This wasn’t my first trip to Yellowstone, but it was our first trip as a family. Yellowstone National Park, primarily located in Wyoming but overlapping into both Montana and Idaho, is the world’s first national park, established on March 1, 1872. It’s enormous too, covering 3,472 square miles. It is filled with things like hot springs, thermal pools, waterfalls, lakes, creeks, and all kinds of neat things.
You could spend a week in Yellowstone and not see everything. We only had one day to do Yellowstone this year, so we had to make some decisions about the things we wanted to see. I actually was running in the Yellowstone Half Marathon, so we started our sight-seeing after the race by heading directly to what the kids wanted to see, which was Old Faithful. The race I ran was actually in West Yellowstone, just outside the park, so we entered the part at the West Yellowstone entrance and drove to Old Faithful. We somehow timed it just right because we literally walked up to the Old Faithful mere minutes before it went off. The kids really enjoyed seeing it.
After this, we had a picnic lunch at a picnic spot nearby. When you enter the park you get a map and it includes notations about where to find picnic tables.
Our next stop was West Thumb Geyser Basin. This is a super cool area with a boardwalk that you can use to explore lots of different thermal pools, lakes, and geysers. It’s so neat to see thermal pools right alongside Yellowstone Lake. There are lots of signs to explain what you are looking at and how it was formed. Yellowstone Lake, for example, was formed by a large volcanic explosion that occurred around 150,000 years ago or so.
Finally, our last stop on our short trip through Yellowstone was to see Yellowstone Falls. This was pretty breathtaking.
If you plan to see the falls, which I highly recommend, know that to get to the lower part you have to walk down some steep switchback trails. It’s no problem getting down, but the walk back up is tough. My daughter needed frequent breaks to make the trek, which I didn’t mind at all since I ran a half marathon that morning. But it can be a tough climb. Worth it, but tough.
There’s definitely a lot more to see in Yellowstone, but we didn’t have the time to really explore much more than that. We saw Bison and Elk, and did get caught in a “Bear Jam” (when cars all stop to see a bear) but we didn’t actually see the bear.
- Take bottles of water. If you do much hiking, you’ll want to stay hydrated.
- Pack snacks and lunch. The restaurants are PACKED in the summer and can be expensive, but there are lots of picnic tables to use.
- Wear comfortable shoes and pack a sweatshirt. It can get chilly.
Cost: $30 per carload to get into the park.