Yellowstone NP: one day, one toddler, one newborn
While we were living in Pocatello, Idaho, we were only 2.5 hours from Yellowstone National Park. Troy and I had been to Yellowstone multiple times before, but we were looking for something fun to do and something out of town but not too far away. A day trip!
Little Miss was 2 months old, and Bubs was just over 3 and had recently potty trained. We decided Yellowstone would be the perfect mini adventure for a day in July, so we loaded up the kids with all their necessities, packed snacks, and hit the road.
Bubs was really excited to see animals! We told him to keep an eye out for bears, deer, maybe a moose, and hopefully lots of BISON! The boy couldn’t stand having to wait 2.5 hours until we reached the park. We entered the park through the West entrance, after making a pit stop in West Yellowstone for an early lunch, bathrooms, and to feed the babe.
You may think we are crazy for taking a 3 year old and a 2 month old baby to Yellowstone, BUT really it was perfect timing! We didn’t do any crazy, long hikes. We picked out the big things we really wanted to see. AND, we took the day as it came! Sometimes, especially with kids, plans change and you just gotta fly by the seat of your pants.
Here are our Itinerary and Tips for exploring Yellowstone National Park in one day, with one toddler, and one newborn!
First and foremost, you will have to skip some things throughout the park. That’s just how it is with kids and with only one day. Either there isn’t enough time or the kids will be done and you’ll have to call it.
Second, we only “hiked” the places we knew Bubs could handle, or we were willing/able to carry him on. Little Miss was easy because she was so small and still in here sleepy stage, so I was able to carry her in the infant carrier or lay her in the stroller, depending on the area. Also, we only drove the lower loop to make for a quicker, shorter day. With that being said, keep in mind what you can and can’t do, and espcecially what your kids can and can’t do.
Third, it’s about having fun, exploring, and making family memories!! Don’t get caught up the go, go, go and enjoy the day.
After entering the park, our first stop was in the Madison area at Firehole Falls. This 40- foot falls is a great place to stop and get out. There is a parking area and a great view! Make sure to watch the kids, being as there are steep drop offs. Also, there is an area above the falls that is safe for swimming, but make sure you do some research about it first. We’ve never gone swimming there, but you can find more info here.
It is an awesome falls and a great way to start the tour. Also, I must warn you, this trip occurred during the time when Bubs would throw up “gang signs” in almost every picture we took! 3 year olds!
We then stopped in the Lower Geyser Basin. Here we got out and walked around the half mile boardwalk, past the Fountain Paint Pots, the Great Fountain Geyser, the Leather Pool, and more. Check them out here! The “hike” itself isn’t far and very flat. The boardwalk can get pretty crowded and in most places does not have guard railings, so hold onto those kiddos! These pots and geysers are CRAZY hot and people have been injured trying to walk off of the path.
Bubs was confused when we tried to explain to him what the steam was coming from the geysers. SO… we just ended up telling him it was Dragon Smoke, because a dragon was sleeping under there and the “smoke” was from his breathing! He LOVED that, and the rest of the trip he was searching for Dragon Smoke.
Next we hit the Midway Geyser Basin, and got out to walk around the Grand Prismatic Spring. This is one of my favorite parts of Yellowstone NP! If you are there at the right time (early or later in the day- less crowds) you can have an amazing view of this natural spring. It is 370 feet in diameter, which is longer and much wider than a football field, and is as deep as a 10 story building! It’s bright blue center is ringed by orange, yellow and green because of the different heat-loving bacteria that live in it. Again, be cautious, these springs are SUPER hot.
The boardwalk around the Grand Prismatic Spring is 0.8 miles around and will lead you past the Turquoise Pool, the Opal Pool, then the Grand Prismatic Spring, and lastly past the Excelsior Geyser. You will also cross a bridge over the Firehole River at the beginning at the end of your loop. We also just found out there is a new trail to an overlook area for the Grand Prismatic Spring! It just opened this past summer, and you can read a little more about it here. We will have to go back to do that!
When we were there, the boardwalk was crazy busy, so we had to maneuver our way through the crowd. Bubs was piggy-backed most of the way for this one, too, because of that. The springs was also quite steamy, and it was hard to see, but it was just fine because Bubs was losing his mind over how much Dragon Smoke there was!!
Getting back to the car, we took time for a snack break and hit the road again. Our next stop would have been Old Faithful and the Visitor Education Center, but both kids fell asleep and we kept on driving. We continued on the loop and enjoyed the views. We crossed the Continental Divide, twice, and drove along the edge of Yellowstone Lake and followed the Yellowstone River.
When we got to Hayden Valley, we were stopped by some traffic. Hayden Valley is one of the best spots in the park to see wildlife, and we were not disappointed!! Bubs woke up just in time to see a grizzly bear, a coyote, and multiple elk!
After enjoying the wildlife, we made our way north and got out to see the Upper and Lower Falls from the overlook along the way, as well as an amazing view of the canyon. There is no hiking required at this overlook, and we were able to pile out, take some pictures and load right back in. The kids were starting to get sick of the car and it was getting late. We made a decision to skip by the Norris area of the park (which I recommend if you have time, especially the Artist Paintpots), and headed back to Old Faithful.
We pulled up to the Old Faithful Inn and Visitor Education Center, both close to the iconic Old Faithful Geyser. It was a very busy area with tour buses and crowds of guests staying at the Inn. The Old Faithful Inn was built in 1903 and is the picture of rustic comfort. You can rent a room while you stay at Yellowstone NP, which would be a dream! You are literally a few minutes (if that!) walk to Old Faithful Geyser, plus a perfect “home base” for explorations throughout the park.
Being as Old Faithful only goes off every so often (the Inn and the Visitors Center have schedules), we had a little bit of a wait, so we wandered around the Inn, admired the decor of the building, perused the gift shop, and got GIANT ice cream cones to enjoy! They were huge! If we had known we wouldn’t have gotten Bubs his own, but we didn’t know and he was in heaven eating that thing.
After wandering and waiting, we made our way outside to the viewing area for Old Faithful. Watching the geyser is always thrilling and breathtaking. Such an awesome wonder of nature! We had been trying to prepare Bubs for what he was going to see, but it did not register until that geyser blew! His little face was pure excitement and joy, and he kept exclaiming, “Look at that Dragon Smoke!! That’s the biggest dragon EVER!!!”
That, right there, is why we take our young children exploring. For moments like that, when they are filled with excitement and wonder at something so beautiful.
After Old Faithful was done spewing, we got back into the car to leave the park. We realized we hadn’t had a proper meal since before entering the park, and our tummies were rumbling. As we were passing the Madison Information Station, I caught a glimpse of a bison right next to the parking lot for the station. We pulled in and got out to watch him for a bit. He was so close!
Once out of the park, we found a diner in West Yellowstone called, Three Bear Lodge, and enjoyed a home cooked style dinner. It was yummy, good priced, and family friendly. The service was friendly and quick, too. Perfect being as we had to drive home still.
If you are ever in Eastern Idaho, Wyoming, or Northern Utah I HIGHLY recommend visiting Yellowstone National Park. If you have one day or 5 days, you are sure to find things to see and explore!