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Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

Dayton, Ohio
6 posts
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Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

Hello everyone! I have been contemplating a vacation destination for the Spring or Summer of 2014 for my daughter and I. I'm a single Dad, and as my "subject" line indicates, my daughter will be 6 years old at the time we take a trip. I don't have a lot of money to take a vacation every year, but maybe rather one (1) every 2-3 years at best. There is always the Disney World trip that almost every child would love, but I'm thinking a little outside of the box. Her mother will eventually take her on that trip, so I thought I'd try something different. We both love nature and wildlife, and I've ALWAYS wanted to visit Yellowstone or something similar. It's been a dream of mine. I'm not the type of parent that cares at all about any extra "work or inconvienences" that a small child can sometimes cause on a vacation. My child is very well behaved and I'm extremely blessed to have her as my one and only child!! She seems very excited to take a "mountain vacation" as she refers to it now! However, I have several concerns after reading a lot of information on Yellowstone and the like. It seems that to enjoy the park fully, it would require a lot of driving and a lot of hiking. The driving wouldn't be too bad for her, but the hiking could prove a bit much for her (and maybe me as well !!). I do have some time to prepare myself for that though!! So, I have a few questions that I thought someone might be able to help me with. Are there vacation packages that would minimize some of the difficulties that a 6 year old may have? Maybe horseback trips rather than always hiking? Maybe short hikes of no more than 1 or 2 miles round trip? I guess to make it simple, does anyone think it's worth it at this time in her life (6 years old) to take a trip like this? I have her best interests in mind first (always), and I know she would enjoy the trip if it wasn't something that was too physical for her. Me...as mentioned, I have always wanted to do this. However, I'm happy to go anywhere as long as I have my little girl with me!! Also, I should mention that we would fly in from Ohio and only spend about 5-6 days at best. We do not need to see and do everything!! Just enough to enjoy the park and have a good time!! Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance to anyone who responds!

Moose, Wyoming
Destination Expert
for Wyoming, Jackson, Jackson Hole
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6,417 posts
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1. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

Most Yellowstone visitors see the park from their cars and don't do any hiking - and still enjoy their visits. So I wouldn't let the limits on hiking dissuade you from coming. But your girl can't horseback ride, since the minimum age in the park is 8 yo. Horseback riding would be available at some places in Jackson Hole, if you get down this way on your vacation.

My impression is that most kids that age enjoy seeing the animals in Yellowstone, the beautiful scenery and getting exposed to the great outdoors. But I can't compare this with Disney, since we never took our kids there.

Dayton, Ohio
6 posts
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2. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

TetonBill - Thank you! This is the type of info I was looking for, meaning I didn't know she would have to be 8 years old to horseback ride. Also, The trip doesn't specifically have to be Yellowstone. It could be Teton or even Glacier National as well. We don't want to just see the park (s) from the car either. Some driving would be great, but we would love some "adventure" so to speak added in! Again, thank you very much for taking the time to respond! It was helpful and greatly appreciated sir.

Billings, Montana
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
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3. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

I started taking my daughter to the park by myself when she was 2 years old (she's now 34). The first two years we went we slept in the back of my little pinto station wagon with blankets and ate all of our food cold out of a cooler. I then slowly started buying tent camping gear and we went every summer for a week all the way through her junior high years. We always had a blast and to this day they remain fond memories.

I started taking my grandson to the park when he was 4 years old. He will be 15 in August. We now go to the park multiple times each year. He is my camping, bear watching, hiking, backpacking, photography buddy. Both of us look forward to our trips and are always planning our next one to Yellowstone Park or Glacier Park.

Yellowstone for kids is fantastic and 6 years old will be a good age. She will be able to partake in the Junior Ranger program. Get her a cheap camera and let her take her own pictures. Have a cooler meals and snacks. Let her help plan meals. I always had a map of Yellowstone Park and when we saw an animal we would write it on the map. You can make a bingo card with animals that you will see in the park and she can mark them off as you see them. It gets little kids interested in looking out the windows while driving around.

Be flexible and take the time for the little things. Sitting and watching unita ground squirrels for 30 minutes is a blast. Skipping rocks together at the shore of Yellowstone Lake. Don't worry about having to take long hikes as there are many attractions with very little walking. You can keep longer hikes to 1-2 miles if you want. Just take your time a long the way and it does not seem like a lot of walking.

Deb

Billings, Montana
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
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4. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

Junior Ranger Program

www.nps.gov/yell/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm

Young Scientist Program

nps.gov/yell/forteachers/youngscientist.htm

Ranger Activities for this summer to give you an idea whats available. There are activities/hikes for families.

nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/upload/YTRangerPr…

Deb

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
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109 reviews
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5. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

You've gotten advice from the best of the best. I will only add that I would not spend a minute looking for any kind of package vacation. We all will give you recommendations on number of days, hikes if you want to have some short interesting options, and places to stay.

If you are not camping, you can start looking at this website http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/ to see what kind of lodging is available. There are cabins at several of the places that are a great deal. With a Dad traveling with a 6 yr old daughter, I would probably go with ones with bathrooms in the rooms so you can supervise a bit more easily.

You all are going to have SO much fun!

Pam

Dayton, Ohio
6 posts
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6. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

Deb and Pam - thank you so much for the information! For me, these types of vacations are rare and I just want it to be a very special adventure for my little one! I especially agree with your advise on lodging with bathrooms in the room! She gets so embarrassed now when we go anywhere and I still have to take her in the men's/boys bathroom. I always have to hold her and we pull the "tuck your head on my shoulder and close your eyes" move until I can get to an open stall !! lol. We do laugh about it, but I know she wishes she could use the girls room! She always tell me it's ok if I use the girls room with her! lol. Another question I have would be if there are other opportunities for her to interact with children around her age? She loves her Daddy time, but loves to meet and have fun with other kids too! Again, thanks to all three of you for taking the time to respond!

Oklahoma City...
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283 posts
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7. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

We went in 2011 and our youngest was 7, still talks about going back, she loved it. Lots of short hikes, 1/2 mile to 2 miles. I would try to catch some of the ranger talks/hikes if you can. We learned a lot & enjoyed them as adults too. Here would be my suggestions:

-Junior Ranger Program in Yellowstone & Grand Tetons

-I bought a sticker book with license plates for our Road Trip for kids to look as we were driving, but they loved looking around in the parking lots in Yellowstone! Was crazy how many states they found parked. Might be a fun thing to do too!

-Food options in Yellowstone for kids, not the greatest, seemed mine had chicken or bow tie pasta about every meal. We usually ate from cooler for breakfast & dinner while watching for wildlife. Grabbed lunch while checking out visitor centers or different areas of the park.

-We loved the Frontier cabins at Lake Hotel, cute & yellow. Older but clean, request a freestanding cabin in the back.

-Next trip we are staying at Roosevelt so we can be close to Lamar Valley for early & late wildlife viewing.

-Get her a digital camera (doesn't need to be expensive) & borrow a pair of binoculars, so that each one of you have a pair.

-They also have a "passport" for National Parks, that you can take & stamp at the visitor centers. Might be a fun thing for her to do.

-I think somewhere in the park you can "adopt" an animal for a fee & you get a stuffed animal, proceeds go to research, etc. I know you can go to www.wwf.org, but I think there are some specifically related to Yellowstone, wolf, bison, etc. Great Christmas gift to get her excited!

-they also make National park games, uno, yatzee, cards, that could be fun to order & use & take on the trip.

Smithtown, New...
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220 posts
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8. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

Cole, I went in late June with my 7 year old daughter. She had a little trouble on some of the tougher hikes, both of which were short but steep (Uncle Tom's Trail and Brink of the Upper Falls). On the former many adults were out of breath on their way back up, even though it is .75 miles total or less. So maybe skip that one. Tower Falls, at the bottom it gets a little difficult navigating on the dirt/sand to reach the 'beach'. However there are many flat trails 3 mikes and under including Natural Bridge in lake area that she may be fine with. The geysers and mud volcanos on te West side you drive to then and walk around for 5-45 minutes. You don't have to camp it, can do cabins. She will have a blast, I believe! Check out our trip report to see how my little girl enjoyed herself:

https://1quest2thenext.wordpress.com

La Jolla, California
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9. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

We took our kiddos in 2012, and our youngest was 7. On our drive to Yellowstone this year (I'm hooked) he asked, "Mom this is an annual trip, right?"

There is a lot of driving, and when our kids are burnt out, but we are sure there is a bear around the corner, we let them play on the ipad or watch a movie in the car (we have a DVD player factory installed, but a portable one works just fine too).

Just tonight at dinner my daughter was explaining to me the ecological impact of rainbow trout on the cutthroat trout population.

Our kids have been to Disneyworld and being southern Californians, we've had Disneyland annual passes for several years in a row. Go to Yellowstone! It might become your annual trip. (FYI 2014 booked already)

Edited: 23 July 2013, 04:55
Mesa, AZ
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10. Re: Yellowstone with a 6 year old?

And, most important, is safety. Hold her hand on the boardwalks at the thermal fields. Stay back and away from the bison and elk--no "kodak moments." Don't feed any of the cute little critters running about--they do bite. And, assume that every car passing by you as you stand/walk along the roadway or through a parking lot, is being driven by someone who is paying NO attention to you, but is busy looking at the fabulous views, the wonderful wildlife, or checking to see if their cell phone is working....