Yellowstone National Park offers so much to see and do that family make it a point to return. While the dramatic canyons, gushing geysers, and lush forests are a big draw, it’s the time families gets to spend together as they view nature’s wonders that complete the experience. Whether you’re enjoying each others’ company in the comforts of your Yellowstone vacation rental, or attempting one of these top Yellowstone hikes for families, make your Yellowstone vacation one for the books.
1. Trout Lake Trail
A short but steep climb will get you to Trout Lake, where you might get to see the otters and muskrats that live there. The distance to the lake only covers about half a mile, so despite the trail’s incline, almost anyone can make it. The trail switchbacks up the side of a hill, and at the top, you’ll see a beautiful lake nestled in a meadow. Like something out of a fairytale, you’ll pass through wildflowers and forested pockets, and see wildlife that makes the lake their home.
2. Wraith Falls Trail
Unlike the short but steep Trout Lake trail, the path to Wraith Falls is short and sweet. The trail is about half a mile one way, on a fairly gentle climb. There are a few areas lined with a boardwalk, and if you’re lucky, you might see squirrels and chipmunks hiding under the boards. The trail takes you to the cascading waterfall that tumbles about 100 feet down the mountain, which you can see from a fenced overlook.
3. Mount Washburn Trail
Even if you’re a bit out of shape or you feel as if your kids are too young to make the 5-mile round-trip hike, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world if you try. The outlook at the top is at an elevation of over 10,000. And at such a height, you’ll get panoramic views of about 20 to 50 miles all around. You might catch sight of bighorn sheep on the hike to the top, and smell the wildflowers that blanket the slope in July. Even for those reluctant to take on a challenge, Mount Washburn isn’t one to pass up.
4. Fairy Falls Trail
What makes the Fairy Falls trail difficult is not the topography of the path, but the sheer length of it. The trail leads to one of Yellowstone National Park’s most spectacular waterfalls, so the distance, if manageable, is completely worth it. The entire hike is about 8 miles round trip, the first few miles of which follows an old road. Then, the trail will take you through a thick forest on a fairly flat trail for about a mile and a half, after which you will arrive at the gorgeous falls.
5. Pelican Creek Nature Trail
The Pelican Creek Nature Trail is nicely shaded and follows along a flat and easy path. The distance is about a mile round trip, on which you’ll see Pelican Creek, as well as a marsh where the creek joins Yellowstone Lake. It’s a great walk to teach your kids about waterfowl, as a variety of winged creatures, including Canada geese, goldeneye, and the white pelican, enjoy cruising the water’s surface.
6. Upper Geyser Basin Trail
There are several paths to Old Faithful, one of the most popular destinations within the national park. One way to reach the Old Faithful area is via the Upper Geyser Basin trail, which will get you to the largest concentration of geysers in the world. The path is wide and paved, so kids will have no trouble hiking the path. But you might have a harder time deciding which sites to visit first: spouting geysers, colorful hot springs or steaming fumaroles. Some of the trails iconic points of attractions include Castle Geyser, Morning Glory Pool, and Grotto Geyser, in addition to Old Faithful.
7. Observation Point Trail
The Observation Point Trail also offers a superb view of Old Faithful, as well as the expanse of the Upper Geyser Basin. For an extra special experience, plan your hike to Observation Point to coincide with an eruption of Old Faithful. The vantage point will give you unparalleled views of the geyser and its surroundings as it spews. The trail is easy and relatively short, about 1.5 miles.
8. Mallard Lake Trail
The distance to Mallard Lake is about 3 miles, and the hike is mostly through dense forest. However, the path is lined with brightly colored wildflowers during the summer months and passes by a cluster of small hot springs and mud pots. It’s a particularly interesting hike that will take you up Mallard Lake Dome, which is a swelling caused by magma flows. The Mallard Lake trail eventually splits into the Ridge Trail, which follows Mallard Creek for another 3.5 miles, and to your destination of Mallard Lake.
9. Lone Star Geyser Trail
The Lone Star Geyser Trail is about 4.8 miles round trip, but apart from the distance, the hike is easy. The path follows a partially paved trail along an old service road. You’ll find the Firehole River runs alongside it to the geyser. The highlight of the trail, Lone Star Geyser, erupts about once every three hours, up to 45 feet.
10. Cascade Lake Trail
The entire trail is about 4.5 miles round trip, but the path follows a fairly flat trail through meadows. The Cascade Lake trail is perfect for meandering and seeing where the path takes you. In season, your walk will be lined with wildflowers, and you might get to observe wildlife.
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