Family fun in Yellowstone
By Wendie Carr EBS Contributor
The world’s first national park is a great place to explore and learn together as a family. But once you see Old Faithful and tour the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, where do you go from there? From spectacular hikes to private tours and from Mud Volcano to pristine picnic spots, here are some fun and educational park activities for you and the brood once you’ve tackled the usual suspects.
At under a mile, round trip, Wraith Falls is a perfect hike for families with younger children, and holds a picturesque waterfall as the final destination. The trail is relatively flat, with a slight uphill at the end.
Older kids will enjoy “peak bagging” Bunsen Peak, an 8,564-foot mountain just south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Take your time on this 4-mile round-trip hike and soak in the 360-degree views of Swan Lake Flat and the surrounding area. When you reach the top, enjoy lunch while scanning the vistas for wildlife.
Yellowstone Lake area
Storm Point is a favorite for everyone in the family. Walk through wildflower-covered meadows and old-growth forest on this easy, 2.5-mile round-trip walk that rewards hikers with views of Yellowstone Lake along the way. Look for marmots racing through the grass or sunning themselves on rocks, and kids will enjoy exploring the expansive shoreline.
Kids of all ages will love exploring the boardwalks surrounding Mud Volcano, a thermal area that features oozing, bubbling mudpots. Check out Dragon’s Mouth Spring, with a steamy cave that sounds like a dragon hissing, gurgling, and roaring as it spits out water. Bison are often spotted roaming in this area, too.
Old Faithful area
Avoid the crowds at Old Faithful and hike—or travel by bike—to Lone Star, a beautiful backcountry geyser. Pack a picnic lunch, and set out on a scenic hike or ride alongside the Firehole River (approximately 5 miles round trip; trail is flat and mostly paved). Lone Star geyser erupts approximately every three hours, shooting water up to 45 feet high.
Looking for a more in-depth way to experience Yellowstone? Help children fall in love with the park on a Yellowstone Association Institute tour, exploring both iconic and out-of-the-way places. Build your own adventure on a private tour, and choose from four options (wildlife watching, hiking, geology, history) that can be tailored to the interests of your family. Private tours include transportation for the day, and institute instructors will even help children work on their Yellowstone National Park Junior Ranger patch.
Kids can create their own nature journals detailing the flora and fauna they see in Yellowstone. Buy an inexpensive notebook and encourage them to write down or draw what they see. Older kids can take photographs of wildlife they spot, as well as any tracks these animals leave behind. Not sure what you saw? Stop by a visitor education center and ask a ranger.
Before you go
Practice “leave no trace” principles: Pack out all trash and food, and leave things along the trail as you found them.
Yellowstone National Park is bear country. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Park regulations require that you maintain a distance of 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from all other wildlife.
Be sure to stop by the nearest visitor center for current information about hiking conditions and closures before you hit the trail.
Wendie Carr is the marketing manager for the Yellowstone Association, Yellowstone National Park’s official educational partner. Call (406) 848-2400 or visit yellowstoneassociation.org for more information about their educational programs, tours, products, and membership program.
This story originally appeared in the current issue of Explore Yellowstone, on newsstands around the region.
Vote your park
Yellowstone seeks funding for historic overlook
From the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, visitors gaze upon the same vistas that helped persuade Congress to preserve Yellowstone as the world’s first national park nearly 145 years ago.
A $250,000 grant from Partners in Preservation would rehabilitate historic stonework at the Brink of Upper Falls Overlook, one of 10 overlooks around the canyon, to ensure future generations witness the dramatic perspective of Yellowstone.
As part of the National Park Service’s centennial, Partners in Preservation is hosting a voting contest where 20 different national park units are competing for $2 million in grants for historic restoration projects.
Created by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Partners in Preservation campaign has committed $16 million in support of historic places across the country.
Partners in Preservation seeks to increase public awareness about the importance of historic preservation, while conserving America’s historic and cultural treasures. The program also hopes to inspire long-term support from local citizens for historic places at the heart of their communities.
The public can voice their support by voting once a day for up to five parks through July 5 at voteyourpark.org, where they can also enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Yellowstone National Park sponsored by National Geographic. In addition, they can show their support by using #VoteYourPark and tagging @savingplaces on Instagram and Twitter.