Thursday, July 19, 2012

Top 5 Family Adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Snow ball fight on Rendezvous Mountain
Hike on Bunsen Peak
         Discovering our national parks with my children is a dream that I am making a reality one summer at a time. Two summers ago, we started with Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Last year, we went to Acadia National Park for four days ofadventure in the rain and sun. This summer, we ventured to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Parks. The following are the best family adventures in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

  1. Ride the tram in Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and hike the Rock Springs Trail into Cody Bowl - Although this is just outside of the Park, it was the most fun our family had while there. We rode the 100 passenger tram from the base of Jackson Hole to the top of Rendezvous mountain, a four thousand foot climb. We packed a picnic lunch for our day's adventures at the top of the world. We descended along the ridge line on the Rock Springs Trail into Cody Bowl. We spent our afternoon having snow ball fights, sliding down the glacial snow and rock scrambling. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to homemade waffles at Corbett Cabin. Yum!
  2. Kayak (or canoe) Colter andHalf Moon Bays -  We rented two two-person kayaks from the Colter Bay Marina for half a day of paddling and wildlife viewing in Colter and Half Moon Bays.
  3. Hike around String and Jenny Lakes to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point - We hiked 7.8 miles along the north and west sides of both String and Jenny Lakes. This route is gentle with minimal elevation change. The best part of this hike is taking in the mountain peaks and the lake vistas.
  4. Raft the class I and II rapidsof the Snake River - This activity was my son's choice. Grand Teton LodgeCompany was our guide down the Snake River in the Park. This float is gentle enough for a six year old. Daniel, our guide, was experienced at navigating the river and very knowledgeable about the natural history of the Park. We were fortunate to spot two moose, a beaver and an eagle.
  5. Camping - Camping is the best way to truly experience everything a national park has to offer from scenery to education. Grand Teton offers five first-come-first-serve campgrounds. They do not take reservations; however, visitors are able to easily get a site in one of the campgrounds. At the entrance stations and visitor centers, there are campground boards providing information on the availability of sites and at what time the campground became full.


1.    Circuit hike along the south rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to Lily and Clear Lakes - The best way to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is to take a hike along the South Rim Trail, in addition to Lily Lake and Uncle Tom's Trail. The Lily Lake trailhead is at the far end of Artist Point. The trail follows the steep ledges of the Canyon before it enters a pine forest and by two small lakes and thermals. Uncle Tom's Trail gives all visitors a cardo workout climbing down and up 328 steps. At the bottom, you stand at the base of the lower falls to feel mist on your face.
2.    Take a picnic dinner to an overlook in Lamar Valley to watch animals - If there is one national park known for wildlife; it is Yellowstone. We grabbed fixings for a picnic dinner and drove into Lamar Valley. This valley is stunning. My children learned a valuable lesson from animal spectators fitted with their large scopes about why preserving this valley's habitat is vital for the balance of the ecosystem. In the valley, we watched hundreds of buffalo and looked for bear and wolves.
3.    Hike to Bunsen Peak - Have you ever want to bag a peak with your kids? Bunsen Peak is a good one to do. The hike is a moderate 2.1 mile trek to the peak on switchbacks. The views at the top are well worth it. The climb was a good challenge for my kids but they loved skipping down the mountain.
4.    Walk the Fountain Paint Pots boardwalk - This was the touristiest adventure of our time in Yellowstone because everyone wants to see the geological thermals. They are well worth the crowds. This was my son's favorite part of Yellowstone.
5.    Camping - Yellowstone offers both reservation only and first-come-first-serve campgrounds. The reservation only campgrounds usually fill well ahead of time. The first-come-first-serves are in beautiful locations in the park but have limited, such as vaulted toilets.

Many of these adventures enabled us to leave behind the crowds and explore each park to discover the beauty, peace and solitude. The more we trekked down the trail the more we drew back the curtains on the amazing scenery all around us. I loved sharing each of the above adventures with my kids and watching their faces light up with huge grins. We hope you enjoy them too. 

Reading about thermal cones

Lower falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Looking for wolves in Lamar Valley

Kayaking in Colter Bay

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