Yellowstone is a sensational National Park that works especially well for families. It really is a world of wonders, and it is so large and so varied that you can easily spend four or five days doing completely different things and experiencing nature in completely different ways.
It’s excellent for all types of families too – for the active, there are hikes and trail rides. For the less active, you can see lots from the window of your car.We are a particularly active family, but we found the mix good, especially as this visit was just a few short weeks after our very intense trip to the Four Corners Region.
You need to book accommodation well in advance – we booked about 4 months in advance and still couldn’t get our #1 choice of Roosevelt Cabins, so we booked into Canyon for a couple of nights, and then a couple of nights at Old Faithful.
Driving from Vancouver, we drove for two days solid until Cody, Wyoming. Cody is a small town with a very Western atmosphere, and we happened to get there in time for a rodeo. This was our second rodeo ever, and the kids liked this especially as some of the rodeo riders seemed to about 10 or 12 , making it especially exciting. The museum at Cody was outstanding – we especially liked the exhibition on Annie Oakley (Annie get your Gun is one of our favorite musicals).
From Cody we entered the park and almost immediately we saw huge herds of bison. Amazing! They slowed us down a lot as they were clustered right on the road, causing traffic to back up.
Arriving finally at Canyon, we checked into our motel-type room – the room was very ordinary, but we were not there to spend any time at all in our room, and located in the middle of a forest almost right next to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone it was pretty great.
From Canyon we did tons of exploring – The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with its great waterfall and yellow canyon walls was right next door and spectacular, while we drove to the geysers at Norris, and then the following day we headed out before dawn to Roosevelt, to search for wolves. Our trip to Roosevelt was a major highlight. Distances are far in Yellowstone and we had a long way to go but we made it and then patiently staked out a great spot along with others – we were the only ones not armed with huge spotting scopes. Finally we saw a single wolf, far away – I can see it on my photo when I blow it up about 100 times. We had also booked a morning trail ride out of Roosevelt. The ride was great – the kids loved the slow and gentle pace. Eitan was too young to join in, so he and Hilit went on a Stagecoach ride which they enjoyed. It was clear to us why Roosevelt is the most popular accommodation spot in the park – the accommodation looked very typically National Parkish – old wooden cabins, but the location is incredible.
Later that day we went to Mammoth Hot Springs – Park HQ and much larger than the other camps – we saw more great thermal features but most exciting were the elk in the town itself. Apparently the males are so dangerous that the park rangers keep everyone a good distance away from the animals. Apparently, car doors have been speared through by the antlers of angry males, so you don’t want to get in the way of them. We had one of our greatest experiences nearby – swimming in the Boiling River. It’s incredible – you enter the river (its shallow) and while it may be freezing cold in one spot, just around the corner it’s hot, heated by thermal activity. We had a great time here.
It was back to Canyon for the night, and then the following day we moved on (via a quick stop at the lake) to our new accommodation at Old Faithful. The accommodation at OF is much more luxurious – not surprising since it is the biggest draw in the Park – we stayed at the Snow Lodge which was very comfortable and we visited the impressive Old Faithful Lodge at night, but at the same time, it felt much less of a wilderness experience, than say at Roosevelt. Of course we saw Old Faithful, but we also saw other wonderful geysers. It’s not easy to see them all as they spout at different times of day and the timing is very inexact – typically, the expected time has a 2 hour give and take in both directions – so an expected time of 4pm could be anywhere from 2pm – 6pm. You have to be very lucky, or very patient with some of them.
We had a fantastic time – the colors of the thermal pools are incredible – blues, greens, yellows, oranges….
For kids especially, we liked the following: Easy paved trails to many of the major sites – good for wheelchairs too and excellent for little kids. You need to be choosy regarding what geysers you want to see – it’s simply impossible to see them all, and kids lose their patience very quickly if the “window” between eruptions is too long. That is why Old Faithful is so good for young kids – excellent, and pretty much on time! Like all National Parks there are ranger programs – always recommended.
We loved the trail riding too and Boiling River. What we did not do was any long hiking, simply because we had done so much a few weeks earlier in the four corners region and none of us felt like it.
And then there is all the wildlife – the bison are incredible and will impress anybody – adults and kids alike, and despite the distance, we loved our wolf sighting. It is a good idea to take with binoculars or a spotting telescope.
We had four really busy day in Yellowstone. Not bad for one park! It is a great family destination – a long drive from most places, but we loved the drive through Big Sky country, and there are airports near the park.
Next stop – Grand Teton National Park.
PS: These days I plan great family trips to destinations worldwide. Click here for more details.