We went to Yellowstone National Park the first week in July. It was a Christmas gift from our parents rather than traditional gifts. I am all for this type of gift giving rather than a bunch of toys the kids loose interest in and we don’t have the space for. It was very generous. We drove from Salt Lake City Utah to Yellowstone, about a 4 hour drive. My parents had booked a cabin for us to stay in for three nights. I had been before when I was 10 and it was so much fun to go back. I had several people ask for me to share what we did and any tips we have. I hope it is helpful and I hope a lot of you get go and see it!
Fun Yellowstone Facts-
- Established as the first national park in 1872 by President Theodore Roosevelt
- 3,472 square miles
- June, July and August is the busiest travel season to the park
- The US Army ran the park for the first 30 years- you can see Military housing at Mammoth Springs (I really wanted to know more about the homes! And how they get their food, mail etc.)
Yellowstone National Park Tips-
Map out a plan BEFORE you go-
Day 1 we went into West Yellowstone and stopped at the hot springs and geysers on our way to Old Faithful all in one day. There are a lot of stops on your way to Old Faithful. We started at 9:30 am (took 40 minutes in line to get into the park) and we got back to the cabin at 6:00 pm. Day 2 our goal was to get to Mammoth Hot Springs so we went North after entering the park. We went past Canyon Village up to Tower Falls then made it to Mammoth Hot Springs. Then we headed back home stopping at Norris to see the Steam Boat Geyser. That route had a lot more wildlife and bears than the first day, but a lot more driving. (I liked day 2 best). Two days of driving with young kids can be a lot. We were happy with the two days in the park.
Stay close to the park–
We stayed in a cabin in Island Park about a 25 minute drive into Yellowstone. Loved having a cabin to cook a healthy breakfast and come home and cook a healthy dinner and let the kids run around. My mom booked it thru Island Park. And it is already A LOT of driving in Yellowstone so being able to cut out any driving is a perk.
Pack your food in-
One day we ate at Old Faithful Cafeteria for lunch. Not impressed. Cost a lot for not very good food and very crowded. There really is not a lot of places to eat along the way. There was a lunch spot at Tower Falls, again looked about the same.The next day we packed coolers full of a large salad, grilled chicken, fruit, hardboiled eggs and other healthy snacks and lunch options. It was SO much better and fun to pull off on the side of the road at a table to eat at the back of the truck, anywhere outside!
This was not very easy for us to do with kids. We ended up getting to Yellowstone about 9:30 am and the line to get into the park was long. Not to mention you have a better chance of seeing animals the earlier you go!
Yellowstone National Park Must-Do
When I asked everyone their favorite thing we did they all said Mammoth Falls was their favorite. I agree. It is a surprising site! It looks like an inside-out cave. As you are driving thru the beautiful green hills and mountains all of a sudden you come upon a mini little town. So charming. It was a military base. There is housing, a little shop for groceries, souvenirs and yummy ice-cream that all the kids enjoyed. Also spotted a lot of Elk in this area. The falls are amazing.
We got lucky and had two bear sightings! Both on the loop to Mammoth Falls. Before Tower Falls. Most people say you can see more bears on the Upper Loops because it is higher in the mountains. We also saw plenty of Elk, Buffalo and have seen Moose before.
Old Faithful, Frozen Yogurt at Old Faithful and Gift Shop-
Old Faithful get’s it’s name because it faithfully erupts every 30 t0 90 minutes. There is a sign by the geyser that the Forest Rangers update when it is expected to go off next. It is fun to site and to wait for the big show! As I mentioned we don’t recommend eating at the cafeteria, but the frozen yogurt at Old Faithful is yummy. Try the raspberry! We did get the kids ice-cream at Mammoth Falls and it was nothing special. Also stopped in the large gift shop and got the kids a tee shirt and Finn picked out a baseball.
We stopped at Upper Mesa Falls on our way into Yellowstone. We did the short hike/walk to the lower falls. Then walk the steps to the Upper Falls. Gorgeous view about 30 minutes outside of Island Park.
Mesa Falls- my Dad and Finn.
First day of Yellowstone- seeing all the Hot Spots. We basically pulled off when we could. Really once you have seen one they start to all look the same.
Deep Hot pool at Steam Boat Springs.
Steam Boat Geyser- the world’s tallest active geyser, Steamboat, can erupt to more than 300 feet. So you could get wet! It didn’t erupt when we were there. It periodicity eruptions every 7 to 8 days.
Hanging out at the Cabin in Island Park. It was nice for our large family. (I really wanted to decorate it tho:)).
My brother and Finn playing at the cabin
Tower Falls on your way to Mammoth and Lola taking to Kevin at the falls (see he made it in a photo!)
Mammoth Falls General Store- Ella, Finn and Lola
Mammoth Falls- notice how it looks like an inside out cave?!
Mammoth Springs to see above the spring. My niece and sister with Finn.
Bear sighting before Tower Falls- Mamma and baby cub
Old Faithful Geyser- you can see how crowded it was that first week in July. But really no issues parking.
Finn and his baseball from the Old Faithful Gift Shop. Honestly part of the trip looked like the photo below. Finn was a good sport with all the driving!
The entire group! Dad, Brother, Me, Niece, Sister, Nephew, Nephew, Finn, Mom, Nephew, Ella, Lola, Sister and Brother-in-law
(unfortunately Kevin couldn’t come)
Thank you so much for sharing your trip. I love it. I have not been to Yellowstone for a long time, but time changes very little there. The scenery is spectacular!! It is a wonderful and fascinating place. So glad you were able to go. Everyone looks like they had a fabulous time!! Nothing better than sharing with family!!
Love your pictures of Yellowstone! First, I can’t believe how Finn has grown! He is super cute as well as your girls. Yellowstone is a lot of driving but its very beautiful. My DH and I have been several times and we usually go in late August but even than, it is still crowded. The first time we visited Old Faithful, we didn’t know what time it was to go off, we had just got settled on a log and it started. Most people had been patiently waiting for it for some time. It was pure luck. LOL Your right too about the food. We accidently found a small snack bar located in the back of one of the large general stores that sold everything. We were very surprised it was so good and reasonable. LOL Thanks again for sharing and I am glad you had a great time.
Thanks for the tips! I have taken a group of middle schoolers there a few times. For you science teachers our there, check out the Teton Science School! They have great accommodations and a program where Biologists take the kids out on daily hikes-best learning experience I have found. What a great trip for your fam:)
Lilia Robberts says
We get to go to Yellowstone this year for family vacation. Thank you for letting me know that I should stay close to the park. I also found it helpful that you suggested to I should start early to get a better chance to see animals. Along with doing this, we will need to find a great hotel to stay at.