Visiting Yellowstone with Kids

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.

It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.

But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.

Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:

1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Dragon's Mouth Spring

How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.

2. Fishing Cone

Yellowstone Fishing Cone

It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.

3. Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn lobby as seen from Bat's Alley; Jim Peaco; October 2003

What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class.
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10 Cool Things For Kids in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.

It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.

But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.

Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:

1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Dragon's Mouth Spring

How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.

2. Fishing Cone

Yellowstone Fishing Cone

It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.

3. Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn lobby as seen from Bat's Alley; Jim Peaco; October 2003

What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class.
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Scouting London

Continuing the story of the big adventure to England that my son’s Scout Troop embarked on this summer.

Before they hit the trail, a few days of sightseeing were planned for London.

Most of these boys are from small towns and rural areas. They aren’t brimming with experience of dealing with the big city, especially not one of the largest in the world.

The traffic, the Tube, the people, it can all be so chaotic.

But, being Scouts, they were prepared. They dealt with it, even reveled in it. I think a few of them could see themselves living in a place like London.

We walked for miles. Rode the Tube for miles. Rented bikes. Took the train. And a boat.

Even got lost for a time.

In other words, these boys really moved through London.

Here’s a little bit of what they saw:

Meeting a Beefeater at the Tower of London

"If you're walking across England, you'll want to go this way."

It's a long way down from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral

They've been known to bite!

Admiring the tapestries at Hampton Court Palace

Household Cavalry

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Exploring the Thames on a rocket boat.

Queen Victoria, Empress of India

Harrod's Confectionary, Home of the $5000 box of chocolates

The Shard, Europe's tallest building

Westminster Abbey

Ancient Assyrian frieze at the British Museum

A sleepy guard

Bangers 'n' Mash

The Victoria Memorial, outside Buckingham Palace

Chilling on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral

The Baden-Powell House at night

A Grizzly Discovery

Storm Point Trail, Yellowstone

We’re back from a family vacation in Yellowstone National Park!

In the week leading up to our trip I’d grown nervous about the weather forecast, which had called for rain and thunderstorms. But the skies stayed mostly sunny while we were there.

And by “mostly sunny,” I mean that we’re all now sporting hot red sunburns on various parts of our bodies because we weren’t quite prepared for that big bright thing in the sky that has been hidden away for most of winter and spring.

The first sunburn of the year always signals the beginning of summer, so that’s one positive about it.

Yellowstone River

Our time in Yellowstone was great fun. The kids had been there before, but it was nine years ago and they don’t remember it. They’ll have a hard time forgetting this visit, as we explored almost every inch of the place from morning to night.

My son had a goal to spot every mammal known in the park. He almost did it too, getting up close and personal with a wolf, fox, marmot, pronghorn, and black bear, as well as the ever-present bison and elk.

We hiked miles and miles throughout the park, including the quite lovely 5.2-mile Fairy Falls Trail. If you visit Yellowstone, I highly recommend getting off the beaten path and away from the hordes of tourists.

Another cool trail, and a much shorter one, is the 2.3-mile Storm Point Trail, which leads you through open meadows to the shore of Lake Yellowstone, and then back through dense forest.

The area is a great place to find Yellowstone’s vaunted wildlife, especially Ursus arctos horribilis, more commonly known as the grizzly bear.

We didn’t really want to make a grizzly discovery on our hike, but the recently posted sign at the trailhead informed us that there was a good chance we would.

We went down the trail anyway. Bear spray in hand. Imagination on overload. It’s amazing how closely a shadowy, swaying fir tree can resemble an attacking mama grizzly! Multiply that tree by a thousand along the trail, and you can guess how much fun I had on the hike. I’m still shocked that I didn’t spray myself in the face at some point.

In the end, you have to realize that the danger from animals at Yellowstone is very small. There have been 5 or 6 bear fatalities in the park over the last decade. Out of 30 million visitors!

You should be more worried about getting smacked in the head by a German tourist with a 600mm lens trying to snap a photo of a chipmunk.

Actually, what I really should have been concerned about carrying around with me was not bear spray, but sun screen. Those burns will kill me before a grizzly does.

Norris Geyser Basin, Yellowstone

Old Faithful Inn Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer.

It’s an amazing place to visit. We’ve stayed there twice. Yellowstone has dozens of guided family activities, from cook-outs to horseback excursions to hayrides. The best thing to do in Yellowstone, though, is to simply hit the trails. We did this with a double stroller and found most of the geyser area boardwalks to be plenty wide.

The Old Faithful Inn has a very good casual restaurant (you must get reservations earlier in the day) and enough lounge chairs for everyone to sit and admire the interior architecture. Oh, and the rooms do not have televisions! So the family can concentrate on the park and each other.