We researched and learned a lot about the Yellowstone National Park while planning the trip: the park’s enormous size, crowds, traffic, no a/c in rooms, bison, geothermal features. Nevertheless, there were 11(!) things we learned only once we reached the Park, which we named “Yellowstone tips with kids”. They are useful for adults too ;).
The first one came up right after we crossed the park’s entrance. It was… the local newspaper – “Yellowstone Visitor Guide”. We could have come without any clear plan or itinerary, the park had already done all the work. 16 pages of highly useful and up-to-date information with difficulty levels and details nobody outside of the park knows about.
I hope, they still published it!
Below are 10 more things we learned during our trip to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Tips With Kids
1. All You Need Is L…odging
Lodging is the only thing that is crucial for your trip to Yellowstone National Park and has to be arranged far in advance (6-12 months for best rates and availability).
Do your best to book a place inside the park. We booked 3 nights inside and 2 outside the park. The morning we had to enter the park was a nightmare: we stayed in line for 2 hours, just to get through the park entrance (it was the Labor Day weekend). From there, it took us another hour to get to our first destination. The park is really huge.
At the end of day 1, we were staying in Lake Lodge cabins inside the park, so there was no need to repeat this painful process the following morning, nor spend extra hours driving back and forths.
2. Almost No Cell Service in Yellowstone National Park
Coming with a big group? Be prepared to communicate with minimal or no cell service at all (and no WiFi). That would not be a problem when coming with a single car. We were in a group of four families (cars) and every day somebody would get lost. Two-way radios/walkie-talkies would be very useful.
3. 8000 Feet Above Sea Level Is Not a Joke
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, 8000 ft above sea level:
Be ready for high elevation – 7000-8000 ft above sea level. The humidity here is very low and evenings really cold, with summer night temperature as low as 35.6F.
Within our group of 14, only two had problems: I had headaches and one kid got nose bleeding. Everybody experienced chapped lips and dry skin (lotion, lip balm, and ibuprofen helped a lot.) It is also much easier to get a sunburn at such elevations.
4. Wildlife Encounters in Unexpected Places
Early morning at Lake Lodge cabins. Kids were ready to go to play outside, but I’m grateful grandma came out first. The place was already taken by a bison!
Ready or not, you will likely meet wild animals up close at least once.
This is not a zoo type of encounter. Children, especially small ones, should be repeated again and again the dos and don’ts of suddenly meeting a wild beast. The two key words kids should grasp are “don’t run“.
5. Thermal Features Can Change Over Only a Day at Yellowstone NP
And sadly, often by people, not by mother nature.
On the pictures below: an “untouched” pool, one clogged with coins and treated (the famous Morning Glory), and one taken over by algae:
Without professional and challenging treatment to extract all debris, temperatures in a pool will slowly decrease, creating habitat for the algae. Eventually, they will turn the spring pool brown.
Teach kids what “moron” means and how to not be one. Although that’s important in every park, the human impact at Yellowstone is the most colorful.
6. Yellowstone tips with kids. The best thing for parents with young children
Yellowstone National Park is very stroller-friendly. Almost all the top-rated scenic spots in Yellowstone NP can be easily accessed even with an ultra-lightweight stroller frame.
Although, strollers will be useless at the following places:
- Fairy Falls trail/Grand Prismatic overviewing platform: steep, roots
- Morning glory – Artemisia trail: lots of roots, stones, narrow trail
- Mammoth Hot Springs terraces: trail surface is good, but lots of stairs
While our youngest one was hiking in a baby-backpack, we appreciated the ability to switch to a stroller, especially on a hot day.
7. Yellowstone tips with kids. The worst thing for parents in Yellowstone
Especially anxious ones.
Every year people get burns in Yellowstone, sometimes fatal. There are not so many places with railings along boardwalks.
Miles and miles of trails in Yellowstone are boardwalks with no protection. Sometimes pretty narrow considering the crowds. Despite talking about the danger of “stepping off”, small kids remain kids: they like to push, chase, dance, and wrestle.
It can also get windy and a flying hat can cause an impulsive decision to step off the boardwalk.
8. Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Are Great and Must-See, But…
There is way more beyond this famous couple. And with fewer crowds.
Our favorite springs and pools were at the Upper Geyser Basin and all the way to the Morning Glory, Fountain Paint Pots, and Biscuit Basin (the Black Opal Pool is amazing).
As for the geysers, we loved the Grand Geyser the most. It is very tall, impressive, and was erupting for so long that we made several videos and countless photos. Very worth waiting (it had a 1-hour waiting window). We called it a “boiling kettle” – at some point a “sprout” emerged and was spurting hot water:
9. Don’t Get Bummed By the Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic is exceptional: the colors are vivid and the size is one-of-a-kind.
Except for a couple of nuances. During the cold weather, it is steaming and you won’t see much. On overcast days or when the sun is low, the colors would be rather pale compared to postcard views.
Also, due to its huge size, when you stand on the boardwalk, you can’t really see much of Grand Prismatic:
To get a view from atop, drive to the Fairy Falls Trail Parking Lot, then hike for about a mile to the viewpoint on the hill. This is the secret spot to get the best views of the most recognizable attraction in Yellowstone.
It was almost sunset when we finally got to the viewpoint and the colors were already pale by then. We were still more than happy to enjoy Grand Prismatic from this angle.
Our youngest explorers, 3 and 4 y.o. managed the hike pretty well. Be aware, there are some steep areas near the top.
10. Yellowstone: A Place Like Any Other
YNP is a place like any other. You can read tons of reviews and view dozens of videos, but you’ll feel it only when you reach the park yourself and not only see but smell, hear and touch.
Yellowstone Tips With Kids. All favorite places on My Maps
Thanks for reading, friends! I hope you found this information useful for your Yellowstone adventure 😃
Next article: “What We Liked and Disliked the Most in Yellowstone“.
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