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Tips for Visiting Yellowstone with Kids

Tips for Visiting Yellowstone with Kids

Written by: , April 18th, 2024
Categories: Tips

Yellowstone With Kids

Yellowstone National Park is a perfect family-friendly vacation destination. Kids will love exploring Yellowstone’s trails and lakeshores, spotting wild animals, and marveling at the geysers and hot springs in the park, while Mom and Dad delight in capturing memories that will last forever.

If this is your first time visiting Yellowstone with kids or you are looking to make your next adventure better, we have a few tips that will make your trip easier and more fun for the whole family.

Driving through Roosevelt Arch

There’s going to be a lot of driving, so plan accordingly!

Yellowstone is huge – 3,000 square miles, in fact – and it can take a couple of hours of driving to get from one attraction to another. There’s plenty to look at, from breathtaking scenery to wildlife, but keep in mind you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy and experience the park as you traverse it. Make frequent stops to give kids the chance to walk trails, take pictures, or draw things they see. Encourage kids to keep a journal of their park experience, or pick up books about Yellowstone in the visitor center bookstores or park gift shops for them to read during long stretches in the car.

Grab a Wildlife Checklist

As you enter the park, ask the Ranger at the entrance station for a kids’ wildlife checklist and turn your sightseeing into a game! This can also help you pass some of the long hours in the car, too. The Old Faithful Inn even has its own Scavenger Hunt – fun for kids and adults! Check at the bell desk when you arrive.

Picnicing, Mammoth Hot Springs

Pack Snacks and Lunches

Packing snacks, lunches, and plenty of water is essential. With so much space between food service stations, you won’t always be able to hop out of the car to grab some trail mix and bottled water. If you have room in your vehicle, fill a cooler with lunches and snacks and enjoy your meals at some of the well-marked picnic spots. Most marked picnic areas have vault toilets. There are plenty of places to buy ice and water supplies. Deli lunches and to-go food can be purchased at the park’s restaurants, snack shops, and deli’s.


Establish Basic Safety Rules

Kids, and some adults, have a tendency to want to get as close as they can to animals. Of course, when those animals are wild, this isn’t a safe option. Make sure your kids keep a safe distance from any animals you spot during your exploration. National Park Service rules recommend staying at least 25 yards from most animals (elk, bison, moose, coyotes, etc.) and 100 yards from bears and wolves. A good rule for your kids is to stay on the path and not run ahead – everybody sticks together!

Going Off the Grid

Remember that visiting the park can be a digital detox. In Yellowstone, there’s no TV, radio, and limited Wi-Fi and cell service, so kids should be prepared for what will likely be a drastic change from their everyday lives. But there are plenty of ways to keep everyone entertained! Kids can use their smartphones or tablets creatively, from taking photos and creating photo collage souvenirs to capturing video clips to produce a movie of their Yellowstone adventure. In the evenings, you can play board games in the charming lobbies of historic lodges like the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Old Faithful Inn, and Lake Lodge, or attend the evening Ranger programs for an enriching experience, most of which are free.

National Park Ranger holding a wooden Junior Ranger Badge

Check out the Junior Ranger program

Designed for kids ages 4 and up, the self-guided Junior Ranger Program is a great way to introduce kids to the natural wonders of Yellowstone. Booklets are available at park visitor centers. After completing activities in the booklet, kids review their work with a ranger at any visitor center. Participants are awarded a wooden official Yellowstone Junior Ranger badge.

Give the Young Scientist Program a Try

Get a self-guided program booklet at the Canyon Visitor Education Center (ages 10+) or at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (ages 5+). While you’re in the Old Faithful area look for a Young Scientist Toolkit with the gear you need to explore the young scientist program.

If your kids are 3 or younger, bring a stroller.

Little legs get tired quickly and with so much ground to cover, you might not make it very far down the trail before you hear, “I’m tiiiiiired!” Err on the side of caution and bring a stroller along.

Looking for a day-by-day itinerary? Check out our 3 Ideal Days for Families in Yellowstone Itinerary.

For A World of Unforgettable Experiences® available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and our sister companies, visit

Want to experience Yellowstone in-depth? See what makes Yellowstone National Park a great place to work for a season or longer!