We live in such a great place to step back from all the stressors of the world and just go spend time in nature for a little while. I grew up in Virginia, which is a very different environment from eastern Idaho. I miss Virginia all the time, but Virginia doesn’t have the mountains and wide open spaces that the west does. We moved here in 2020 and in fall 2021 we took our first trip to Yellowstone as a family. I’m excited to go back and we are currently planning another trip for this fall. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it out there last year because I was getting increasingly larger and more pregnant as the summer went on. If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone coming up this summer or fall (or you’d like to jump on a spontaneous one), here are some ideas to consider.
Camping vs Hotel Stay
During our trip to Yellowstone, our daughter was about two years old. Growing up, my family never really did a lot of camping, but my husband’s family did. Maybe eventually we’ll talk about camping, but last time we stayed in a hotel in West Yellowstone, MT. It worked really well for us because I didn’t have to buy a ton of equipment to make camping suitable for our young toddler or figure out how to make all of our meals on a campfire. It also helped my general dislike of camping that after spending all day outside we were able to go back to the hotel where I could take a nice warm shower and be clean to sleep well and rest up for the next day.
If you plan to stay in the park at one of their lodges or inns, it might be a little late for this year. Many of them sell out during the winter before, but you might find something if you’re willing to search around a bit. Visitors come to Yellowstone from all over the world. Last time we did a spur-of-the-moment trip, which was fun, but if you want to stay in the park you’re going to have to plan ahead a bit.
Another perk of staying at a hotel was that we got breakfast provided in the morning. With breakfasts covered, all we had to worry about was lunch and dinner. For lunches and snacks, we packed a lot of granola bars, crackers, trail mix, and sandwiches. The day that we made it out to see Old Faithful we were able to eat at the Geyser Grill at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. There really aren’t places to buy food in the park besides around Old Faithful, so a lot of packing and pre-planning is your best bet as far as food is concerned.
What to See
Yellowstone has something for everyone. One of the first places we stopped on our trip was a gorgeous lookout with a peaceful waterfall and raw nature for miles.
Only a couple miles further into the park, we ran into our first experience with the wildlife of Yellowstone.
Of course, we can’t ignore what Yellowstone is most well-known for, the geysers and hot springs.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was Yellowstone Lake. I had no idea such a gorgeous lake could be found in the middle of Yellowstone.
Finally, if you’re simply tagging along with family, but you’re not feeling the appeal of nature as much as others in your group, many sites have small informational areas where you can read about the history and science behind different parts of Yellowstone. Maybe you can learn something new along the way!
Yellowstone has a lot to offer, but even if you don’t make it into the park be sure to check out West Yellowstone, Montana. That little town could be a vacation all on its own.
How Long to Stay
Our trip was a short weekend trip, just Friday through Sunday, but it could have been longer. There was so much we didn’t get to see that I would have liked to. It’s a good thing we live so close and can plan another trip soon. How long to stay is really up to you and your family or group, though personally, I don’t think I could stay longer than a week. There comes a time when it is nice just to head home, no matter how calming it is to reunite with nature.
I feel like we see posts like this all the time “making the most of XYZ,” but it’s also really important to remember that every person is different. Every family is different. What works for one family might not work for another and that’s totally okay. I hope sharing a bit of what we did on our trip has given you some ideas, but if they don’t sound like things you’d enjoy the beauty is that you don’t have to do them!
Final Note: Did you know that if you have a fourth-grade student in your home, they get free access to all US National Parks for an entire calendar year? Find more information here: Every Kid Outdoors website