With over 2.2 million acres of wilderness, Yellowstone National Park is easily one of the best places to explore out west. No matter your skill, age, or interest, you’ll find a hike that fits your checklist. If you are headed to Yellowstone this summer, be sure to take in at least a few of the 900 miles of hiking trails. Below you’ll find a list of our favorite Yellowstone kid friendly hikes to be sure you don’t miss.
Hiking Out West Must-Know Tips
Take it slow.
It’s true, the views and the trails will literally take your breath away. When I first traveled to Yellowstone, I arrived at the park with lofty goals and lungs that were accustomed to sea level breathing. It wasn’t more than a few hundred feet on my first trail that I realized sea level has nothing on 7,000ft! Plan extra time and let your slowest walker lead the way.
Boots are best.
Most trails in the park are snow-covered until late July, so lace up your boots to help keep your feet dry and warm. Afternoon-showers are typical from June-July as well so raingear is a must. Bookmark the park’s backcountry situation report and check back often for the most up-to-date information on Yellowstone kid friendly hikes.
Although pets are not allowed on trails, you’ll see plenty of wildlife on park trails. Bears, bison, elk, and wolves are plentiful and often will take the easy route and use park trails. Always make sure to hike in groups of three or more, make noise (“Hey Bear!”), and carry bear spray and know how to use it. Learn more about hiking in bear country and bear safety with families.
Stay on trails and boardwalks.
I can admit, it can be tempting at times to wander off trail and do some exploring. Remember Yellowstone has a rich and diverse thermal geography. Hot springs, acidic thermal pools, geysers, and thin crust exist in both the front country and backcountry, so stay on the trail and be aware of your surroundings.
Yellowstone Kid Friendly Hikes Packing List
- Bear spray
- Rain gear
- Extra pair of socks
- Area hiking maps (I prefer National Geographic’s Trail Maps)
- First Aid kit
- Warm layers
- Read more family hiking tips and tricks here
Best Yellowstone kid friendly hikes
The average family spends only 1.5 days in Yellowstone National Park and rarely travels more than 1 mile off any major road. The hikes listed here are great options for families of all skill-level and ages and will help maximize your time while touring the park.
- Round Trip Length: 5 miles
- Location: Mammoth Hot Springs. Start near the Lower Terraces, north of the Liberty Cap near the stone house; or start behind Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel at start of the gravel Old Gardiner Road.
This hike is ideal for preschool-aged kids and older. With a slow ascent over 350ft your crew will walk through sagebrush meadows, lodgepole pines, and alongside the beaver ponds (about half-way around the loop). Beaver Ponds is great for birding and great views. Black bear and grizzly frequent the area, so pick your favorite song and throw out an occasional “Hey bear” to let them know you’re near. This is definitely one of the local’s favorite Yellowstone kid friendly hikes.
Bunsen Peak Trail
- Round Trip Length: 4.6-mile there-and-back trail that begins and ends at the same trailhead.
- Location: 5 miles south of Mammoth on the Grand Loop Road. Park in the gravel lot across from the Glen Creek trailhead.
Looking for a view? Grab your water and some trekking poles (to help keep your posture) and head up Bunsen Peak Trail. As soon as my kiddos were able to walk, they were making their way up Bunson. Named after the German chemist Robert Bunsen who created the bunsen burner, this 1,300 ft climb will gift you with panoramic views of the Gallatin Mountain Range.
Wraith Falls Trail
- Round Trip Length: 1 mile there-and-back
- Location: The trail begins at a pullout ½-mile (0.8 km) east of Lava Creek Picnic Area on the Grand Loop Road
Toddlers will love the freedom of taking the lead on this trail. This short, easy trek leads you through sagebrush and over creeks and bridges to the base of 79ft Wraith Falls. If you are short on time, but need to stretch your legs, this trail is a great option.
Old Faithful Area
The Upper Geyser Basin and Midway Geyser Basin are home to some of the world’s most spectacular hydrothermal features: Old Faithful Geyser, Crested Pool, Sapphire Pool, and Grand Prismatic Spring. If you have little ones, keep them close and do not let them run on boardwalks. There are safe ways to explore these incredible features, so take the time to talk with your family about how they can stay safe while exploring.
Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail
- Round Trip Length: 1.2 miles there-and-back
- Location: Park 1 mile south of Midway Geyser Basin, near Fairy Falls Trail.
Although there’s nothing like an up-close, sulphur-smelling, steamy walk around Grand Prismatic’s bacterial mats, the view from above is actually much more photo-worthy. The Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail is a recent addition to the paths in the park due to the popularity of the view. Bring your selfie-stick on this gradual uphill which will lead you to a view looking down on Grand Prismatic and the Midway Geyser Basin. Parking is limited in this area so plan to hike it early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
Lost Lake Trail
- Round Trip Length: 2.8 mile loop trail, can also be done in segments.
- Location: Starts behind Roosevelt Lodge or at the end of the Petrified Tree parking lot west of Tower Junction.
If you start from the Roosevelt Lodge, the initial trail climbs about 300 ft. If you want a less strenuous start to your hike, you might consider starting from the Petrified Tree parking lot. Lost Lake trail provides hikers with a backcountry-like experience away from the busy roads. This trail is known for its wildlife as it is home to many bears and bison. The trail is also used by horseback-riders. Share the trail, and move to the downhill side until riders have passed.
Trout Lake Trail
- Round Trip Length: 1.2 miles lollipop loop
- Location: The trail starts from a small pullout about 1.5 miles south of Pebble Creek Campground on the Northeast Entrance Road.
If I had to pick the perfect picnic hike for families of all ages, it would be Trout Lake. With an initial (but brief) climb, hikers earn their way to a loop around this small lake where a careful eye can actually watch the rainbow and cutthroat trout swim along the water’s edge. It’s not uncommon to see a family of river otters play nearby and the grassy areas around the lake are covered in flowers in late June. If you are hoping to do a little fishing, keep in mind there is a seasonal closure during the spawn.
Yellowstone River Picnic Area Trail
- Round Trip Length: This is a 3.7-mile there-and-back trail.
- Location: Park at the Yellowstone River Picnic area, 1.25 miles (2 km) northeast of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road.
This was one of the first trails I ever hiked with my daughter. With views of the Yellowstone river and the promise of bison and birds along the way you’ll have plenty of ways to keep your family engaged. Once alongside the canyon, you’ll have a great view of the basalt columns as well. The Yellowstone River trail is great for wildlife, geology, and picturesque views.
Avalanche Peak Trail
- Round Trip Length: This is a 4.7-mile there-and-back trail.
- Location: Look for a pullout at Eleanor Lake, 19 miles east of Fishing Bridge Junction (8 miles west of East Entrance). The trailhead is across the road from the pullout.
One for our older hikers. Avalanche Peak is a true test of your lungs and legs but is worth every minute to the top. This difficult trail begins its strenuous ascent right away (2,100 ft in 2.1 miles) and is a mix of forest, rock, and meadows. Once on the ridge, hikers will be able to view the Absaroka Mountain range and on a clear day, even Yellowstone Lake.
Lone Star Geyser
- Round Trip Length: This is a 5-mile there-and-back trail.
- Location: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south of Old Faithful Overpass, just beyond Kepler Cascades Parking Lot.
Wanting to get away from the crowds while geyser-gazing? Check out Lone Star Geyser which erupts about every three hours. This partially paved path includes cascades, rivers, and woods as well as a close-up view of an eruption!
Yellowstone Hiking Safety
Here are some general safety tips for while in Yellowstone. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. Here are some tips for exploring the natural wonders of Yellowstone kid friendly hikes:
- Begin your hike by stopping at a ranger station or visitor center for information or updates on trail conditions and area closures.
- Tell someone about your plans, including your destination, route, and estimated time of return.
- At a minimum, carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, an insulating (non cotton) layer of clothing, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit.
- Stay on trails: taking shortcuts causes trail erosion and is dangerous. In hydrothermal areas, stepping on thin crust may plunge you into boiling water.
- Stay alert in burned areas. Wind may topple standing dead trees.
- Learn the best practices for traveling safely in bear country: hike in groups of three or more, make noise, carry bear spray, and know how to use bear spray.
- Lightning storms are common during summer: stay away from ridges, exposed areas, and isolated trees when lightning is present.
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