Prior to our trip we heard lots of opinions on Yellowstone. There were those that thought it was the best place on earth and those that were disappointed because of the vast number of tourists. I visited Yellowstone the summer after my senior year, but it was a short trip through on my way to Flathead lake in Montana. I was pretty excited to explore our nation’s first national park with my kids
We did not leave disappointed.
Sure, there were a few busy spots with lots of tourists, but the park is huge and there is plenty of wide open space for exploring too. The park has so much diversity it truly is an incredible experience to walk among burnt forests, mud volcanoes, waterfalls, geysers, lush valleys, and of course wildlife. We took our time at each stop and tried to really learn as we went. There is so much to learn in this amazing outdoor classroom.
We did not give ourselves a timeline or try to rush from place to place. We took our time and let the kids lead the way in what the daily agenda would be. Giving them the freedom to choose to leave someplace, stay longer or skip a location I think really helped make it a fun adventure for us all.
The boys also heard the rangers talk a lot about animal scat. That alone make the park awesome to my boys.
We drove through a couple areas where forest fires had dramatically changed the landscape. There was a beauty in those areas that was so different from the rest of the park. Learning about the role of fires in the health of the forest reminded me of how going through fires in life in general really produces a beauty that can’t happen without the fire. What a gift to be able to talk to the kids about the restorative role of fire.
In all that wide open space the boys’ spirits ran wild…so much room for adventure and exploration with a good amount of danger mixed in. They ate it up.
The Mud Volcano area – We decided the area smelled stinkier than her feet when she wears tennis shoes with no socks. That is serious stinky.
Chris had the camera most of this day to record that I was actually on this trip too. I tried pulling the kids aside to read all the information markers. So much knowledge and insight we crammed into our heads in a matter of days. We won’t remember it all, but we will remember more than if had just passed by the sites without reading anything.
Waterfalls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
We ended our last day in the park at Lamar Valley. Before our trip we had each kid pick on place in the park they wanted to be sure we stopped. My oldest did a little research and chose Lamar Valley because it was known as a great spot to see wildlife. We dug a little deeper and read that dusk and/or dawn are the best times to visit. So we planned our last day to end in the valley. It meant for a late night (sun sets pretty late this time of year), but it was totally worth it.
Ending our time at the park in Lamar Valley was the perfect ending. The sun was on fire, the bison were crossing the road, the kids were in awe. When the kids get older they may not remember too many details of their first trip to Yellowstone, but I think there is a good chance they will remember it being a spectacular trip and an incredibly fun time as a family.