With over two million acres of land, there are plenty of options for easy hikes in Yellowstone. We’ve compiled our top Yellowstone hikes for families to help you plan your trip.
There are multiple backcountry hikes, but if you’re traveling with kids, this isn’t exactly feasible. Whether your kids are two or twelve, these family friendly hikes will be great for everyone. They are all either relatively short, easy, or both.
PS- Want to know more about planning a trip to Yellowstone? Check out this post to to get ideas for making a Yellowstone itinerary and where to stay. Once you’ve done that, you want to make sure you aren’t missing any fun activities in the park. So, be sure to check out this list of fun things to do with kids in Yellowstone.
South Rim Trail to Clear Lake Loop
Distance: 4 mile loop
Starting at the Wapiti Lake Trailhead this trail runs parallel to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone giving you intermittent views over the canyon from various overlooks. You have the option to connect to Uncle Tom’s trail (which was closed during our visit).
If you continue along the canyon for a little less than two miles, you’ll make it to Artist Point. Most of this walk is flat, with only a few uphill bursts. Since it is a heavily visited area, the trail is partially paved and in great shape.
From Artist Point, continue through the forest to the right toward Lily Pad Lake. This area is pretty quiet, so you might see a fox like we did! Continuing on this trail takes you past a few geothermal areas with mud pits and hot springs.
You’ll eventually end up at Clear Lake, whose name speaks for itself. Plan to spend some time here letting the kids play and stretch their legs- or rest if they’ve been walking.
From here you’ll walk through a beautiful meadow, with views of mountains in the distance and back to the car park. The total round trip is almost exactly four miles and took us about two hours, as our kids walked quite a bit of this one.
Lamar River Trail
The Lamar River Trail starts at the Soda Butte trailhead. From here you can cross the bridge and follow the river through the meadow where you’ll most likely see bison or pronghorns grazing. There are several different side trails you can take to add some distance if you want. The beauty of this hike is that it is an out and back, so you can go for as long (or short) of a walk as you want.
The kids will love playing in the creek and watching for wildlife. This is a great way to break up the day in Lamar Valley as you could easily find a spot for a picnic here. Just make sure to use some caution with all the wildlife around.
Distance: 0.8 mile out and back
This easy hike near the Mammoth Junction area is a great way to work up an appetite before having a picnic at Lava Creek just down the road. This super short trail is fun and easy for little ones.
From the trailhead, you’ll only walk about 0.4 miles through a sagebrush meadow and a few marshy spots to the base of Wraith Falls, with an impressive 79 foot drop. This total hike only took us about 20 minutes (carrying the kids), but if your kids are walking it could easily be longer.
Distance: 2.3 mile loop (can be shortened as out and back)
From the parking area, you’ll start by walking through a meadow then into the forest. The trail then winds through the pine trees while hugging the coast, with glimpses out over the water. Eventually, it opens up with views gorgeous views over a few small beaches along the lakeshore.
The trail then winds back through the forest and meets back up with the loop again in the meadow. If you don’t want to do the entire loop, you can always do an out and back from the first beach area.
While slightly longer than some of the others on the list, this trail is mostly flat. Plus, you’ll most likely see a good bit of wildlife. While doing this hike we saw chipmunks, a bison, a variety of birds, a marmot, and we even heard an elk nearby.
Make sure to bundle up when doing this trail, especially in the cooler seasons. The wind, especially on the point and along the water can be tough and extremely cold coming off of the lake. It definitely earns its name.
Distance: 1.2 miles out and back
Located in Lamar Valley, this hike is short, but not the easiest. While only 0.5 mile the trek is mostly uphill, so little legs will most likely need a break or two— or to be carried. As you’re walking, surrounded by Douglas Firs, you’ll hear the small waterfall and creek to your left as it flows from the lake above.
Once at the top, you will see Trout Lake just in the valley below. Mostly surrounded by pines with an open meadow and mountains to one side, the lake is a quiet refuge and the perfect spot for skipping rocks. You can walk all around the lake and check to see if any of the fishermen are having luck for the day.
We spent a little over an hour here, and would’ve spent longer had it not started to rain on us. If you can pack a simple lunch that’s easy to carry, this would be an awesome spot for a picnic.
Distance: 1 mile out and back
As far as easy hikes in Yellowstone go, this is probably the easiest we did. Another great spot for a picnic, this is much more of a leisurely walk than a hike. Located between the Norris and Canyon areas, it is a fun place to spend a few afternoon hours away from the crowds.
The half mile trail takes you from the parking area, through a pine forest to the crystal clear waters of Ice Lake. Once you arrive at the lake the kids can play in one of the grassy areas or makeshift campsites. You can also continue around the lake’s edge if you want to add some distance.
This is a great hike for little ones, even toddlers as they can probably make the entire walk on their own!
Fairy Falls trail to Grand Prismatic Overlook
Distance: 1.6 miles out and back
Fairy Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. The easy hike to get there is almost 9 miles roundtrip, and as we were here our last day, we were all a little burnt out on hiking. Well, the kids were, and we were tired of the whining. So, we compromised by walking only part of the trail to the Grand Prismatic Springs overlook.
The easy hike starts at the Fairy Falls trailhead and leads you through a flat meadow for a majority of the walk. Eventually after about 0.75 mile you will come to a fork in the trail. You can continue straight to Fairy Falls or split off to the left to get to the overlook.
After taking the detour toward the overlook, the last little bit is mostly uphill on gravel, so I wouldn’t advise taking a stroller (at least for this part). After reaching the top, you will have amazing views of Grand Prismatic Spring. From here you can truly appreciate the colors and size of the spring.
Besides the viewing platform, there isn’t much to see or do once you reach it, so you can turn around and make your way back to the car. Kids may enjoy playing in the meadow, so long as there aren’t any bison around.
All of these easy hikes in Yellowstone are the perfect way to get out of your car and into nature. Make sure to let us know what you think if you do any or all of these!
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Jana MascioniJanuary 29, 2020 at 4:46 pm
Thanks for the informative post and beautiful photos! I would love for you to share this post on the January Kid Culture Blogger Link Up here: https://www.mypiccoloitaliano.com/post/january-kid-culture-link-up . The link will be open until 1/31. Hope to see you there!
KatlanOctober 4, 2020 at 5:43 am
Hi I was reading your post about yellowstone and noticed the carrier your husband was using. What kind is it? We are vacationing in Yellowstone next spring and I am sure we will need one for our daughter.
HeatherOctober 6, 2020 at 5:53 am
Hey there! I believe you are referring to The Piggyback Rider. We borrowed it from a friend, and it was perfect for our daughter. She was too big for a baby carrier but didn’t want to always walk.