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As the first U.S. national park, Yellowstone has been a must-see destination for families all across the world since 1872. Not only is it the first, but it is also one of the largest national parks in the United States, with 2.2 million acres to explore spanning Wyoming, Montana, and Utah. With a vast landscape filled with outdoor adventure and awe-inspiring wildlife, there are many things to do in Yellowstone National Park. Check out our list of the top 13 things to do in Yellowstone National Park to inspire you and your family on your next trip up to this majestic park.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO YELLOWSTONE?
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The most popular months to visit the park are between July and August, especially for families with younger children. If you want to avoid the crowds, any time between April to May and September to November will feature sparser crowds and easier access to camping grounds. Winter months are extremely frigid in the park, with temperatures dropping below zero. Despite this, winter offers exciting skiing and mountaineering opportunities for more adventurous park-goers.
13 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN YELLOWSTONE
There are so many unique things to do in Yellowstone that make this park a true gem. It is brimming with diverse wildlife, outdoor adventure, and stunning views of red rock canyons. There are over 900 miles of hiking trails that span across the wilderness in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. Check out our list of the top 13 best things to do in Yellowstone for fun the whole family will enjoy;
1. Explore Rainbow Waters at Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is an iconic natural wonder in Yellowstone national park, known for its whimsical rainbow waters. While it is the largest hot spring in the U.S., it is actually the rainbow colors surrounding this spring that make this destination so popular among tourists. A rainbow hot spring will inspire ample photo ops, so expect large crowds around the hot spring. If you want to avoid the crowds, try hiking up to Fairy Falls or arriving early in the morning.
2. Admire Wildlife in Hayden Valley
There are so many exciting things to do in Yellowstone, and gazing at the diverse wildlife in Hayden Valley is one of them. You can expect to see bison, elk, coyotes, and even grizzly bears roaming the lush green valleys. While you can get a great view of Hayden Valley from the Grand Loop Road, there’s no better way to see this countryside than hiking through Hayden Valley Trail or Mary Mountain Trail. Plus, you’ll even see some of Yellowstone’s signature geothermic features, such as Mud Geyer and Sulfur Springs along the way.
3. Explore Mammoth Hot Springs
There are so many exciting things to do in Yellowstone, and exploring Mammoth Hot Springs should be at the top of your list. It took centuries to form the cascading, sculpture you can see there today. Walk up the Upper Terraces for the most spectacular views or enjoy a longer journey through one of the many hiking trails that start near the springs.
4. Try Cross-Country Skiing
For those of you who want to explore the park in winter, cross-country skiing will provide a fun adventure for the whole family. Trails range from easy to difficult, with plenty of variety for everyone. If you are a beginner, you can take a cross-country tour with a guide to show you the ropes until you get the hang of it. Plus, you’ll never run out of cross-country trails to explore. In the Old Faithful area alone there are a little over 40 miles of trails!
5. Check Out the Iconic Old Faithful Geyser
Yellowstone National Park is home to about 25% of the world’s geysers, which means this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the iconic Old Faithful geyser. This natural wonder erupts about every hour and a half, with eruptions of up to 130 feet for an awe-inspiring view. If you want to explore other geysers or trails in the area, Upper Geyser Basin has plenty of walking paths to explore, with ample opportunity to watch the geysers along the way.
Be warned that, as Yellowstone’s more iconic attractions, Old Faithful will be packed with tourists. So, if crowds aren’t your thing, you may want to hike up to Observation Point for a bird’s-eye view of the Upper Geyser Basin.
6. Indulge in Wintertime Adventure at the Bozeman Ice Festival
The annual Bozeman Ice Festival is for serious mountaineering adventurers. The festival offers a variety of different ice climbing clinics, with the best women’s clinic in the country. But, you don’t have to sign up for a clinic to take part in the fun. Every evening, from 6:30 to 7:30, you can try out and demo the gear, as well as climb any of the walls where clinics are not being held. For ice-climbers that sign up for the clinics, you’ll be climbing up Lower Greensleeves, Genesis I Wall, Mummy II & Scepter, Amphitheater Climbs, and parts of the Unnamed Wall.
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7. Horseback Ride Through Tower-Roosevelt or Canyon
There’s no better way to experience all that Yellowstone has to offer than on horseback. One to two-hour tours are available at both Tower-Roosevelt or Canyon. The Tower-Roosevelt tour will take you through meadows, woods, and lakes, while Canyon’s tour will take you through the meadows next to the Grand Canyon. Either way, you’re in for spectacular views and a relaxing ride through Yellowstone’s glorious landscape.
8. Zipline Through Gallatin River
There’s no better way to get your blood pumping and adrenaline running than with a zipline ride across the Gallatin River. The zipline is located on Highway 191 between Bozeman and Big Sky, Montana, and provides dramatic views of the landscape. You will be zip lining through pine forests and towering limestone cliffs directly over the rushing river.
For the most adventurous, the Super Zipline tour features swinging wooden bridges and a cargo net climb to really get your adrenaline going. For more tame adventurers, you can take the Classic Zipline tour instead.
9. Check Out the Old Faithful Inn
As the oldest national park in the U.S., there are tons of historical things to do in Yellowstone. Check out the impressive Old Faithful Inn to get a look at the world’s largest log structure, plus spectacular views of Old Faithful geyser. Be advised that if you plan on staying at the Inn, you will need to make your reservations 12 to 18 months in advance because spots fill up fast.
However, you don’t have to stay at the Inn to experience its charm. Check out the outdoor bar and terrace for a cocktail and spectacular views of the geyser below.
10. Explore Yellowstone Lake
There are so many natural wonders to explore and things to do in Yellowstone National Park, but don’t forget to make time to explore Yellowstone Lake. It is the largest high elevation lake in North America and is best explored by boat. The lake is too cold to swim in, even during the summer, making it ideal for fishing and kayaking instead. Many hiking trails in Yellowstone lead to the shores of the lake, so if you don’t have time for a boat tour, at least make a quick stop to take in the sparkling waters before you go.
11. Cruise Down Yellowstone Grand Loop Road
For those of you who don’t like hiking, you can always get a view of Yellowstone’s spectacular scenery and wildlife driving down Grand Loop Road. It takes you through all the must-see destinations in the park in a figure 8 path, so you’ll experience everything the park has to offer from the comfort of your own vehicle.
Be advised, you will run into plenty of traffic along the way. Especially watch out for “bison jams,” which happens when a herd of bison stops traffic by crossing the road!
12. Hike Through Mud Volcano Trail
For a bizarre adventure, hike through the trail that early explorers called “repulsive and terrifying.” This strange landscape features a large 30 ft. volcanic cone that regularly erupts mud, covering nearby trees. Other features in the area include Dragon’s Mouth Spring, Sizzling Basin, Churning Cauldron, and Mud Geyer. Steam pours from hillsides, and hot, muddy pools bubble and boil, giving you the feeling that you’ve been transported to another world. For an unforgettable adventure, definitely check out Mud Volcano Trail.
13. Hike Down the Grand Canyon on Uncle Tom’s Trail
Check out the Grand Canyon on this truly majestic hike down the rim of the canyon. You’ll see a sparkling, cascading waterfall complete with a rainbow on your way down the canyon. This trail is perfect for all skill levels and is great for fun the whole family can enjoy. The trail itself is only .6 miles but boasts a 383 ft. elevation gain, so be prepared to do some climbing!
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Yellowstone National Park is a treasure trove of outdoor adventure, with volcanoes, geysers, and endless hiking trails. There are so many exciting things to do in Yellowstone National Park: all you need to worry about is finding the time to fit it all in!