Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Tips With Kids. 11 Things We Learned After We Reached It

Grand Prismatic top secrets, the importance of right accommodation, best and worst things for parents, and other issues. Yellowstone tips with kids. Map

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!

Yellowstone National Park Guide
Yellowstone Visitor Guide

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.

Not far from the Lake Lodge: Yellowstone Lake during sunset
Not far from Lake Lodge: Yellowstone Lake during sunset

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

photo credit: REI
photo credit: REI

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:

Grand Canyon, Yellowstone
Grand Canyon, Yellowstone

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!

Bison at Lake Lodge cabins, Yellowstone
Yellowstone tips with kids: ready or not here I come!Bison at Lake Lodge cabins, Yellowstone

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.

On the trail from Towel Fall overlook
On the trail from Towel Fall overlook

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.

On the Paint Pots trail, Yellowstone
On the Paint Pots trail, Yellowstone

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.

Stay safe!

On the way to Grand Prismatic Spring
On the way to Grand Prismatic Spring

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:

Grand Prismatic Spring, view from the boardwalk
Grand Prismatic Spring, view from the boardwalk

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.

Grand Prismatic Spring, view from the Fairy Falls Trail, Yellowstone
Grand Prismatic Spring, view from the Fairy Falls Trail, 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.

Emerald Spring, Norris Geyser Basin
Emerald Spring, Norris Geyser Basin

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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By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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