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With its bubbling geysers, rushing waterfalls, and charismatic wildlife, Yellowstone is a kids’ paradise. There’s no better way to experience the region than out on the trails—just follow these tips for family-friendly fun.
How Far Can Kids Hike?Don’t overdo it. Most children can handle hiking about half a mile for every year of age (so your 6-year-old can probably hike 3 miles). Expect to hike more slowly than you’re used to, especially if you’re gaining elevation. Offer a great payoff. Kids don’t care about gorgeous views as much as you do, but they’re wild about rocks to climb on, lakes and rivers to splash in, and bugs to examine. Pack treats. M&Ms, trail mix, Skittles, and granola bars are time-tested motivators for tired legs. Try bringing snacks the kids don’t normally get at home to make hiking even more of a treat.
Backpacking with KidsHave kids participate. When planning, ask what they want to do and see. On the trail, even small children love carrying their own light daypacks (pack them with a few layers or snacks. In camp, ask kids to help gather firewood, set up tents, or prepare dinner. Gear up. Make sure each child has her own sleeping pad and sleeping bag. And they’re not essential, but kids love wearing their own headlamps. Play games. Pack a deck of cards (or Uno) for tent tournaments. Or play word games such as I Spy or scavenger hunts.
Here are the top trails for kids in Yellowstone:
1. Upper Geyser Basin
(Recommended for ages 8 and up for entire distance)NPS/Neal Herbert
Old Faithful is one of the most famous geysers in the world and is a definite must-see for anyone visiting Yellowstone. Go beyond this crowd-pleaser by exploring the geyser basin behind Old Faithful. Wind among hot springs and waterspouts on this 4-mile boardwalk trail through the world’s largest concentration of geysers and colorful hot springs such as Beehive Geyser, Riverside Geyser and Morning Glory Pool.
2. South Rim Trail
(Recommended for children 10 and up)NPS/Neal Herbert
This flat, 5-mile (round-trip) trail traces the edge of the stunning Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and offers views of immense Upper and Lower Falls. Keep a close watch of children near the edges of the canyon.
3. Wraith Falls Trail
(Recommended for children 5 and up)NPS/Jim Peaco
Even young children will love this easy 1-mile (round-trip) hike through sagebrush to the foot of a pretty 69-foot waterfall along Lupine Creek. The trailhead is east of Mammoth Hot Springs and a half-mile east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road.