NDR - Yellowstone National Park

Hi! We are trying to pick a National Park to explore in Summer 2024. Yellowstone is on DS8s list - and I’m curious if any of you have been to Yellowstone with smaller children. I will have a 9 and 5 year old. What were some highlights? Do you think this is too young to take kids? Should we wait until they are older? Is there enough to do for smaller kids? Any/all advice would be great!

Note - DS8 is an excellent hiker and hiked 2 mountains at Acadia National Park last summer. He and DH have the National Parks bug DS4 prefers to whine and told us that he hates hiking after he hiked Acadia Mountain last summer :flushed:

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We went in 2019 when our younger two were 7 & 9. They were great ages, but I wouldn’t have taken them at 5, especially if they have a hiking aversion at the moment. (But at that age, things change fast, so who knows?)

There was another thread recent-ish on Yellowstone, I think I posted a fair amount of our experience and recommendations. Let me see if I can dig up a link.

ETA: found it!

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We loved Yellowstone! I agree with @ISUamanda that I would wait until both of them are able to do a bit more hiking. There is a LOT to see with short hikes, but you would miss out if one parent (cough-mom-cough) had to hang back with the younger one. Even if you aren’t hiking big hills, at 5, the long walk from the parking lots/side of the road to a crowded boardwalk might not be the most fun. We sometimes had to park a mile or more from the start of a hike, which isn’t much to a tween, but might be a lot to a five year old.

Not for summer, but if you plan a winter trip, the Everglades would be great for a younger kid. You can take a boat to see dolphins and a tram to see alligators.

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We went to Yellowstone and Grand Teton in 2019 with a 4 year old and 10 year old. My parents came along with us too, and my mom can’t hike much, so I didn’t end up feeling like the 4 year old held us back. He managed some decent hikes, especially in the Tetons. I found the hardest parts to be the amount of time in the car driving from place to place, and figuring out the logistics of sunrise and sunset drives for wildlife spotting with a kid that needed to be in bed! It was an amazing trip though, and certainly worthwhile. I’m glad we went.

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You don’t say where you are.

We’d take our two youngest grandkids on month long camping trips every summer starting when they were 8 years old.

One year our camping included a family reunion in southern Idaho after we’d been to Glacier, Olympic, Mt St Helens.

Both kids had been to Yellowstone, Great Sand Dunes in south central Colorado and north rim of the Grand Canyon. On the way back to Missouri I gave them a choice of revisting one of those three National Parks.

With no hesitation they both said Sand Dunes!!

Sand and water = every kids dream.

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I’ve taken my kids to Yellowstone a few times at various ages, the first time being when my son was 6 months. There is so much to do there, you can tailor a trip based on your kids’ capabilities and ages. Many other national parks require a lot of hiking or walking to see anything, but in Yellowstone most of the major sights are just off the road, so if you had to pick one for a whiny hiker, it’s a good choice, IMHO. Don’t hesitate to go if you’re interested.

That said, if this is your one and only trip to Yellowstone, and doing everything is important to you, you may want to wait till your kids are old enough to appreciate it.

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Have you been to the Outer Banks. They have the Kitty Hawk Memorial there and the NP rangers did a kite building and flying demonstration when we visited. We also drove to Ocracoke Island and they also had Ranger programs for our son. I haven’t been to Yellowstone yet but my son was in highschool when we visited rhe Grand Canyon area. That trip was a lot of walking. Another walkable National Park area is Boston. They have the liberty trail. Also, not far from Boston is Salem. That was the center of privateering. Privateering is basically government sponsored pirates. More ideas for you

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We have! And we are going back this summer - we have not been to the memorial yet, though. I’m going to add that to our list! We are trying to think of some non-beachy things to do.

My oldest did the Bodie Island lighthouse climb two years ago.

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Fun! We live in Ohio and we have the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan on our list of things to explore at some point. This reinforces that the trip to Michigan should stay on the list.

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I’m trying to get this for a future Spring Break trip when it might not be so roasting…and then maybe finagle another trip back to WDW :rofl:

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Thanks @Jeff_AZ , @ISUamanda , and @vetrik for your insights! This is helpful in deciding if we should go now or later. :smiley:

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I climbed one of the lighthouses. One was being moved when we visited. Do you have a national park passport book. It is good for pinpointing dates when you visited the parks

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We are also in Ohio! Yes, we loved Sleeping Bear Dunes and had so much fun when our oldest two were those ages. The dunes and drive there are much nicer than Indiana Dunes which we did just to check off another park. And even though it’s not a NP, we loved going up to Macinac Island. Last year DS21 went up to Pictured Rocks to kayak but I don’t know if they have more family friendly options.

Have you been to Mammoth Cave yet? That is an easy trip and they have great tours through the caves.

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We JUST got one last year :woman_facepalming:. We should have bought one on our first visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but alas, we just have Acadia marked for now - which was stunning, BTW.

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At least you can get back to Cuyahoga easily.

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Hello fellow Ohioan! Glad to hear that your family liked Sleeping Bear Dunes! I’m not sure when we will get there - but it’s close enough that I think we will make a long weekend of it eventually. We want to explore Pictured Rocks and Mackinac as well. So much to do - so little time and money :rofl:

I went to Indiana Dunes as a kid and remember being totally underwhelmed :rofl: but I might have just been angsty.

DH is taking DS8 to Mammoth Cave in October for fall break.

My sister is getting married in the Smokies in September so we will explore a day or two there as well!

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You can also get DH to take DS8 to Indiana Dunes on a weekend to check it off without you needing to go again. :wink: Though that is one that DS5 might like.

It is hard to get to most of the big parks from here. We are trying to make plans but with how hard it has been to fly these days, we are hoping to go nonstop. That is really limiting our options as is the time constraints of three kids schedules.

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No kidding! Nonstop flights are really hard to find - plus fitting in around schedules is :exploding_head:

We loved Sleeping Bear Dunes. Even tho it was a bit chilly - we were there in June. Maybe early June.

Not as much as Great Sand Dunes National Park. We might be biased. :smile:

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Yellowstone really hasn’t liked hikers as much as other National Parks we’ve been to.

Yellowstone also had one of the best Junior Ranger Programs we were able to do.

Driving around Yellowstone is time consuming. Long distances and slow speed limits. If you’re there in July the roads are even slower due to the numbers of visitors. My favorite times are October or late May.

Everglades are definitely winter. More activities are available. In June our granddaughter was just miserable with mosquitoes - DEET and non-deet repellent as well as long sleeves and pants (in hot weather) and Benadryl by mouth for the welts. The rest of us were invisible to those pesky skeeters.

Check to see if they are offering the adventure for kids which includes crawling thru parts of the a cave. Kids wear old clothes and shoes. The Park Rangers loan out knee pads and head lamps and the kids get to take the hard hat home! Our granddaughter - who was 8 or possibly 9 - loved this activity. Hopefully after covid it’s being offered again.

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