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Yellowstone.  Arguably one of America’s greatest treasures.  Plenty of families do the classic American roadtrip over the summer, hitting many National Parks, and Yellowstone is always on that list.

In September, I flew out to Montana with some family, and we spent a few days exploring Yellowstone National Park.  The park itself was amazing – the views, the seismic activity, the animals.  Although I wasn’t the resident photographer for the trip, I tried to capture some pictures to share with you guys!

Mammoth Springs

1.  Bring Snacks

Oh man, don’t forget the snacks!  Food and drinks are expensive at any attraction, and Yellowstone National Park is no exception.  With a big family, you’ll save a small fortune by packing in your own snacks and drinks.  You’ll have to pack out your trash too, so we don’t put too much pressure on the park itself, so bring a few bags.

There are a handful of restaurants in Yellowstone, and they’ll all be a bit pricey.  All the major towns at points of entry know this, and have lots of food options.

2.  Plan Breaks

Get out of the car, stretch your legs, take in the scenery!  There are tons of scenic overlooks that are truly, breathtakingly beautiful.  Most of them have walking paths, or at least enough room in the parking lot to stretch your legs.  The major attractions usually have large parking lots, developed amenities, and maintained boardwalks.  Think Old Faithful, the Great Prismatic Spring, and Mammoth Springs.  All of these offer an opportunity to get out of the car, walk around a bit, and take in the wonders of Yellowstone.

They aren’t kidding when they call Montana the Big Sky State…

3.  Keep Them Entertained on the Road

When you have a long stretch of the road and can’t get out of the car, you’ll want to keep everyone entertained.  Your cell service will be lacking throughout the park, so you’ll have to rely on good old fashioned methods (GASP!).  The various stores throughout the park have all sorts of random souvenirs to keep the kiddos entertained, and the visitor’s centers have a great selection of maps, brochures, and guidebooks.  I recommend getting a map and an animal guide for anyone that can read, and appointing a resident animal spotter and navigator.  That, or see who can win the quiet game…I usually lose…

4.  Be Realistic (and Flexible!)

As a parent, I often have two separate scenarios:  the plan I think is going to work…and the reality.  I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from, and Yellowstone with kids is no different.  We happened to be traveling with some of our extended family, so that meant kids 13, 12, 9, and 11 months old.  Quite the range, and we all needed different things.  Everyone wanted to get out and hike around, but we stuck to boardwalks and less technical trails.

There were a few things we had to skip over, or simply come back to later, depending on the schedule.  As long as you keep an open mind and a flexible calendar,

5.  Be Safe!

Animals are beautiful, interesting, and a lot of fun for the kids, but make sure you’re staying safe out there.  Especially within a large national park, with plenty of off-trail hiking available, we have to always be cognizant of the natural landscape and wildlife around us.  (Side note – don’t go off-trail if you aren’t experienced!)  Always listen to the park rangers, and read up on general safety for any adventure your’e going on.

While we were at Yellowstone in September, one man was knocked over by an angry bull elk.  I’ll save you the details, but it’s exactly what you’d expect – tourists ignore park ranger’s directions, animal is too close to the crowd, animal behaves naturally, person gets injured.  You can see the video here.  Our family was watching the two bull elk fight!  (From a very safe distance, of course.)  And while it’s fascinating, and beautiful in a way, to watch the elk lock antlers, we certainly didn’t want to be too close.

Next stop, Yellowstone!

Most of all, enjoy the park!  America’s National Parks are a fantastic resource to learn from, explore, and visit again and again.  There are 58 National Parks in the United States, how many have you been to?

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