The Yellowstone Family Retreat {and Junior Ranger Backpack Kit Giveaway}

Today I welcome my dear friend, Jenna, to the blog to speak about a program that we BOTH believe in with all our hearts.  It’s a great way to come and see Yellowstone without just driving through.  There is so much more to the park that most visitors miss completely.  And don’t miss the giveaway for your little adventurer at the end of the post too!

yellowstonefamilyretreat

To say I feel incredibly lucky that my family gets to call Yellowstone National Park “home” is an understatement.   My four year old accepts it as just a fact of life that we have to look both ways when we walk out the backdoor to ensure we won’t run into a bison that has camped out in our yard.  When the elk were bugling and carrying on during the rut this past fall, she asked me “Why do the bulls keep making all that noise….the girls just want to sleep!”  In this vast intact ecosystem with many of the top predators like wolves and bears “making a living,” I frequently find myself having to explain the food chain and the cycle of life in terms a four year old can accept. 

LamarValleyBuffaloOnRoad_YA

This is heaven to me.  It fills me up to know that I am sharing moments with my daughter that connect us to the world around us, reminding us we are part of it all, and allowing us to know one another through these moments.

As a program planner for the park’s official nonprofit education partner, the Yellowstone Association, I spend my days thinking about ways to enable others to connect with the world’s first national park.  After all, this park was set aside by our forefathers, as it says on the Roosevelt Arch, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”  So I dream up courses that will teach people about all the park has to offer, whether it’s wildlife, geology, history, or just learning how to connect with the vastness of this place.  But as a mother, the program that was born from my passion for the idea of families connecting with one another through the outdoors is “The Yellowstone Family Retreat.”

YAStaff_FamilyViewingPelts_SodaButteCreek_YA Kids standing on a log 0926

This program is designed for parents, grandparents and children (five and older) to learn about the wonders of Yellowstone side-by-side, and in the process create memories for years to come.  This four-day family learning adventure takes place at the historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the heart of Yellowstone’s wildlife-rich northern range. Mobilizing my family to go to the grocery store can be a daunting task some days, let alone trying to plan a major travel adventure, which is why I designed this program to remove as many hurdles as possible.  You will stay in private, comfortable cabins, enjoy delicious home-made meals, and ride along carefree on our naturalist-led forays throughout the park. Depending on the ages and interests of your children, you can head out for full- or half-day excursions, or stay on campus for nature art and exploration.

LamarBuffaloRanch_CabinInside_YA

 

Join us

Two sessions are offered this summer, July 7-11 and August 4-8

All programming, meals and in-park transportation: $823/adult and $723/child 12 and under.  Lodging can be added for $35/person/night.

To recognize the critical role that teachers play in connecting people to parks, the Yellowstone Association provides scholarships for teachers to attend field seminars. Please visit our YellowstoneAssociation.org or call us at 406.848.2400 for more information.  Come visit us this summer and see Yellowstone through the eyes of a child!

 

Giveaway! 

To help your family connect with the natural world wherever you may live, we’re giving away a deluxe Junior Ranger backpack kit.

Jr RangerBackPackwithLabel_andContents

The backpack includes:

  • 16 oz. stainless-steel Junior Ranger Liberty water bottle, made in the USA and BPA-free
  • Laminated, full-color field guide to Yellowstone National Park
  • Spiral-bound Yellowstone Field Journal
  • 7-tools-in-1 adventure tool

As usual, please use the Rafflecopter Widget below to enter to win. The winner will be emailed and announced on this post in the Rafflecopter Widget. Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at mountainmamatales(at)gmail(dot)com so I can help!  Sorry, this giveaway is open to the U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

© 2014, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

 

Amelia lives with her husband and three young children in Yellowstone National Park. As a family, they believe that life is precious, short and should be lived to the fullest. That includes introducing a life of adventures for their boys in the form of skiing, hiking, biking, running, camping and lots of outdoor playing. Amelia writes at Tales of a Mountain Mama in an attempt to inspire others to get outside daily too with tips and tricks, stories and lots of gear reviews.

Comments

  1. This may be an odd question, but I have one very accident prone child and one with peanut allergies! Is there a hospital or other medical care facility near by?

    • Hi Amy,
      Great questions and safety is something that is always on my mind! The Lamar Valley Buffalo Ranch is about 30 miles from the Mammoth Urgent Care Clinic. There are resident NPS rangers that live on campus who have high levels of training for emergency response situations. All of our staff are trained in Wilderness First Aid and many are trained in Wilderness First Responder. We carry well stocked first aid kits and know how to administer epi-pens if need be. Our caterer is excellent about responding to food allergies so if you do sign up, please let our registrar know about the peanut allergy and the caterer will plan appropriately. Thanks for your questions!

  2. christopher sorel says:

    does not mention the costs at all on here. Will look into it more

    • Hi Chris,
      The cost for 4 days of educational programming, all meals and in-park transportation: $823/adult and $723/child 12 and under. Lodging can be added for $35/person/night.

      To recognize the critical role that teachers play in connecting people to parks, the Yellowstone Association also provides scholarships for teachers to attend field seminars.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Will this program be available next year? My family is headed East for vacation this summer, but this sounds like something we would really enjoy.

    • We hope to repeat this course next year! It is an important course for our mission so we are just hoping to get the word out to the right folks to make it successful!

  4. Nice program, Jenna! It is so nice that it is focused around families.

  5. Melissa C. says:

    I’d love to know about cost and ability to accommodate dietary requests

  6. The cost for 4 days of educational programming, all meals and in-park transportation: $823/adult and $723/child 12 and under. Lodging can be added for $35/person/night. To recognize the critical role that teachers play in connecting people to parks, the Yellowstone Association also provides scholarships for teachers to attend field seminars.

    Our caterer is excellent about responding to food allergies so when you sign up, please let our registrar know about your dietary restrictions so the caterer can plan appropriately.

  7. I know it is recommended for ages 5 and up but could a three and a half year old attend too? This sounds amazing!

    • As much as we would love to have the pre-school age on the program too, we had to put a minimum to help us tailor various lessons to a specific range of ages. Maybe you can join us in a year or so!

      • I understand Jenna – thanks for the get back. Looks like a wonderful program, I hope to do it in a year or 2 when my daughter is a bit older.

  8. Jenna, you have a job I would love to have (except maybe at a west coast park like Yosemite, Rainier, or the Olympics)! Are those the only dates available? It sounds like maybe this is the trial run of the program? Yellowstone and the Tetons are places we for sure want to take the kids to in the next couple of years.

    • Last year was our first year for this particular program, but we hope to repeat it in future years for sure!! We also run a different program multiple times in the summer called “Yellowstone for Families” which runs out of park hotels in Mammoth, Grant Village, and Old Faithful and is geared toward kids ages 8-12.

      I love all of the west coast parks too… Who knows maybe one day we will find ourselves exploring, living, and learning in one of those gems too!

  9. This looks like a fantastic program. We usually just go for a day trip when we are at Colter Bay. Would love to see more of Yellowstone.

  10. What an awesome idea. they should do this in Denali. We live in Ak. Sounds like an awesome family adventure.

  11. Sounds like an amazing trip – we have something similar here in VT, but not to such a grand scale as this trip is!

  12. Nathanael says:

    If this program is done through the NPS, are similar programs being run at other national parks (or is this being put on by your association, so it’s Yellowstone specific)? If so, where could we find out more about programs in our areas?

    • This program is specific to Yellowstone but many other cooperating educational organizations that support the national parks have similar programs. North Cascades Institute has a great family program for those in the Seattle area. Where are you from? I might be able to point you toward some other organizations doing good things in the outdoors.

  13. I love the travel package and outdoor backpack. We are traveling to Yellowstone and Thermopolis this summer for the first time. I can’t wait to explore Wyoming for the first time. I wish the family travel package was during the time we will be there, but we are there right in the middle.

    • Glad you will be in our neighborhood this summer. Not sure of the ages of your little people, but we have many other dates available for a our “Yellowstone for Families” program which runs out of park hotels in Mammoth, Grant Village, and Old Faithful and is geared toward kids ages 8-12. It is a different program but the idea is the same…learn alongside your children and leave the planning and worrying to someone else :)

  14. Lynette says:

    My daughter loved Yellowstone when we were there two years ago. We need to go again! Are the excursions an extra cost?

    • Glad your daughter enjoyed Yellowstone when you were here. All of the wildlife, geysers, and hot springs are really awe-inspiring for all ages, and I SO enjoy watching kids experience the wonder of this place.

      All excursions, naturalist-led educational activities, art supplies, in-park transportation and meals are included in the price! The only additional charge is if you want to stay on-campus at the historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch.

    • I am glad your daughter enjoyed Yellowstone when you were here. All the wildlife, geysers, and hot springs are awe-inspiring to everyone, but it is especially fun to watch kids experience the wonder of it all!

      All excursions, naturalist-led educational activities, art supplies, in-park transportation, and meals are included in the price. There is an additional fee if you wish to stay on-campus at the historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch.

  15. What a wonderful program! We are hoping to visit Yellowstone next summer (it’s a LONG way from Texas!) and will definitely check into the family retreat. Glad I found this blog!

  16. Kelly E says:

    How fun! I’ll definitely need to check it out again next year when my son is 5!

  17. We had an amazing family trip to Yellowstone in 2011. I’d love to do this retreat with my girls (ages 12 and 10 now). I am a retired science teacher. I agree with you–there is not any better place to teach kids about science than our National Parks. You are so lucky to live in one of the most amazing places on Earth! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

    • Julie,
      I couldn’t agree more with you about national parks being the perfect “laboratory” for exploring the natural world. Your girls are lucky to have a science-teacher mom! My mom was a 5th grade science teacher when I was growing up and I attribute my love and appreciation of the outdoors in large part to all of the time we spent together discovering our “backyard.”

  18. Wow, Jenna, I’m seriously jealous of your job! I used to live near Yellowstone and this sounds like an awesome program. My youngest is only 3, though, so we’ll have to wait a couple years.

    • We offer private customized programs (private tours) for all group sizes and ages if you do decide to visit Yellowstone before your little person is 5. Otherwise, we hope to see you when you make it out here in a few years… Thanks to our fore-fathers, our national parks and the animals that live in them, will be here for years to come!

  19. Shih-Ying says:

    The retreat program looks wonderful. I’d love to do this retreat with my girl (22-month-old) but she is too far from 5. I’m planing a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton around May 10~17 but not very sure if it is a good time to see wildlife? Will it be too early to see baby animals? I understand that it could snow in May and I’m OK with that but I hope blizzard will not happen during that time…..

    • May is a wonderful time here in Yellowstone! Your dates will bring you into the park before the major tourist season so it will be less busy for sure. You will be on the early side of spring babies but I there will still be some potential opportunity to see “red dogs”, aka bison calves, and elk calves. The bears are on the move at that time and looking for food so potential for viewing of cubs. If you are interested in having one of our naturalist guides show you around, we offer private customized programs (private tours) for all group sizes so your 22 month old would be more than welcome! As far as a blizzard in May, here in Yellowstone it always seems like there is the potential for snow (even in July)! Tee Hee!

  20. Sadie B. says:

    What is the average temperature during these camps?

    • The summer in Yellowstone is beautiful, albeit short. In July and August, the daytime temperatures are often in the 70s (25C) and occasionally in the 80s (30C). Nights are usually cooler and clothing layers are recommended on all of our programs to deal with changing conditions and mountain weather.

  21. Diane Richards says:

    What an incredible program and opportunity!

  22. Katy Savolskis says:

    what are some examples of meals served?

    This looks amazing!!!!

  23. Kelly L says:

    I am an interpreter for Texas Parks and Wildlife, I would love to take my little guy to Yellowstone for a family retreat!It is fun to lead programs but I wouldn’t mind to take some time off to attend a few :)

    • Agreed! It is fun to lead and it is definitely fun to just enjoy a program once and a while. You could even apply for a scholarship for tuition for you because you are an educator! Hope to see you soon in Yellowstone.

  24. I grandkids ages 6 and 9 who have done the jr. ranger program in other parks. I’ll have to tell then about this opportunity in Yellowstone.

  25. Kristen M says:

    We go to Yosemite each year but I have the itch to visit more of our national parks. Yellowstone looks beautiful! My older kids (10, 13) act less impressed but they love the ranger-led programs we attend. Can you provide an example of an activity you do that appeals to older kids?

    • Each day you can choose from a full-day foray into the park, or a half-day nature outing on the northern range and an on-campus nature exploration activity which is how we cater to the various age groups and interests. Each full-day foray will cover a theme appropriate to the area of the park you will visit. For example, you will travel to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to learn about Yellowstone’s natural history or you may join in the full-day adventure to Mammoth Hot Springs and the Boiling River, where you will see first-hand the geology and thermal energy that helped convince congress to set aside Yellowstone for future generations. Check out more specific daily itineraries and choices in the “Program Details” link listed on our website post for this particular class. (The hyperlink to the class is included in the blog post)

  26. We’re not sure when we’ll be going (but may be sooner than we think because some friends moved out there) but my daughter would love learning and studying the field guide until we did, and using the other stuff for our nearby adventures! The Appalachian Mountain Club out here has some similar programs!

  27. Sounds like an incredible program! What a beautiful opportunity to get families outdoors and exploring together! I hope that it’s around for years to come, since our little one is still too young!

  28. DebbieKL says:

    Beautiful! Wish we lived nearby! One of my questions would be on food options, since we follow a mostly vegetarian diet.

  29. What are recommend ages for kids?

  30. Heather says:

    We would love to do this with our kids!! Sounds like fun!

  31. Hello! When does Yellowstone park open in the spring? Our spring break is usually at Easter.
    My kids and nephew would love your giveaway contest! Thanks for the opportunity to enter!

    • The park is technically never closed. The roads are plowed from Gardiner to Cooke City and you can drive through the Lamar Valley all winter long. At the beginning of March, NPS starts to plow the roads into the interior of the park (like towards Old Faithful, etc.) but it takes them until mid to late May to open the roads.

  32. Love Yellowstone and all it has to offer. It is a one of kind place that everyone should visit. I have loved living close to it and sharing the experience with my children and husband.

  33. Taryn T. says:

    We are big fans of the Junior Ranger program. It is also a lifelong dream to visit Yellowstone. Is there a time to visit that is not as tourist packed, but still has great weather?

    • Hi Taryn,
      July and August is usually pretty busy with families and everyone else, but if you get off the road and onto the trail, you drop the vast majority of tourists. Our family program at Lamar is a real treat because the 26 people on the program are the only ones at the whole ranch. It is a pretty special location and experience for sure.

      September is an amazing time here and definitely my favorite. It is still busy but not quite as much and the fall “elk rut” (mating season) is going on and can be quite a spectacle in Mammoth during September. Beginning of June is also a favorite time of mine because of the spring baby season…elk calves, red dogs (bison calves), bear cubs, etc.

  34. Misty Lunceford says:

    Sounds like a great program! I will be looking into this.

  35. Kate Kloss says:

    This sounds amazing, as an east coaster I’d love to make it out to Yellowstone one day!

  36. Cynthia Dubuque says:

    I didn’t see this question, but maybe I missed it.. when is the best time of year/cheapest time of year to go? or is it the same price year round?

    • This particular program is only offered for the two dates listed above, however there are lots of other family programs through the Yellowstone Association all year round. It seems that rates don’t really ever drop in Yellowstone. Occasionally on the shoulder seasons, or mud season, you can find some discounted rates but then the weather is “iffy”. Winter is a great time to visit but it is expensive if you want to visit the interior of the park because you have to go in on a snowcoach or snowmobile.

  37. I’d love to know what sort of capacity this caters to? Is it a private ordeal? 5-10 families? 50 people? How intimate are we talking for group size? Also, are attendees free to pick and choose the programming AND/OR enjoy the park on their own or are you pretty well immersed in activities to take up the entire scheduled block?

    Thanks! :)

    • Hi AJ,
      This is a very small program. The max capacity is 26 people (adults and kids combined). There are 3 naturalist instructors and a team of volunteer program assistants. There are plenty of program choices to choose from but families are of course welcome to do their own thing, although most decide they don’t want to miss any of our programs!

      Each day you can choose from a full-day foray into the park, or a half-day nature outing on the northern range and an on-campus nature exploration activity which is how we cater to the various age groups and interests. Each full-day foray will cover a theme appropriate to the area of the park you will visit. For example, you will travel to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to learn about Yellowstone’s natural history or you may join in the full-day adventure to Mammoth Hot Springs and the Boiling River, where you will see first-hand the geology and thermal energy that helped convince congress to set aside Yellowstone for future generations. Check out more specific daily itineraries and choices in the “Program Details” link listed on our website post for this particular class. (The hyperlink to the class is included in the blog post)

  38. Dusty Schnur says:

    How far from Yellowstone National Park is it?

  39. Wow that program sounds awesome! In two years I will have two daughters enrolled for sure!

  40. This sounds awesome! I would love to do this!

  41. looks so amazing! Would love to go!

  42. Valerie says:

    Thanks for providing this great learning opportunity. I imagine this will be on our list if we decide to follow through with our homeschool/unschooling plans. How large are the groups and do you separate them by age?

    • Max capacity for this program is 26 (adults and children combined) and there are three naturalist instructors plus a team of volunteer program assistants. We have a variety of activities to choose from so depending on the ages of the kids and their interests, families usually select the programs they feel are most appropriate for their own children.

  43. Cass sudduth says:

    wow, this looks like an awesome place!! A great way to get back to nature!!

  44. ashley cossette says:

    my kids are three and one, i’m assuming they’re two young? what is a good age to start bringing them?

  45. So you can provide lodging or we can find our own? Is that correct? I’m from Wyoming (now in Salt Lake) but we won’t make it up to Yellowstone this year but I’ll share this with my friends in the area.

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