24 Jun

                                      FTC requirement: This blog post may contain links where the creator earns commissions.

Yellowstone National Park. I've learned about it since I was young, and yet never planned a trip there on my own. Did you know that it is the oldest National Park in the US? It was established in 1872. 

My mother decided to plan a big family trip (9 people total) this summer to this wilderness of the west. In the middle of the vacation she says "ahhh. Now I get why it is called Yellowstone. You see? Yellow....Stone." 

I went to look it up, and found that she was not quite correct. But I too had not realized the stone there was actually yellow myself, until "Gigi" pointed this out. According to usgs.gov, "contrary to popular belief, Yellowstone was not named for the abundant rhyolite lavas in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone that have been chemically altered by reactions with steam and hot water to create vivid yellow and pink colors. Instead, the name was attributed as early as 1805 to Native Americans who were referring to yellow sandstones along the banks of the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana, several hundred miles downstream and northeast of the Park."  But nonetheless, this was "Gigi's trip" and I like her reasoning much better anyway. 

We had 2 families of 4 (two adults and two girls, all under the age 9) plus my mother. Above is a map of the entire park and I have placed stars on all the key points we hit that I felt were WORTH it. I wish I had had the energy to be able to do more of the hikes to waterfalls, but after 10+ hour days in the park, every day. I do not think myself or my kids could have added in a 4+ mile hike on top of that as well. 

I want to hit some of the reasons I think you should travel to Yellowstone with your family, first. I will also list at the bottom of this blog the hotel we stayed at, airlines we used, and an example itinerary for anyone who decides to book and go as well.  I will additionally add links to my "traveling with kids" recommendations and must haves. 

Reasons I think you should go to Yellowstone: 

1) There is little to no service inside the park. Therefore, you are forced to unplug. The very thing you are supposed to do on vacation. Put down your phones, and actually enjoy nature, the absolutely drop dead gorgeous scenery, and each other! I typically have a hard time with this (as a content creator) and my husband being over a whole department does as well. It felt AMAZING to only have my phone in my hand to take photos and then immediately put it away. 

Grand Prismatic

2) The outdoor fresh air, exercise, and ability to see things you cannot see anywhere else in the world. There is NO other place on the planet that has the natural wonders like what you will see and experience at Yellowstone. Yes, eventually the entire place may erupt and take out the majority of the US (just watch this documentary); but right now, it is some of the most beautiful natural wonders you can experience first hand, up close and personal. Not to mention the wildlife. I am not used to seeing bison, bears, wolves, large snakes, elk, moose, marmot, eagles, owls, etc. So to me, it was rare. 

3) Typically on vacations (unless I am at Disney), I am not logging over 15,000+ steps a day and not even realizing it. My kids (ages 7, and 4) for sure are not either, and because we went with cousins, there was 0 complaining.  I, as most of my followers know, am trying to lose a lot of weight I have gained throughout my autoimmune treatments the past few years. I am on my way down, but anything I can do to help with this without me even realizing I am getting exercise, is a win for me. The first day alone, we hit Old faithful (and went up to the observation point on the side of the mountain to view it), then back down. Then went to Grand Prismatic walked all around it and decided we also needed to go up for a better view of it as well. The hike to Fairy falls mid way is a great observation landing for the entire Grand prismatic area. 

4) If you have a hard time getting your kids to pose or smile for family photos. You are going to have 0 issues here. ZERO! I have one child we have called Judge Judy since she was a baby because she will always shoot the looks your way. She also tends to smile like my father did, which looks like she is really straining to pretend to be happy. This is her, at Yellowstone. 

She was smiling and laughing in every single photo I took. She was excited every single day to run and go meet up with family and to just have a good time. If you enjoy taking photos (like I do), you are going to adore and admire everything you see on your trip. Including the random jump out of the car moments to try and get photos of the elusive moose. Yes, we did see 4 of them in the woods off the side of the road. No I did not get photos, and we were too chicken to try and walk through the woods backwards from where we pulled over to be able to get it. I do not have a death wish after all. 

5) For an east coaster, southerner, like myself. Taking a trip north usually makes me cringe a little. Much less the mention of also going West. My kids have a map in the basement that they put pins into every Zoo, Nature center, Museum, park, etc they go to.  It is only the US so when they traveled to London and soon Paris those just kind of go in the ocean. But they asked my husband, "why do we only have pins on this side of the map? What is all this over here? (pointing to the west)". This was our first trip (with the kids) where they now get to place multiple pins into the other side of the map. It is also high 90's where I live right now, and as you can likely tell from the photos, it was not high 90's at Yellowstone. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of June, we had mornings in the 40s and some days go up to 80s, but most were mid 70s. It was a nice break from the crazy heat of summer, and we got to see something all new. Most of the beaches we go to, are not much different from one another. We do not get much exercise (unless it is Hawaii, as we do hike there). And the last few times we have been to Disney, we felt like we paid way too much for what it was. 

So that is my sell for Yellowstone for a family vacation in the summer. Unplug, see new sights and animals, exercise, enjoy time with your family, get amazing photos, and take a break from the (typical south eastern US) heat! 

And now what most people came here for! A good daily itinerary: 

*We stayed at West Yellowstone. The drive in you need to come in before 8 am to miss the Bison causing road stops. But compared to the North gate it was less "cliffs" and winding roads. Much more scenic and calming.

We stayed at the Gray Wolf  it is walking distance to everything in town. They have a nightly ice cream party and bags to make smores at their fires around the building. There is plenty of parking. It is directly across the street from a wildlife center you can visit and the IMAX. Our rooms had full kitchens, a living room area, 2 separate sinks with counters for getting ready, and then the bedroom was also separate. Wifi and Cell service (although I pretended there was not). We did not "camp".

Day 1

6 am - Lamar Valley  - often referred to as the American Serengeti. Get up early (as in, get there by 6 am) and get over to Lamar valley. You will see more wildlife here and more types as well. In the spring you will also see a lot of the babies.

This is a friendly reminder, you do need to stay 100 yards away from the wildlife. So you may want to bring binoculars. 

10 am - Roosevelt Tower, North Gate Roosevelt Arch and Gardiner. Stop for a little breakfast in Gardiner, or if you are not hungry just yet head on down to 

12 pm - Mammoth hot Springs. These are colorful hot springs and terraces (boardwalk). It is approximately 1.75 miles and has two loops to it. There is additionally a general store, gas station, and dining option by this area so you can brunch or lunch. 

2 pm - Hike to Mystic Falls (headed back towards the West entrance). Biscuit Basin has a 2.4 mile hike (boardwalk) through the basin where you can see several thermal features before heading into the forest. The trail follows Little Firehole River and ends at a 70 foot waterfall. 

6 pm - Head back to West Yellowstone and find dining for the evening. Walk the local shops. Be sure to try some of the Huckleberry ice cream! and make smores with your family before resting for the evening 

Day 2

8 am - Grand Prismatic Springs - Head to Midway Geyser Basin and walk the boardwalk to see the world's largest and deepest hot spring.  FYI the best view looking down is not going to be accessible from this parking area, but you will need to head down to the Fairy Falls parking and hike up to the first observation area looking down at this spring. I do recommend walking around it on the boardwalk 1st thing, to minimize the amount of other people on the walk with you. 

 9 am - Fairy Falls and better photos from observation area of the spring- This is a separate parking area and hike. These falls are 220 feet high, Fairy Falls is one of the tallest on this side of the park. The full hike up to fairy falls is around 6 miles. There are 2 ways to get there 1- is from the parking lot just south from Midway Geyser Basin and there is a 2nd lot and access from Fountain Flat drive. I recommend parking south of Grand Prismatic as it is slightly shorter. You do not have to hike all the way to fairy falls. You can go to the observation area above Grand Prismatic and come back down 1 of 2 ways from there. This observation area is less than 2 miles and child friendly.

12 pm - Old faithful and lunch/dinner. You can stay right down by Old Faithful for a ground viewing. The main visitor center will have the approximate time it will erupt within a 15 min range. This Upper Geyser basin boardwalk is also prone to bison crossing the boardwalks so be careful here. You can walk up to 6 miles through the highest concentration of geysers in the world at this single location. You can additionally hike about 2+ miles up to the observation point (off to the right) to see Old Faithful from up above, as well. This is the best viewpoint in my opinion. There are additional trails in this area as well. 

This area has multiple dining options from the cafeteria to the Old faithful Inn dinning room. You do not need reservations for breakfast or lunch at the Inn dinning room, but you will for dinner. It is the largest log structure in the world, finished in 1904. We ate at both places while visiting this area and both had great food options. The cafeteria is grab and seat yourself. But the food WAS good. 

4 pm and beyond - this day depending on how long and how much you do around Old Faithful my suggestion would be to look at the larger map you will receive at the gate entrance and stop some of the smaller places on the way back to exit the gate. There are a lot of river walks. We really enjoyed the Madison River walk area and even sitting down and having a small snack before heading back out of the park. You will also likely stop often to look and photograph wildlife. You may also get stuck in a traffic jam (aka Bison crossing). 

Day 3 

8 am - Head to the Lake! Yellowstone lake that is. If you are not booking a boat at the lake, I would head that way and grab items to have a picnic with some amazing views. The drive there is amazing. This is the largest high elevation lake in North America with over 141 miles of shoreline. It is ALSO where both black and grizzly bears as well as Moose like to hang out the most in spring to fall. You can head through West Thumb to get there OR Norris, Canyon Village, to the Lake Village. The 2nd is what we did to bypass the Old Faithful area traffic. If you did not spend lots of time at Old Faithful the day prior, you could always head out to the Yellow Hotel for dinner (via West thumb drive) that evening as well. The views here are stunning. The Lake Butte trail (observation point) has great views! (below)

If you are not much of a picnic family, then grab lunch at the Yellow Hotel.   Our family will forever remember our waiter, Tyler, from this lunch. 

1 pm - Head north to the Mud Cauldrons and Dragon Springs. Fair warning this was also one of the smelliest areas, but also one of the coolest to see and experience. It is a short boardwalk all the way around and worth it. 

3 pm - Head to the Canyon! The Yellowstone Canyon is a MUST see. It has the Upper and Lower falls. The lower falls are better (but that is my opinion). Both areas have plenty of parking and you can drive or walk this entire area. You could spend 30 mins or you could spend multiple hours just here alone. This is also the area we saw grizzly bear in, so be mindful of your surroundings. 

4 pm - Head around to the West entrance again but stop at the Paint Pots! This area is very cool. Bubbling mud that pops and Geysers that do not stop (think Old Faithful on repeat). It is a very short boardwalk around and also has a parking lot (with bathrooms. However, I have failed to mention the bathrooms are a hole, with a seat on the top of it, inside a cement building. We bought this from Amazon and used it MANY times in our SUV). I do recommend it if you have children. You will get stopped in traffic, and often, while in the park. 

6 pm - Head back out into West Yellowstone and pick a new restaurant! (We ate at The Asian restaurant next to the Imax, The slippery Otter, yes Mcdonalds in a pinch, Hanks Chop Shop, stopped for Ice cream, and my family also enjoyed Bullwinkles (Huckleberry cheesecake), and Madison crossing lounge.

Day 4

 *I did not do this day but my family said it was amazing, and also HIKING, real hiking. 

7 am - Head South to the South entrance and to Grand Teton national Park and Jackson Hole! 

*It will take you a while to get there. And will be an entire day outside and South of the Park.

I hope you have an amazing family vacation ! Here are some travel bonus extras that may help you get there: *these are all my personal referral links

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Hilton - Points

Marriott  - Points 

Thanks for following along!  Be sure to check out my Travel finds idea lists and Kid's travel musts on Amazon as well! You can find links to all my accounts at c8ke.com/ketosismom

- Jen @KetosisMom 


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