Let’s be honest, planning for road trip family vacation can be overwhelming. Yellowstone National Park is absolutely amazing but it is a huge NP with lots of driving. We had only 3 days to visit and I wanted to make the most of it and beat the crowds at Yellowstone (while also keeping my kids happy and engaged). I created this blog post to help save you hours of time and stress to make sure you have an unforgettable family-friendly adventure with the best stops in Yellowstone National Park! At our time of travel, my kids were 9 and 11. We were also traveling with my parents in their 70’s. We did a very similar trip when the kids were 5 and 7. We stayed at a VRBO about 15 minutes west of the West Yellowstone entrance. You can flip this itinerary if you are staying in another area of the park. Make sure to follow me on Instagram to see videos of these favorites https://www.instagram.com/adventuresinmomlife_/ 🏞️

Day 1: 

  • Wake before sunrise to see wildlife in Lamar Valley (we saw bison, bears and wolves)
  • Enter Yellowstone NP from the NE on 212 from Cooke City, Montana
  • Bison traffic jams are common and incredible
  • Look for multiple people at the same pullout at dawn. We enjoyed talking with and learning from the wolf trackers who helped us spot these incredible animals
  • Enjoy a leisurely drive between Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs (we saw a mama and baby cubs along this drive).
  • Stop at Mammoth Hot Springs for stunning and colorful travertine terraces formed by hot springs. Do both the upper and lower loops to see 50 hot springs along the boardwalks
  • Roosevelt Arch and Yellowstone NP sign photo ops
  • Exit West Yellowstone to VRBO, stop at City Creamery for delicious ice cream

Day 2:

  • Wake early to get to Old Faithful before the tour buses. We arrived at 7 a.m., parked easily right in front of Old Faithful Lodge, used the restrooms, checked the eruption time, grabbed coffee and had a front row seat to watch this incredible geyser erupt. Check the predictions on the next eruption at www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/exploreoldfaithful.htm.
  • After seeing the park’s most famous geyser, take the boardwalks through the Upper Geyser Basin to see these incredible pools up close.
  • Head to the Grand Prismatic Spring Parking Lot. This parking area fills up quickly so be prepared to wait or walk. Walk the boardwalks to see the stunning beauty of the Grand Prismatic Spring.
  • Take the Fairy Falls Trail the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook for a different perspective and beautiful view of the Grand Prismatic from above.
  • Drive to the Biscuit Basin Parking Lot. Stroll the boardwalks in this area to see several other pools. Walk beyond Biscuit Basin to the Mystic Falls Trailhead. This trail follows the Little Firehole River which you can climb down to cool off before continuing the trail to a beautiful 70-foot waterfall. If you are tired or pressed for time, this is a hike you can save for next time.

Day 3:

  • Sleep in on this day! 
  • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – take every opportunity to enjoy the incredible views!
  • Park in the Grand Canyon Yellowstone: Upper Falls Viewpoints Parking Lot
  • View the power and beauty from the Brink of the Upper Falls overlook.
  • Drive to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: North Rim Parking Lot
  • Don’t miss the Brink of Lower Falls trail. It is steep and the climb back up is not easy but it is well worth it! You must see and feel the power of the water plunging down the canyon. This was one of my favorites but it is hard for seniors or little ones.
  • Continue driving along the North Rim Drive for a stunning view from Inspiration Point. 
  • Drive to Hayden Valley for beautiful, scenic views and bison traffic jams
  • Stop to take in the expanse of Yellowstone Lake with a serene picnic 

We didn’t have time on this trip but on our last visit, we did white water rafting along the Yellowstone River. It was easy for the kids and I highly recommend it if you have time. We used the Flying Pig Adventure Co. and had a great time.

Vehicle reservations are not required to enter the park – just a park entrance pass. Save time at entrance stations by purchasing your pass online before you arrive. Be prepared for A LOT of driving. It is all worth it but the driving can be exhausting. Use this itinerary to make the most out of your trip.