There is no shortage of reasons to visit national parks, and if you haven’t yet been to Yellowstone National Park in the Pacific Northwest, you won’t have any trouble figuring out why to go. Whether you want to see Old Faithful, you’re interested in rafting on the Yellowstone River, or you’re looking to experience some of the most beautiful natural settings and abundant and diverse wildlife in the U.S., Yellowstone can provide. But before you book your plane tickets and head to Wyoming or Montana, there are several things you need to consider to ensure that you get the most out of your trip. Here are just a few planning tips to help you prepare for your family trip to Yellowstone Park.
The first thing to think about is when you want to go, and because this national park is in the northern United States, you can definitely expect harsh winter weather conditions. Because of this, the park is generally closed for a portion of the year, or at the very least, access is greatly restricted. The road to Mammoth Hot Springs is open year-round, provided it’s not snowed in. You can always stay at locations outside the park during the winter months, and if you like skiing and other winter sports you’ll find plenty to occupy your time, but there’s no telling if you’ll be able to see any of the park, so your best bet if you want to ensure unfettered access is to go during the summer months, and late summer is usually preferable.
Unfortunately, you’re not going to be the only family trying to take advantage of this short window of opportunity to view Yellowstone National Park. And there aren’t exactly a lot of options for lodging inside the park. So if you want to stay in Yellowstone, which is generally preferable, you may have to book as much as a year in advance. You can also choose lodgings outside the park in order to increase your options, but you may have to do some searching to find hotels that have tour bus pick-ups if you don’t want to drive into the park. One final option is camping, and there are several sites where this is allowed. Just keep in mind that the summers in this region don’t tend to be particularly hot, and it can get cold at night, especially since it’s in the midst of the Rocky Mountains (Yellowstone Plateau is at an average elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level). Any time you travel the Rockies it’s important to prepare for the climate with appropriate clothing and gear.
Once you’ve booked airline tickets and lodgings for your planned travel to Yellowstone National Park you need to think about what you want to do during your time there, and outdoor adventures are de rigueur. The Yellowstone River offers opportunities for both a lazy day of rafting and a whitewater experience, depending on what you prefer. You can also participate in numerous hikes or take a variety of guided tours, some by bus if you don’t feel like walking. A trip to the visitor center upon arrival can give you a better idea of what activities might suit your family, but you can discover some options beforehand by visiting the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov. And of course, you can’t leave the park without seeing Old Faithful go off at least once.