Thinking about a family road trip to Yellowstone National Park?
Our family of five gives it two thumbs up!
Here are some tips, tricks, and ideas we learned along the way to help plan your trip!
Family Road Trip to Yellowstone
1. Book Ahead of Time.
Campsites in the park fill up months, if not a year in advance, so if you want to tent, pull a camper, or rent a cabin inside the actual park, book a summer in advance.
Another option, which we took, is to book outside of the park.
Nearby towns include:
Gardiner, MT (north of the park)
West Yellowstone, WY (west)
Jackson Hole, WY (south)
Cody, WY (east)
And all have great RV parks and campgrounds that don’t book out so quickly. Each of these towns are at various locations right outside of the park, making some of the well-known Yellowstone sites easily accessible.
2. Plan 2-3 Stops Each Day.
Each attraction has so much to see with lots of walking involved. You can easily spend at least one to two hours at each place you visit. Take your time at each stop and don’t try to cram too many activities into each day, or you will all be exhausted.
Some of our favorite spots and highlights of each area:
Mammoth Hot Springs
- Cool maze-like boardwalk that the kids loved.
- Lots of colors and cool geology.
- Provides an interesting history of Fort Yellowstone.
Norris Geyser Basin
- So many geysers and bubbling pots.
- Boardwalks right over the crusted ground and hot water.
- You can feel the warmth and steam all over.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
- Some seriously breathtaking views.
- Fun wooded hikes with so many vantage points.
- Plan to spend a lot of time here — there are two falls (Upper & Lower) to hike to and view.
- The most iconic geyser of the park.
- More small and medium geysers and bubbling pots than you can count.
- Take the upper climb hill to Observation Point. It’s a climb but fun for adventurous kids. Then follow the trail to Solitary Geyser. It erupts every five minutes and although it’s small, will definitely wow you with an up close and personal eruption.
Opting for just two to three main attractions like these leaves you time to stop at smaller trails, geysers, lookouts, and scenic hikes along the drive whenever you feel like a pit stop. And boy are there plenty of these!
3. Be Prepared For Lots of Driving.
Each main attraction usually requires about 30-60 minutes of driving in between. Yes, the map may show only 10 to 20 miles, but the roads are very curvy and the driving speed is slow.
The scenery on these drives is breathtaking, and we parents were entertained by just looking out the window, but make some plans for the kids in the car with games, snacks, etc., because these drives can feel long.
We opted for a technology-free trip and it made it so much more wonderful. The kids were excited to get out of the vehicle and explore rather than being crabby about having to turn off their game or movie.
4. Bring Warm Clothing.
We took our trip mid-June and wore caps, gloves, and a jacket on every hike before noon. Yellowstone is at a high elevation and the mornings and evenings get pretty cool.
Some other handy supplies:
- Bear Spray (The park rangers are pretty good about keeping tabs on the bears and warning tourists, but if you do take smaller, less traveled trails it is a good idea just to be safe.)
- Snacks (more than you think you’ll need) and lots of water.
- A grandparent or other relative (We brought my parents and it was such wonderful quality time and also minimized whining since grandparents provide an extra layer of entertainment).
- A Yellowstone travel guide book
- Download the app for the park. It gives handy directions, sites to see, and more.
- Remember when I said we had a technology-free trip? Well, it wasn’t completely true. We nixed technology once we arrived at the park but the drive from Fargo to Yellowstone is long. A few movies and iPad games were very helpful.
Our Yellowstone family vacation was one of the most memorable trips we have taken. Our kids had a chance to experience the wonders of our world up close, which instilled a deeper love of nature and adventure than they had before.
I couldn’t recommend this road trip more!
Looking for more fun destinations? Check out our post on Road Trip From Fargo: The Black Hills.