6 hours in yellowstone

Sep 1

in whirlwind of a day, we spur of the moment decided to head to yellowstone as a family, it was my first time going in seven years (!!!) and thankfully my father in law convinced us that this would be the perfect day activity for our tiny band of travelers. 

we all piled into my father in laws car, picked up some snacks & food for the rest of our meals that day and began our trip in the western most point of the park. 

i was kinda kicking myself that we hadn’t made the trip sooner because there was sooooo much to see and definitely not enough time to see it. i am definitely not a “let’s run around and do paris in 24 hours and see how much we can see” kinda girl, and now i get that this isn’t paris, but you get the idea. it was actually, dare i say, fun to have a bit of a time crunch and get pushed out of my comfort zone and try something new.

here’s what we did in six hours at yellowstone

yellowstone national park guide traveling with toddlers illustration and travel guide

lunch at gibbon river. definitely bring your own food and make sure to eat in the preferred picnic ares since they have bathrooms and places to throw away trash & recycle too. packing our own was a life saver and probably would be for you too if you end up being eternally hungry like myself. because there is so much in yellowstone and there’s lots of driving involved i pretty much just ate anytime my face wasn’t glued to my window in search of wildlife. over all it was a really peaceful place to pull off and grab a bite to eat. each picnic area is semi secluded, so you really just get to enjoy your company. 

next up: mammoth hot springs
this was incredibly beautiful and incredibly busy. there were lots of people and i can only assume it was because we were there on a saturday right before school starts up again, but nonetheless it was worth it! we parked our car, headed up the trail and once we hit the various trails on the basin it started raining, like *really* raining and this time we did not have our umbrella 🙂 so we finished a stretch of path, and then brian ran ahead with ellis and grabbed the car. but the great thing about the rain was it temporarily scared off the other tourists, so for about 10 minutes or so we were the only people on the trail (!!!) it was pretty special and the views were beautiful. if i could have done this over again i would have brought gloves (i am not kidding it was cold) and maybe i would have made better friends with the couple who brough the rv so we had a place to seek shelter from the rain…

yellowstone national park guide traveling with toddlers illustration and travel guide

ah tourist stuff.
“patches or it didn’t happen.” is a crucial life motto when going to a national or state park. we did a quick bathroom break (i would rate them 8/10 for cleanliness) and then headed into the little village which is also head quarters for the park (i think?) and made a mad dash into the general store which had the best stickers, pens, patches, and every other bit of yellowstone memorabilia imagined. 

onward: tower fall
this was a little jaunt from parking, not bad at all if you’re looking for a beautiful view and wanting minimal hiking. it was easy enough that our little one walked all the way back to the car — so that should tell you the difficultly level. once again this a busier part of the park since there is also a restroom and general store right in the same parking lot. definitely wait to snap that instagram worthy shot, i promise that the couple taking 30+ selfies with their DSLR will eventually move. 

yellowstone national park guide traveling with toddlers illustration and travel guide

wildlife sightings: tower-roosevelt.
this stretch of drive definitely had the most animal sightings during our entire drive. back when i visited yellowstone in 2011, we stayed in the eastern most parts of the park and i remember being in awe of the massive amount of wildlife. especially as the elk & buffalos traveled in herds. along the drive this time around we ended up stopping in various places because the views were just *that* breathtaking. we saw elk, one lonely buffalo, and also saw a baby black bear cub (!!!!!!!!!!!) and i swear it was the best thing ever and totally made the entire trip.

virginia cascades:
this was our most “dine n dash” little thing of the day, we literally pulled over, ran out of the car (like everybody else) to snap some photos of a baby elk (!!!) with it’s mama wandering along the river. it was beautiful! and the landscapes of course — you just can’t even beat them.

yellowstone national park guide traveling with toddlers illustration and travel guide

beryl spring:
this was quiet the traffic jam, apparently on the tiniest stretch of road there is a field were elk were walking and a bear was also in the trees, we were probably in bumper to bumper traffic for about 45 minutes waiting for all the gawkers to pull over. once we reached the opening and we could see what was going on a ranger had pulled up and was trying to corral all the crazy humans in the wide open field trying to get that perfect shot of the bear 🙂 we just kept on driving and were rewarded with the most beautiful sunset ever right along the madison river.

my toddler friendly rating: 4/10
hahaha but really. ellis loved loved loved yellowstone, it was just hard because he still is in the jibber jabber stage and doesn’t understand what we’re saying all the time like “be careful, gysers are hot” 🙂 so he was in our ergobaby almost the entire time just to make sure he was safe. i was nervous having him run around on his own but i definitely think that older kids would love it there. also i think my experience with the park & our toddler would have been completely different had we been camping versus just doing a mad dash of a day trip.

yellowstone national park guide traveling with toddlers illustration and travel guide

it’s unbelievable to me that we still only saw a tiny fragment of what the park had to offer. it was an incredible experience, especially since yellowstone was america’s first national park and for me, that was really something special, monumental even. idaho has hidden gems everywhere, so i would say if you’re going to make the trip out for yellowstone you might as well see what else in the area. of course the national park is definitely a crowning jewel, but don’t let that be the reason why you overlook other beautiful parks and trails near by too.