In 2013 we spent a week in Yellowstone and the Tetons. We had a great time and saw 17 different kinds of animals (not including the 41 species of birds we identified). We’ve written quite a lot about Yellowstone, including sections on Yellowstone’s geothermic features, Waterfalls to visit, Scenic Drives, and on where to find animals in Yellowstone.
Our family tradition is to go to Yellowstone every other year, so we’ve had a lot of experience with the hikes there, particulary the kid friendly hikes. We are currently working on expanding this section by writing a complete post about each hike, so click on the name of the hike for more information and pictures.
Lost Lake: The Lost Lake hike is in the northeast corner of the park at the Roosevelt Junction. It climbs the hill behind the Roosevelt General Store, passes Lost Lake, and ends at the Petrified Tree. The distance varies on whether you shuttle or do an out and back, but to the lake and back from Roosevelt is under 2 miles.
Wraith Falls: We have done this hike every time we’ve been to Yellowstone. Located just a few miles east of Mammoth, this short, easy hike can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. A short walk across an open meadow with a boardwalk for much of the way ends at a beautiful waterfall. The round trip is just 1 mile.
Artist Paint Pots: This hike is very well known. It is located between Norris and Madison Junction and has it’s own turnout. The actual hike is short, in the shape of a lollipop, and has one steep part that includes steps (if you take the lollipop counter-clockwise). The payoff is unique geological features that looks just like boiling paint– mostly white and gray. The round trip is 1.2 miles.
Harlequin Lake: Our four year-olds did great on this hike. We love to do it on the way into the park as it is located between the west entrance and Madison Junction. It starts off a little steep and meanders up to a beautiful mountain lake that has many birds, chipmunks and squirrels. As far as a flashy ending, there isn’t one– it’s just a lake. Still, at 1 mile out-and-back, this is a great hike for kids.
Little Gibbon Falls: The problem with this hike is that it is entirely unmarked. You’ll need special instructions to find it. It is located exactly 3.3 miles east of Norris. There is a pullout on the south side of the road. The hike starts near an orange marker across the road and about 30 yards east (toward Canyon) from the pullout. The trail goes through some soggy meadows (you may encounter mosquitoes) and ends at a beautiful waterfall that not very many Yellowstone visitors see. The trail is out-and-back, just 1.2 miles.
Trout Lake: This is one of our favorite short hikes because we saw an otter at this lake! The trail is very short, just .6 miles up to the lake, but we wanted to walk around the entire lake (probably another .6 or so) and then .6 back. The trail is quite steep up to the lake, so you may find this difficult, but we went with 6 kids age 6 and under (the cousins tagging along), and they all walked the entire way (except the infant on my back). If you can handle the climb, you’ll love this hike located in the Lamar Valley.
Ice Lake: The Ice Lake trailhead is located near the Norris Junction. To call this a hike is a bit ambitious as it is only .6 miles out and back to the destination. Ice Lake is surprisingly large and beautiful. The trail is very flat and pleasant and appropriate for the very old or the very young.
Mystic Falls: We did this hike before we had children, and it ends at a beautiful 70 foot waterfall. There is some climbing, and the trail is a little longer– about 4 miles around the lollipop, but you can also hike out to the falls and back– 1.1 miles each way if you’d like to shorten this hike.
Fairy Falls: This is the crown-jewel of Yellowstone hikes. Fairy Falls is absolutely amazing and plunges 200 feet into a beautiful pool. The trail is long, though, at 5.2 miles. This trailhead is near Old Faithful, and the trail is very flat and easy. You start out on what used to be a dirt road, and after about a mile you turn into the pines and walk to the falls. We really pushed our almost 5-year old to get this one done, and our kids are pretty experienced hikers, so save this one until the kids our a little older.
Pelican Creek Nature Trail: The nature trail is located just east of fishing bridge and runs about 1 mile in length. It hugs the shore of Yellowstone Lake before turning into the trees and heading back toward the car. The hike is shady and peaceful and easy for all levels. There is no elevation gain and little danger of running into large animals.
Duck Lake: We haven’t been able to find this hike in any of the books we have on Yellowstone, even though it is clearly marked along the road near West Thumb. The hike is about a mile long round-trip and goes to a large secluded lake. There is a gentle climb and descent to the lake, but our two year-old easily completed this hike.
Storm Point: This hike is located between Fishing Bridge and the east entrance. It is 1.5 mile loop that follows the shore of Yellowstone Lake. We really like this hike because you are guaranteed to see some wildlife. There is a marmot colony about halfway around the loop, and marmots sit on the rocks and whistle at you. On the other side of the loop is Storm Point, which juts out into the lake. This is another hike that we’ve done nearly every time we’ve gone to Yellowstone.
Sheepeater Cliff: The hike at Sheepeater Cliff quickly became a family favorite. It’s a little secret trail from the Sheepeater Picnic Area. The trail is flat, easy, and has a waterfall at the end. We loved this beautiful trail!
There are a lot more easy hikes in Yellowstone, but we haven’t had a chance to try them yet. Let us know if you have a favorite in the comment section!
We have also visited lots of other National Parks. Here are some great family friendly hikes in the National Parks in and around Utah.
Badlands Kid Hikes (coming soon)
Rocky Mountain Kid Hikes (coming soon)