The United States is full of amazing National Parks. For families who love the outdoors, visiting parks like Yellowstone with kids is a must. The natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park, its diverse wildlife, and amazing geological formations make it such an interesting park to visit for families.
We visiting Yellowstone National Park as part of our world schooling family road trip across the United States in the summer of 2018. During that summer, we visited many national parks in the West. And we had a chance to witness the immense biodiversity that the United States has to offer.
One of our favorite parks to visit was Yellowstone. We had so much fun seeing all the wildlife and learning about geysers and volcanoes.
This post was updated on December 19, 2019.
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Fun facts to prepare you for visiting Yellowstone with kids
Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the United States. It was established in 1827! The park covers an area of almost 3,500 square miles, and sees over 4 million visitors per year. Visitors from all over the world come to Yellowstone to see the wildlife (bison, elk, bears, and wolves) and also observe the geothermal activities at the park (geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and steam vents).
The park itself sits on top of a supervolcano, whose last eruption occurred over 600,000 years ago. The caldera, the area that remained after the eruption, is where many of the geothermal activities occur.
Planning your visit to Yellowstone with kids
You can easily spend multiple days at Yellowstone National Park, camping and hiking. If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone, make sure you give yourself a few days. You’ll also want to make sure you bring along the right car camping essentials for your trip.
The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West from Fodor’s has some suggestions on what to explore at Yellowstone National Park. If you only have a limited amount of time, like we did, then doing a day trip is certainly possible.
Since we were only passing through the area, we opted to spend only a day at the park. For our visit to Yellowstone with kids, we followed the main loop around the park, starting from the West Yellowstone Entrance, essentially circumnavigating the caldera. We were able to see many of the sights of Yellowstone taking this route.
Things to know about visiting Yellowstone National Park
One thing to remember when visiting Yellowstone National Park is to ALWAYS be respectful of the rules of the park. Do this regardless of whether you’re there for a day or for multiple days. The animals at the park are wild animals, so always stay a safe distance away. DO NOT approach them for selfies or feed them food. Also, the soil around the geothermal areas can often be unsafe to walk on, so always stay on the designated paths.
It’s our responsibility as visitors to Yellowstone National Park to make sure that we preserve the park for future use. This is especially important if we’re visiting Yellowstone with kids. Following and respecting the rules of the park helps us protect the park for future visits!
Read my tips for traveling responsibly as a family.
Things you don’t want to miss when visiting Yellowstone with kids
For families planning a trip to Yellowstone with kids, there are several options to choose from. The park has a Junior Ranger option that kids can do to help them learn more about the park. You can get a workbook from the main Visitor’s Centers.
There also a number of hikes for families to take during their visit to Yellowstone. And for those who enjoy camping, there are twelve campsites to choose from.
Since we only had a day to explore Yellowstone, we chose to limit the amount of activities we did. But we still managed to see a lot of things while we were at Yellowstone. If you’re planning a day visit to Yellowstone National Park, just like we did, here are seven must-see sights for visiting Yellowstone with kids:
1. Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Springs
Starting at the West Yellowstone Entrance, head south along the ring road. Your first must-see sight on your Yellowstone day trip should be Excelsior Geyser and the Grand Prismatic Springs.
The geyser and springs are great introductions to the geothermal sights that Yellowstone has to offer. They’re excellent examples of how geysers and hot springs are similar and different. We loved the deep blue of Excelsior Geyser, and the rainbow-colored waters of Grand Prismatic Springs.
2. Old Faithful
The geyser known as Old Faithful is by far the most well-known of all of Yellowstone. And it’s one that you won’t want to miss when visiting Yellowstone with kids.
The name Old Faithful comes from the regularity with which it erupts, almost every couple of hours. This happens because there is a large reservoir that fills up below the opening of the geyser. The opening erupts once the pressure build up is too much.
You’ll want to time your visit so that it coincides with an eruption time. That way, you can avoid waiting around for an hour for the geyser to erupt.
3. The Continental Divide
A must see stop on your Yellowstone day trip is The Continental Divide. Running from the northern most tip of Alaska, down to the southern tip of Mexico, this invisible line divides the North American continent between the east and the west.
Major rivers flow from this line into either the Pacific Ocean in the West or the Atlantic Ocean in the East. A stop at one of the two signs marking the Continental Divide is a great reminder of how vast the North American continent is.
4. Yellowstone Lake
A drive along Yellowstone Lake is a fun way to pass the afternoon on a Yellowstone day trip. The lake covers 136 square miles and has about 110 miles of shoreline. Yellowstone Lake is popular for fishing, so if you have a bit more time and are a bit of an angler, you might want to consider taking a fishing excursion.
5. Mud Volcano and Dragon’s Mouth Spring
A stop at the Mud Volcano during your Yellowstone day trip will give you a chance to see a different kind of geothermal activity in action: a mud pot. This occurs when surface water collects and is heated by the ground, but has no actual connection to the underground water. Instead, it heats the surrounding area and turns it into bubbling mud.
It was such a sight to see the Mud Volcano. It looks like a boiling cauldron of mud! And while you’re at it, take a look at the nearby Dragon’s Mouth Spring, a hot spring located in a cave near the Mud Volcano. We especially liked the Dragon’s Mouth Spring because the sound of the pressure explosion of water and gases in the back of a cave sound almost like a dragon breathing!
6. The Grand Canyon
Did you know that Yellowstone National Park has a Grand Canyon? It’s true that it’s not quite so big and grand as the actual Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it certainly has some beautiful features. Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon has gorgeous waterfalls, and stands 800 to 1,200 feet deep. It’s definitely worth a stop during your Yellowstone day trip.
7. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
No Yellowstone vacation would be complete without seeing animals. Yellowstone National Park has all kinds of large mammals, including bison and bears. During a day trip to Yellowstone with kids, you’re more likely to see the former rather than the latter as you drive around the park, as bears tend to be more shy.
But if you do want to see some bears, head over to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, just outside of Yellowstone National Park, near the Western entrance. The center has resident grizzly bears for visitors to see and learn about. They also have wolves, although during our visit, we did not see any wolves.
Read my US national parks posts for more great national parks to visit.
Learning from our Yellowstone with kids experience
We loved exploring Yellowstone National Park. Had we had more time for planning a trip to Yellowstone, we would have set aside more than just a day to explore the park. There is so much you can learn about nature, just by visiting the United States’ many National Parks. We’re lucky to have been able to visit one of its first National Parks.
Have you had a chance to visit Yellowstone with kids? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!
If you’re planning a road trip through the western United States, take a look at these other national parks to visit:
10 Easy Mount Rainier Hikes for Kids
7 Practical Tips for Visiting Arches National Park With Kids
And if you’re hoping to visit Yellowstone National Park as part of a bigger family travel adventure, check out my ebook, Hey Kids, Let’s Go Travel! for tools and resources to help you plan your family gap year.
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I love Yellowstone! It’s been more than 10 years since my last visit but I still remember seeing all of the sights.