Keep everyone happy on a trip to Yellowstone National Park with our age-specific guide of the top activities for toddlers to seniors and everyone in between.
Yellowstone National Park, best known as the home of the iconic Old Faithful geyser, attracts more than 4 million visitors each year. Consisting of almost 3,500 square miles of wilderness situated on top of a volcanic hotspot, the park offers natural wonders and glimpses of dozens of wildlife species. Billed as a great family destination, Yellowstone and the surrounding area offer numerous special programs and tours for people of all ages.
Junior Ranger Program (Ages 4-7, 8-12 and 13 and above)
Yellowstone’s three Junior Ranger programs give kids of different ages a chance to earn a Junior Ranger patch. Participants attend programs led by a park ranger, go on hiking trips, and complete exercises pertaining to ecology and other park issues. They complete portions of the program at their own pace, and after fulfilling all requirements, they receive a Junior Ranger patch from a park ranger. There’s no age limit on the teen program, and adults can participate as well.
It’s important to keep toddlers safe in an environment like Yellowstone, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have fun. From the safety of their car seats, they can discover bison, bighorn sheep, moose, badgers, elk, and even bears in North Lamar and Central Hayden Valley. Old Faithful and other sights along the boardwalk and trails still look amazing from a stroller or carrier.
Parents can keep tots happy and occupied during long car rides through Yellowstone by pairing them with another sibling in the back seat and playing animal spotting games. It’s always a good idea to have snacks, drinks, and other forms of entertainment on hand for when they grow tired of the sights.
Kids in this age group are typically fascinated by all types of animals. Yellowstone’s Fishing Bridge, located at the northern part of Yellowstone Lake, gives kids a clear view of trout and other fish in the waters below. (No actual fishing is allowed.) In the nearby Visitors’ Center, they learn about the fish and wildlife in the region.
Six miles away in the Hayden Valley, kids can put that new knowledge to the test by identifying the bison, elk, bears, and wolves that inhabit the area. In Upper Geyser Basin, Biscuit Basin consists of a 0.7-mile loop of pools, thermal vents, and geysers that are certain to capture their attention from the surrounding boardwalk.
Pre-teens often love the winter wonderland Yellowstone becomes during the off-season. Winter activities include riding snowmobiles and cross-country skiing. The park has its own dog sledding for young animal lovers nearby in West Yellowstone. Snowshoe rentals are available for kids who want an up close and personal view of the bison and other animals.
During warm weather, the Old West Dinner Cookout at the Roosevelt Lodge offers a taste of frontier life for the whole family. Kids particularly enjoy riding in a covered wagon and eating vittles by the campfire.
Energetic teens often enjoy kayaking and other challenging sports (with parental permission and/or supervision). They can bicycle through forests on Blacktail Plateau Drive or mountain bike on Fountain Freight Road. These routes include amazing views of the splendor of Old Faithful and more than 100 geysers and pools in the Lower Geyser Basin. Teens older than 16 are eligible to buy temporary fishing permits. Those younger than 16 can obtain free permits with an adult’s signature.
After hiking and checking out all of Yellowstone’s usual suspects, like Old Faithful, adults traveling with kids should pay a visit to the park’s largest group of mud pots, the Fountain Paint Pots, and the steam-belching Dragon’s Mouth Spring.
Couples traveling without kids should take time to enjoy romantic sunsets at Yellowstone Park with a Couple’s Adventure Package, offered by several tour companies. The package comes with lodging and all meals included. Alternatively, couples can create their own adventures by mixing sun, sports, and a wildlife photo tour.
Depending on the route they take, retirees on their way to Yellowstone Park may travel Beartooth Highway, called “the most beautiful roadway in America” by broadcaster Charles Kuralt. Known as the Gateway to Yellowstone, the quaint mountain town of Red Lodge offers plenty of western hospitality to travelers on their way to the park along this highway.
At Yellowstone, people over the age of 62 can take advantage of low-cost lifetime admission and free snowmobile rides with a senior pass. Norris Geyser basin, Lake Mammoth, and other trails and attractions are easily accessible for older adults as well as people with limited mobility.
Do you have experience exploring Yellowstone with family members of various ages? Share your travel tips with us on Facebook.