve outfits and they got used--we even bought sweats for my daughter at one point! They wore long sleeve/pant cotton pjs. The hats and gloves can make a difference between being miserable and not. Absolutely bring rain gear--at least jackets, then can double as wind breakers too. I had the kids pack tennis shoes and keen sandals. Hiking shoes are great if you are doing longer hikes but most of the trails are so well maintained that they can be done in tennis shoes. Everybody needs their own water bottle--it's dry and the high altitude makes you thirsty. Sunscreen--lots of it!!! The sun is really intense there.

Lots of books on tape!!! I would love it if my kids just looked out the window, but they don't. Books on tape keep them happy without being totally zoned in to videos. The roadside bingo cards I developed were helpful. And the "collect all 50 license plate game" works every time in Yellowstone!

Be sure to do the Junior Ranger program. Visit the yellowstone nps.gov site for info on kids' programs so you can plan ahead a bit. We really enjoyed all the visitor centers we saw--they have really been updated and are fun for all ages.
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Old May 18th, 2017, 05:13 AM
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Hi, Do you recall, was there much to see at Ojo Caliente Spring? I've seen the arial view and it looks like the road less traveled, which we love. Did you get into the water at the spring? Thank you
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Old May 18th, 2017, 04:48 PM
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If we are thinking of the same spring--Ojo Caliente is on a dead end road (paved) from the main drag. You do get to drive through a large buffalo herd--every time I have been there, the buffalo were there. But is NOT a get in it spring. The Hot Eye is named so for a reason!!
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Old May 30th, 2017, 04:37 AM
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Thank you for getting back on an older threat. Yes, the dead end road. Great fun with the buffalo. I have not heard about the term Hot Eye, but I think I understand.

I love your daily Bingo card idea. I've been gathering small prizes and had only planned a license plate card and Match Game (like the TV game show). Kids are 9 and 12.

We leave next week for first time in YNP. Four nights Yellowstone and two in Cody with some ND and SD time too. Looking forward to the Buffalo Bill Museum and rodeo in Cody. I have the Ranger programs on the itinerary and our top picks on a paper, but unsure how to tackle the figure 8. Any suggestions? We have to nights at Mammoth and two at Old Faithful. Thank you!
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Old May 30th, 2017, 06:17 PM
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In all honesty, you could spend all of your time on the Eastern edge of the park and easily fill 4 days. hmm,, I always enter from West Yellowstone. If you are entering from Cody and then have 2 days at OF?? It can easily take a day to go from West Yellowstone to OF if you stop at every boardwalk plus spend time at OF. It takes another day to go from OF to canyon--again stopping everywhere and walking around. And then you can spend half day at Canyon hiking and then drive up to Mammoth. 4th day doing the northwest part of the Figure 8? Or rafting in Mammoth?
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Old Jun 1st, 2017, 07:46 AM
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I can already see that I didn't plan enough time in the park. 4 days! Entering at Gardiner or deciding if worth coming down from MT via Beartooth Hwy. Is Lamar worth seeing at 6pm?

What's your review of Tower Fall? Hubby has bad knee so looking for easier hiking like Fairy, Wraith, etc.

Did you have cell phone coverage for looking at maps online? I’m downloading the NSP app. We have Verizon.

Thank you!
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Old Jun 1st, 2017, 06:40 PM
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No cell coverage in the park. Maybe that has changed in the last couple of years?? But there really isn't a way too get lost in Yellowstone if you are on the roads! The Lamar Valley is awesome--and remember that it is daylight there until 10 pm or so. There are usually people watching for wolves on that road--there is a pack that frequents the road. You just don't want to drive at night because of all the wildlife on the road. The Beartooth Highway is amazing.

I don't think I have ever done Tower Falls. A bad knee and down hills does not mix! So I would go for a flatter hike. I think the short stroll from the parking lot to the view point of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is absolutely gorgeous! And there is a great water fall near OF that is a fairly easy hike. The walks around the boardwalks at OF and Midway Geyser Basin are nice. Same for West Thumb. Always check to see if trails are closed due to bear activity!

Check out the nps.gov site for Yellowstone--they usually list hikes by easy, moderate, hard etc. That site should have a link to the Park Newsletter which also has info on all of the hikes. I think the ratings there are good. I think it is awesome that they have an app!! I would assume that you can access that in the park! We have Verizon because it is so easily accessed throughout this area, so you should be ok if there is coverage.
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Old Jun 5th, 2017, 11:11 AM
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Thank you for the great advice! I think we'll hit a few of the parking lots around the Grand Canyon. While staying at OFI I hope to have plenty of leisure time to stroll around all that OF has to offer.

Glad you mention bears. Hubby is still laughing about picking up bear spray. Thanks again!
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Old Jun 6th, 2017, 04:45 PM
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Bears are no laughing matter in Yellowstone or GTNP. Bear spray is your friend. As is making noise while hiking--sing songs, bells, etc. They don't really want to run into you. My dad has fished among them in Canada and shared a river with them in Yellowstone--though he did quickly exit that river. I am fortunate in that in 40 some odd years of hiking and backpacking Yellowstone/GTNP I have only seen a grizzly from the side of the road. I guess all that singing and keeping scrupulously clean camps paid off!
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Old Jun 7th, 2017, 10:27 AM
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Scrupulously clean - love it!
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Old Mar 5th, 2020, 09:08 AM
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Hoping to do Yellowstone this summer so definitely a helpful thread!
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