I recently returned from a quick trip to Yellowstone National Park. We have 3 kids in tow, ages 5, 2, & 9 months. Needless to say we did not do any extreme hikes and we did not have enough time to see everything. Even so, we had a great time and checked off one more place from the “take the kids to see…” list. So if you are headed to Yellowstone National Park and have limited time – here are my top 5 things to see and visit. (Keep in mind we traveled from Cody, WY and entered the park through the east gate.)
- West Thumb Geyser Basin – This was our first stop. We hopped out of the car and took a short walk to a boardwalk that winds around several pools of boiling water, boiling mud, and brilliant colors. We had to hit the famous Fishing Cone because the hubby’s heart skips a beat at the mention of fishing. One of the things I loved most about the West Thumb Geyser Basin is how it sits on the edge of Yellowstone Lake, which is beautiful, and you get a lot of variety all in one spot.
- Old Faithful Geyser – Alright, so what’s a trip to Yellowstone National Park without seeing the famous Old Faithful! This was our second stop and it ended up perfectly at lunch time. We headed into the Old Faithful Inn for lunch, (which honestly was a wonderful atmosphere and mediocre food). We had some time to kill before the next eruption so we wandered around the other geysers near Old Faithful and then grabbed a good seat for the main event. Old Faithful erupted right on time, water shot high in the air out of the ground – gave us a good show then we hopped back in the car.
- Mammoth Hot Springs– Alright, in all honesty this would have been our third stop, but the family was lacking in enthusiasm so… I lost the vote. I remember seeing this as a kid and it is worth the stop! It is a collection of hot springs on a hill of travertine; the hot water has created beautiful terraces. I have heard it is not as impressive as it used to be, but still something to see.
- Canyon Village – Okay, this was honestly my favorite stop! I love, love, love waterfalls. I would recommend driving both the North and South Rim Drives. The Upper Falls and the Lower Falls are beautiful. They drop into the Yellowstone River that meanders through an amazing canyon. My favorite viewing spot was from Artist Point, which is just a short walk from your car and a climb up a flight of stairs. It is a nice break from the boiling water pots, and sulfur smell.
- Dragon’s Mouth Cave – This was our last stop and the kids’ favorite. We had been telling them all day that we would be visiting a Dragon’s Mouth Cave. It did not disappoint. We jumped out of the car and instantly heard the “roaring” of the dragon hidden in the cave. We followed the boardwalk up to the Dragon’s Mouth and stayed awhile trying to view the dragon behind the steam that was pouring out of the cave. Don’t miss this one! It is located at Mud Volcano on the official NPS map – just south of Canyon Village and north of Fishing Bridge.
Yellowstone National Park is wonderful, and I think completely enjoyable for a day. Stock the car with lots of fun snacks, enjoy the drives between the sights, and keep your eyes open for wildlife. You can even sing “Row, Row, Row your Boat” in a round to complete the “Chevy Chase-like” family vacation experience. (Not that we did that or anything…)