How Yellowstone National Park Makes Kids into Adventurers

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and a natural wonder that has been attracting visitors from all over the world for more than a century. Located mostly in Wyoming but stretching into parts of Montana and Idaho as well, the park was established in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant years before these states even existed.

So what outdoor features would your family like to encounter? Breathtaking valleys, waterfalls, geysers, rivers, lakes, hot springs– you name it, Yellowstone has you covered!

Geothermal Features

Part of what makes Yellowstone so appealing is its abundance of geothermal features. The park is filled with thermally-heated pools, sulfur cauldrons, and of course, geysers. Of all the geysers at Yellowstone, Old Faithful is the star and has remained so over the years for good reason. The geyser erupts every 91 minutes, which means there are lots of opportunities to witness this event. Kids can even get involved and try to predict the time of the next eruption!

Want to really lure your kids in? Excite them with the fact that Yellowstone National Park is actually an active super volcano! If they don’t believe you, take them to the Mud Volcano and watch as steam pours from its opening. Or, head to Fountain Paint Pot or Artist Paint Pot to check out the gurgling mud pots in these areas.

Bicycling Routes

Why not discover all that Yellowstone has to offer and enjoy the great outdoors while feeling the wind in your hair? Ditch the car and try cycling around the park via its numerous bicycle-friendly routes. Bring the bikes from home, or rent them at Xanterra at the Old Faithful Lodge.

A word of caution: most bike routes also share the road with automobiles, so be alert whenever and wherever you are cycling in Yellowstone. As always, wear safety gear, and stick to the designated roads.

Hiking Trails

While Yellowstone is favored by some for its backcountry hiking opportunities, you don’t have to be an expert outdoorsman to take a scenic stroll through some of the park’s most breathtaking areas.

The Upper Geyser Basin is home to none other than Old Faithful herself, along with a number of additional geysers — the largest concentration of geysers in the world in fact! Trails take you right up thermal pools and hot springs, including the Morning Glory Pool.

The Lone Star Geyser Trail is another fun choice that takes you past the Lone Star Geyser. While not as popular as Old Faithful, this geyser does erupt regularly (about every 3 hours), and the 5 mile round trip hike includes a scenic stroll alongside the Firehole River.

The trail to Trout Lake is best for those who want a short hike (less than a mile), though it is known to be a bit steep, so be prepared. The lake is home to plenty of trout that can be seen right below the surface of the water. If you are lucky, you might see an otter or two splashing about.

Junior Rangers and Young Scientists Wanted!

Little ones can become mini park rangers by picking up a Junior Ranger book from any of the park’s visitor centers for only $3. After your kids complete certain tasks, they will be awarded a special Junior Ranger patch. For even more educational fun, let them become Young Scientists! Self-guided Young Scientist booklets are available at the Canyon Visitor Center and Old Faithful Visitor Center for just $5.


There are 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone, 7 of which operate on a first come, first served basis and 5 of which require reservations. Whether you have an RV or want to pitch a tent, want access to trailer hookups and showers, or want to get lost in the wilderness, you can find a campsite to meet your family’s needs. Remember, spots can fill up fast, so book far in advance for reservation sites and stake your claim early for first come, first served spots.

If you want to be close to Yellowstone Lake, stay at Bridge Bay Campground or Grant Village Campground.Canyon Campground which is close to Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and has a nearby convenience store, visitor center, and laundry facilities. Tower Falls Campground also has a convenience store and is right by Tower Falls and the Petrified Tree Forest.

Try Norris Campground near the North Geyser Basin if you want a true outdoor experience (no nearby showers or laundry facilities). Pebble Creek Campground is another choice for those who want a more “off the beaten path” kind of camping trip. Families who enjoy hiking and fishing should stay at Indian Creek Campground or Mammoth Campground.

Traveling by RV? Stay at Fishing Bridge RV Park and take advantage of water, sewer, and electrical hookups as well as access to toilets, showers, and a general store.


While camping in Yellowstone is a truly unforgettable experience, if sleeping outdoors isn’t your cup of tea, try staying at one of the lodges within the park. The Old Faithful Inn was built more than a hundred years ago and is situated right by Old Faithful, making it easy to see it erupt. The Yellowstone Lake Hotel is another historic location, and here families can take in dazzling views of Yellowstone Lake.

Want more choices for lodgings? The Roosevelt Lodge Cabins offer family-style dining options, stagecoach rides, and easy access to horseback riding and hiking trails. There is also the Yellowstone Valley Lodge for those who want to stay at a lakefront hotel, or Canyon Lodge for families planning on visiting the park’s canyon.

Have any tips for families visiting Yellowstone for the first time? We want to hear them!

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