Yellowstone National Park…..so much driving!

On Monday, July 17th, we left Grand Teton National Park after Tony finished work for the day. We decided to drive through Yellowstone National Park, as it’s so large and there is a lot to see, to get to our campsite out the West Entrance. 

We saw this bison on our drive through the park the first day!

On our way through the park, we stopped to have dinner in the RV in the visitor center parking lot and ran inside the visitor center to pick up the kid’s Junior Ranger booklets. 

Then we headed to our campsite. We found a nicely priced campground with amazing cellular internet speed, which we need to work, outside of the West entrance to a state park in Idaho! It was called Henry’s Lake State Park. 

Henry’s Lake State Park, Idaho (outside Yellowstone National Park)

We had heard that once again, internet speed inside the National Park was horrible, which was correct. We only stayed in the Yellowstone area from Monday, July 17th- Friday, July 21st, but that was enough for us to get a good ‘taste’ of what Yellowstone has to offer….without overdoing the amount of driving required to see everything with the kiddos.

That week, the kids and I hung back at the RV during the day and then as soon as Tony was off work we’d all hop into the van to drive into Yellowstone. We left a little earlier on Tuesday, my birthday, to spend some time shopping in the city of West Yellowstone while Tony worked at a coffee shop. Gwen was still in need of some decent shoes to hike in and it was beginning to get hard to find shoes in her small size in all of these smaller towns. No luck finding shoes for her in this town, but the kids did manage to find a gumball machine. 🙂 

We were also able to grab a meal out at this amazing authentic Mexican restaurant that was in a parked school-bus! The kids surprised us at how much they loved the burritos and ate everything in sight! It was called Las Palmitas. I guess we know what we can get in the future when grabbing food out that everyone will eat (and can also be dairy free for Jasmine). 

I really wanted to see Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic. So, on July 18th, my birthday, we left West Yellowstone and went to visit both!

Grand Prismatic

It was pretty awesome. But wow, it involved a lot of driving! I made sure to have Jasmine in the carrier for the Grand Prismatic hike, as she is such a little adventure-seeker and we did not trust her to stay on the boardwalk and safe during that hike. The colors were amazing on this hot day at Grand Prismatic! 

Once we were done visiting Grand Prismatic, we drove further to Old Faithful in time to find a spot inside the Visitor Center with front row seats to see it erupt through the window.

This worked out great for our family, as we needed to let the ‘littles’ just run around and play for a bit and not worry about them getting in the way of the large crowd sitting outside in the stadium-style seating waiting to see Old Faithful erupt. Jasmine and Gweny found a ladybug to keep themselves occupied while Riley and Lilya worked on their Junior Ranger booklets while we waited.

Old Faithful erupts about every 90 minutes, give or take 20 minutes on either side. So we had to wait about 20 minutes once we sat down.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Once it erupted, which was pretty awesome to see! We ate our picnic dinner outside while trying to Facetime our cousin Caleb, but it didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. I thought the cell coverage at the Visitor Center would allow it, but he could only hear us and not see us. Bummer.

The kids did enjoy all the interesting exhibits inside the Visitor/Learning center though! It reminded me of a Science Museum with how creative and interactive the exhibits were. I do wish we left more time to explore the exhibits, but it was getting late and we still had about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to drive to get back to our campsite. Whew, what a day though!

On Wednesday, we decided to stay back at the campsite and give our family a break from driving. The kids enjoyed bike riding with the other kids in the campground and just playing around in the RV.

At times, they can get pretty silly!

After dinner, we took the kids down to the lake to go fishing. To our surprise, a family of swans joined us!

We didn’t catch any fish, but once the kids put their feet in the lake they did catch a few leeches on their toes! Ewww! 

On Thursday, we drove into the National Park to turn in the kids’ Junior Ranger books and receive their badges and patches, and to go on a nice hike. The kiddos were able to listen to a Junior Ranger talk at the designated Junior Ranger visitor center called the Madison Visitor Center. I should mention here that this has been the only park so far that requires a $3 fee to purchase each Junior Ranger booklet. It was also the only park so far that gives out badges and patches for completing all the activities and booklet, and has it’s only Ranger Station specific for Junior Rangers. 

We made sure to bring a packed dinner and ate at the Canyon Visitor Center before our hike. Again, I wish we would have had more time to spend in the educational part of this visitor center as the kids were loving it and we learned so much with the interactive exhibits. We will have to make more time for the exhibits on our next visit to the park. 🙂

In order to encourage our kiddos to do well on hikes, and to pair hikes with exciting and fun things to help hiking ‘be fun’, we bought the kids each a special treat that they could have if they completed the hike without any complaining.  

It worked! We hiked down to Brink of the Lower Falls in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. 

Brink of the Lower Falls

It involved many stairs down and then again back up, but the kids did great! Lilya even got Dad to put her in the backpack carrier for a few minutes, the goof. She is getting SO tall! The falls were beautiful and we really enjoyed this hike. 

Overall, Yellowstone is beautiful with many wild animals to see while driving. There are great exhibits at the Visitor Centers and a Junior Ranger specific Visitor Center. 

However, families need to be prepared for A LOT of driving, which can get really difficult with young children.

Yellowstone National Park is really spread out and does not have good cellular internet anywhere in the park. In our current lifestyle, this is difficult for us. We’d love to come back to Yellowstone to see more of what it has to offer, however, we plan to take some PTO and make it an actual vacation so that we can stay inside the park and see more things without driving as much. 

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  1. Pingback: Grand Teton National Park….better than Yellowstone? – Homeschool Nomads

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