Yellowstone with Kids: The Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary
Visiting Yellowstone with kids can be so fun and magical. We had a blast driving from geyser to geyser trying to time it just right to see each geyser erupt. Whenever we’d make it to one, the kids would cheer and clap. It was a blast! Plus they got to see wildlife up close and personal (but not too close 😉) like bison and elk.
There are many Yellowstone itineraries out there, but this one is tried and true for visiting Yellowstone with a family. We visited the park on a Yellowstone family vacation which means there were many adults and also multiple kids under the age of 7-and we had a blast.
If you are wondering which areas of Yellowstone to for sure include in your trip, I’d recommend seeing as many geysers as possible. Geysers were definitely a highlight for everyone in our group-kids and adults alike.
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How Many Days to Spend in Yellowstone National Park for Kids
I’d say you can definitely get a good feel of Yellowstone in 2 days. This will give you enough time to explore most of the large, lower loop of Yellowstone. In the lower loop, you will see very famous areas like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring (along with many other geysers/springs).
The lower loop is a large loop that does require a lot of driving, for that reason I recommend spending at least two days in this area to be able to have the best and most relaxing time as a family in Yellowstone.
However, if you want to see more of the upper loop of Yellowstone but still see as much as possible in the lower loop, I recommend 3 days. You can definitely see the upper loop in one day, even traveling with kids in Yellowstone.
Things to Know About Visiting Yellowstone with Kids
The biggest thing to know about visiting Yellowstone with toddlers, babies, or teenagers is how to be safe. The official Yellowstone National Park safety page provides loads of great information on this topic.
A quick version of some Yellowstone safety tips includes to:
- Stay at least 100 yards (a football field length) from bears, wolves, and nesting birds and 25 yards from other animals like elk, bison etc. Even if you see other visitors getting out of their car or leaving a trail to get super close to an animal for the perfect shot- don’t do it yourself.
- Do NOT get in or touch the water of any of the springs or geysers. It is HOT. And I mean like, crazy hot burn yourself dangerous hot. This means you will want to keep your littles very close to you and the national park website advises no running, pushing, or horseplay on any of the boardwalks near the springs.
- Keep bear spray on you and know how to use it (especially if you will be doing any hiking). There are lots of bears in Yellowstone and bear spray is a very effective deterrent if you ever unexpectedly come face-to-face with a bear. Also, make noise while hiking to alert a bear of your presence.
- Never feed wildlife, not even the birds.
- Drive safely and pull over if you want to take in a beautiful view. Traffic-related accidents are the biggest cause of injury in the park 🙈.
- Bring plenty of water, food, and a first-aid kit with you just in case.
Other things to know before visiting Yellowstone National Park with kids:
- Booking a guided tour in Yellowstone can be a super great option for a family. We did that on the second day of our itinerary and it was so great to travel in one large van with our whole group rather than following each other in multiple cars. Plus, the personal stories from our tour guide were a highlight of our trip! This tour is not the exact tour we did, but very close.
- The Yellowstone NPS App has current prediction times for geyser eruptions along with other awesome information about the national park
- You can experience most of the things on this itinerary with a stroller in tow (thanks boardwalks!)
- June, July and August are the busiest months to visit Yellowstone (consider visiting in spring or fall). Visiting in the winter is awesome, but you will need to book a winter Yellowstone tour to do so as roads are closed.
Map of Things to do in Yellowstone National Park with Kids
*Use this interactive map to see where all the top Yellowstone itinerary spots are for a great 2 days in Yellowstone*
Yellowstone 2 Day Itinerary at a Glance
DAY ONE FAMILY TRIP TO YELLOWSTONE:
- Watch for wildlife on your drive into the park
- Walk the Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk
- Hike to Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
- Lunch: Picnic at Whiskey Flat Picnic Area
- Walk Fountain Paint Pots Boardwalk
- White Dome Geyser (& Firehole Lake Drive)
- See the Yellowstone documentary at Yellowstone Giant Screen IMAX Theatre in West Yellowstone
DAY TWO YELLOWSTONE TRIP ITINERARY:
- Watch Old Faithful Erupt
- Explore Old Faithful Lodge and Giftshops
- Snap a Pic at the Continental Divide
- Lunch: Picnic at ‘Hard Road to Travel’ Picnic Area at Lake Yellowstone (or West Thumb Geyser Picnic Area)
- Hayden Valley Overlook and Drive
- Admire the ‘Grand Canyon of Yellowstone’ from Artist Point
- Get up Close to the Falls at Brink of the Upper Falls
In-Depth Yellowstone Itinerary of 2 Days in Yellowstone for Kids
Day 1 Itinerary for Yellowstone
1. Watch for Wildlife on Your Drive into the Park
One of the best things to do in Yellowstone with kids is to keep a pair (or multiple pairs) of binoculars on hand to watch for wildlife. The drive into the park from West Yellowstone has tons of beautiful wide-open spaces where you are sure to spot some animals.
Find spots to pull over safely and *safely* watch Yellowstone’s awesome wildlife. The national park states that to observe animals safely you must stay at least 100 yards (or a football field) away from bears, wolves, and nesting birds and 25 yards from all other animals.
Trust me on this one… if you try to look up bison in Yellowstone on YouTube you’ll be bombarded with people interacting with animals the wrong way and coming away very hurt. So, just stay in your car or right next to your car and check them out with binoculars! It’s an amazing experience, especially if you’ve never seen any wildlife like this before.
You may see bison, elk, wolves, or bears just to name a few. The most common animals we have personally seen in Yellowstone are bison and elk. If you are lucky, you may come across a huge herd of bison crossing the road and stopping traffic. That is one of my favorite things to experience in Yellowstone. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a treat when it does!
2. Walk the Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk (Midway Geyser Basin)
Seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring is by far one of the best things to see in Yellowstone. It’s the gorgeous blue, yellow, and green hot spring that I’m sure you’ve seen National Geographic photos of many times.
This area is very popular among park visitors (for good reason) so it’s a good idea to stop here first thing (before 10 am) on your first day in Yellowstone with kids. It’s an easy .8-mile walk on a flat wooden boardwalk that passes by not only Grand Prismatic Spring but also 3 additional lovely springs/geysers.
From the boardwalk, you’ll get up close and personal to the springs and be able to walk through the steam (and smells 😉) plus you may even see animal footprints near the springs! I loved imagining bison coming near the springs to warm up in the wintertime.
You won’t get the same view as what you’re used to seeing in pictures since you are walking right next to the spring, but I still definitely recommend it.
3. Hike to Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
Now, if you want to see Grand Prismatic Spring from above like what you are used to seeing in pictures, then the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook hike is for you! This hike is a 1.2-mile hike ranked as ‘easy’ and good for the whole family. You can read other hikers’ experiences here.
You will find the trailhead just one mile past the Grand Prismatic Spring boardwalk at the ‘Fairy Falls’trailhead.
We had this hike planned on our Yellowstone itinerary, but when the time came, we came we decided to skip it (you know how it goes when traveling as a family-flexibility is key!). However, this overlook of Grand Prismatic Springs looks totally beautiful and I hope to take this hike on my next visit to Yellowstone!
4. Picnic Lunch at Whisky Flat Picnic Area
Surprisingly, there are a few places to eat within Yellowstone National Park, however, I recommend bringing a picnic lunch with you to the park. This will help you cut down on driving time to get to the areas that have food, especially on this first day of exploring the geyser basins where there aren’t food options close.
Whisky Flat Picnic Area is a great picnic area with 12 picnic tables spread out through beautiful trees. Plus, it’s located right near all of the stops on day one of this itinerary for Yellowstone.
You can have a great relaxing picnic here and the kids can run around and play on rocks etc if they need to get a little extra energy out after having to walk so carefully on all of the boardwalks 😅.
5. Explore Fountain Paint Pots Boardwalk (Lower Geyser Basin)
The Fountain Paint Pots Boardwalk is one of my favorite spots because there are multple varities of hydrothermal features all exhibited on this one short walk. There are geysers, springs and (my favorite) mudpots!
Mudpots are basically exactly what they sound like- large areas of mud that bubble and spurt. It’s so fun and seems like it is straight out of a children’s book.
The walk is similar to the Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk in that it is a wooden walkway that wraps around and is about a 0.5 mile loop. It’s an easy walk and you get to see 13 different pots!Sometimes there are bison hanging out in this area that you’ll get to see if you are lucky 😀.
6. See White Dome Geyser (and more) on Firehole Lake Drive
Firehole Lake Drive is a small loop you can drive with a few different points to pull out and walk up to different features. We found ourselves driving this loop multiple times during the day before and after lunch etc to see if we could time it right for some of the geysers!
The kids loved looping back around to see if we could catch one of them going off- it was almost like a treasure hunt, but for geysers erupting.
White Dome Geyser:
White Dome Geyser was one of our favorite geysers… I mean look at it! It’s one of the largest cone geysers in the park (meaning the big mound or cone of ground is almost 12 feet high). It almost looked to me like it was made out clay and when it erupts the water goes about 30 feet high.
Great Fountain Geyser:
Another popular one in the area is Great Fountain Geyser. Now, this geyser only erupts every 9-15 hours 😅… however we were set on seeing it! You know that it is getting ready to erupt when the water starts bubbling and it slowly gets bigger and bigger.
So this was one of our favorite spots to swing by in the car over and over to see if we could catch an eruption! The last time we swung by there were lots of cars parked and people sitting along the viewing area (some even brought camp chairs). So we hopped out of the car, ran over and caught its eruption!
The Great Fountain Geyser eruptions last around 1 hour (which is a long time compared to the 1-5 minutes of some other geysers) plus it’s around the same height as Old Faithful! So we stuck around for awhile watching and relaxing until we were ready to move on.
There are other nice stops along Firehole Lake Drive as well, so I definitely recommend making this loop once or twice to try and catch some of these cool geysers erupting!
7. Go to the West Yellowstone IMAX Theatre (Giant Screen Theatre)
If you have enough energy left and are looking for something to do after dinner, definitely consider visiting the IMAX theatre in West Yellowstone. This is an awesome theatre just outside the park in West Yellowstone with a huge IMAX screen that shows a great Yellowstone documentary, but also other current films.
A movie is a great way to wind down after a fun day of exploring, but you can keep learning about Yellowstone while you do so.
Day 2 Yellowstone National Park Itinerary:
1. See Old Faithful Geyser Erupt
Old Faithful geyser is by FAR one of the most well-known Yellowstone National park things to do because of its punctual and easily predicted eruption times. The geyser erupts 17-20 times a day which means about every 1.5 hours or so you’ll be able to catch an eruption.
The water shooting out of the top reaches heights of 180 feet and the eruptions last about 2-5 minutes long! You can find out the prediction times for the day you are visiting by downloading the NPS App (National Park Service app), Yellowstone’s geyser prediction Twitter feed, or the Old Faithful Visitor Center.
Right near Old Faithful, you can visit the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, the lodge, or the General Store. Plus there are tons of other geysers and thermal features in the area you can walk to right from the same area.
Since you might be waiting a while for the next eruption, I definitely recommend checking out the buildings or other geysers in the surrounding area while you wait. You could even pick up some ice cream to snack on!
2. Snap a Pic at the Continental Divide
If you’ve never heard of the Continental Divide, get ready to have your mind blown. The Continental Divide is an area that separates the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean from those of the Atlantic Ocean. Or in other words, rivers on one side of the Continental Divide flow into the Pacific Ocean, and rivers on the other side flow in the opposite direction into the Atlantic Ocean.
There is a Continental Divide sign near the road that makes for a quick, great photo op.
3. Picnic at ‘Hard Road to Travel’ Picnic Area on Lake Yellowstone
Again, I recommend picnicking on day two of your itinerary in Yellowstone. There are various picnic locations to choose from that are on the shores of Lake Yellowstone. The ‘Hard Road to Travel’ picnic area is where we stopped and has 5 tables right along the water with pretty lake views. Another great picnic stop would be the West Thumb Picnic area and you could visit the West Thumb Geysers as well.
4. Drive Through Hayden Valley/Hayden Valley Overlook
The drive from your picnic area at Yellowstone Lake to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone will take you through a gorgeous area of the park called Hayden Valley. This drive can take about an hour with no stops, but I recommend stopping to take in the views and hopefully see some wildlife.
Like I said, this drive *can* take an hour, but it can also take longer if you get stuck in a ‘bison jam’ (bison crossing the road) or if traffic is stopped to keep wildlife safe for any other reason.
On our drive through Hayden Valley, we sat in some traffic for a while because there was a bear in the valley you could see from the road and rangers were helping direct traffic. This is a popular area to see bison (we did) but since it’s nature you obviously can’t be guaranteed any wildlife sightings.
5. See Artist Point at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is so different from the rest of Yellowstone. It is (as the name implies) a HUGE canyon with the Yellowstone River flowing over a waterfall almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls. And the river flows hundreds of feet below the Artist Point viewpoint.
From this area, you will have the best views of the falls plus be able to walk along the canyon edge of different trails if you’d like to see more of the area. We just visited the lookout and walked around to different viewing areas but still spent a good 30-45 minutes here.
6. Walk to the ‘Brink of the Upper Yellowstone Falls’
A short drive from Artist Point you’ll find Brink of the Upper Yellowstone Falls. This is a quick 0.3-mile out-and-back trail to a viewing area right along the edge of the upper Yellowstone falls where you really are ‘on the brink of the falls’! It’s a beautiful stop and you really get a feel for the gushing water pouring over the mountainside.
This stop doesn’t take much time but you get the unique opportunity to get super close to a huge waterfall that you don’t get in many places.
Additional Things to do in Yellowstone with Kids:
All of the things to do on this Yellowstone two-day itinerary are located in the ‘lower loop’ of Yellowstone National Park. However, there are some really cool things to do and see on the ‘upper loop’ of Yellowstone plus a couple of things still located on the lower loop.
There are also some additional fun things to do in West Yellowstone that are not actually within the park.
If you have more time or maybe you move fast (or you don’t mind some extra driving) here are some additional places to see with kids in Yellowstone!
- Mammoth Hot Springs (very cool features that you don’t see as much in other areas of the park):
- Firehole Swimming Area/Boiling River Swimming Area (the only 2 places you are allowed to swim or soak in Yellowstone-not always open, check the national park website for information):
- West Thumb Geyser Basin along Yellowstone Lake (unique experience to see both springs/geysers and Yellowstone lake at the same time):
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center (zoo-like facility to see bears and wolves up close in West Yellowstone)
- Playmill Theatre (local theatre in West Yellowstone with family-friendly performances)
Airports Near Yellowstone National Park WY
- Yellowstone Airport (WYS): By far the closest airport to the West Yellowstone entrance- it’s only 5 minutes away!
- Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA): About 2 hours away from the West Yellowstone entrance
- Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN): Also about 2 hours away from the West Yellowstone entrance
Family Tours in Yellowstone
If you are the type of person that likes a good tour once in a while ( I know I am) then here are some great tour options for Yellowstone. We actually booked a private Yellowstone tour for the second day of our itinerary. It was so great to have our whole extended family in one large van touring together instead of driving multiple cars throughout the park. The stories from the tour guide were some of our highlights of the trip!
- 4-Hour Morning Kayak on Yellowstone Lake with Lunch: Spend a gorgeous morning kayaking on the largest lake in Yellowstone!
- All-Day Tour of Yellowstone National Park: Private all day tour of Yellowstone, skip the hassle and just enjoy the scenery!
- Guided Hiking Adventure in Yellowstone with Lunch: Nervous about hiking in bear country? Book this tour to have a skilled guide with you!)
- Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks: Small Group 5-Day Tour: See these two beautiful national parks in one, perfect, hassle-free trip!
And those are my top recommendations for a family trip to Yellowstone and things to do with kids in Yellowstone! I hope you are able to see a lot of Yellowstone in 2 days and that this Yellowstone family itinerary is helpful to you. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, I love to talk about all things travel!
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