With over two million acres of land, there are so many things to do in Yellowstone with kids. Landscapes ranging from meadows and creeks to hot springs resembling another world provide so many opportunities for getting out and enjoying the world’s first national park.
We’ve rounded up our favorite activities for young kids while visiting Yellowstone. Make sure to also check out our four day Yellowstone itinerary.
1. Join in the Junior Ranger Program
Geared at kids ages 4 and up, the Junior Ranger Program is perfect for little explorers. For $3 you can buy a Junior Ranger Guide book at any visitors center.
After completing the fun age-appropriate activities inside and completing a ranger led activity, the kids can be sworn in as an official Junior Ranger and will be given a patch.
I will mention that this is probably best suited for kids six and older, as our daughter was only interested in coloring the pictures in the book, and didn’t even complete the program. Either way, the activity book was really fun for her.
2. Get an Animal Checklist
Upon entering the park, mention to the ranger that you have kids with you, and he will provide you with a fun animal checklist for the kids. The Wildlife Identification Game is fantastic. It is a simple sheet of paper with pictures of the main birds and mammals you might spot inside the park. Let me tell you, this simple yellow sheet of paper was probably our kids favorite part of the trip! I can’t tell you how many times we had to quell fights over whose turn it was to mark off and hold the sheet after we lost the first one. Luckily, the rangers at Mammoth Springs were nice enough to provide us with two fresh ones.
3. Stroll along the Geyser Boardwalks
Kids will love seeing all of the steam and bubbling waters from the hot springs and geysers in Yellowstone National Park. There are multiple areas in the park where you can see the otherworldly formations.
If you want to see a lot of unique geysers and hot springs in a short amount of time, take your kids on the one of the Upper Geyser Basin Boardwalks. Located directly in front of the Old Faithful Inn, the boardwalk on Geyser Hill was our favorite. It is flat, easily accessible, stroller friendly, and has a variety of geysers and hot springs.
4. Stop in at the Visitor’s Centers
Depending on your previous excursions, you may or may not be a fan of tourism visitor centers. Besides grabbing free maps, I’ve never really been able to glen much information besides the basics from most we’ve visited. However, the visitors centers at Yellowstone are amazing! They are all educational and interesting for children and adults alike. Each one focuses on different aspects of the park: Mammoth has life sized animals while Yellowstone features the inner workings of geysers and hot springs. The Visitor’s Center at Yellowstone even features an interactive area for young kids!
5. Look for Wildlife in Hayden and Lamar Valleys
Like I mentioned about with the checklists, animal spotting was a favorite activity during our visit to Yellowstone. While you may see wildlife anywhere, your best chances lie in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. These are the two areas where we (and most other visitors) see the biggest percentage of wildlife in the park. While your chances are best early and late in the day, we saw several animals midday in both of these areas, including a herd of bison walking right past our car!
6. View the Waterfalls
Everyone loves a beautiful waterfall, and Yellowstone is full of them. From the most popular Upper and Lower Falls in the canyon area are fantastic, don’t skip over the lesser known and less crowded ones scattered throughout the park. Some of our favorites were Virginia Cascades and Firehole Falls.
If you love waterfalls, make sure to check out our post with two amazing waterfalls near Nashville.
7. Go for a hike
This is THE BEST way to venture away from the crowds in Yellowstone. Most visitors never even venture more than a few minutes from their car to take a picture then continue on. Even on the relatively popular hiking trails, we were easily away from the crowds within minutes.
Looking for more hiking ideas around the USA? Here we’ve listed three great hiking spot is in Highlands, North Carolina.
8. Have a Picnic
There is something about the freedom of eating outdoors that kids love. As a parent, I can also appreciate the ease of a picnic. I mean, the kids can run around and be as loud as they want while you eat in peace knowing you’re not annoying anyone other diners.
You can get pretty much anything you need for a picnic at one of the general stores before heading out for the day or stock up on some supplies at a grocery store before entering the park. Picnic spots are all clearly identified on the maps and have bathroom facilities along with trash and recycling. That said, you can always find your own spot by a lake or creek.
Just make sure to take all your trash and leftover food out with you.
We had several picnics at different places around the park, our favorite being Lava Creek just a few miles from Mammoth but far from the crowds. There is a small creek and a few picnic tables under tall pines right off the road, and it is absolutely perfect.
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