I was hoping to get some feedback from ya'all about traveling with a 3-year-old to Yellowstone on a two week RVing trip in Aug/Sep 2011. I'd like to ask those that have been to Yellowstone with a 3-year old (plus or minus a half-year in age) to tell me the pros and cons in your experience.
My friend's family will be traveling in their own RV, but we'll be vacationing/RVing together. My friend thinks that maybe her 3-year old might not get a lot out of the trip (like maybe she's too young to really appreciate Yellowstone). We initially planned on doing the Grand Circle in Utah (most of the Nat'l Parks) but I'm thinking that Yellowstone would be more appealing to the kids, being that there are bison on the roads, elk to see, etc. The number of days in the RV would be the same for both trips, but Utah ends up being about 600 miles longer over the two weeks. Any opinions whether Yellowstone or Utah would be better for a 3-yr old?
Our Yellowstone itinerary would be something like the following:
Auburn to Angel Creek Campground in Wells, NV.
Wells, NV to Rainbow Pt Campground near the west entrance of Yellowstone, then stay at Rainbow Pt Campground for 3 nights.
--Day trips to (1) Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Geyser Basin, and (2) Lower Geyser Basin
Then to Tower Falls Campground or Pebble Creek Campground for 3 nights
--check out Grand Canyon and Tower Falls
--check out Lamar Valley
then to Fishing Bridge RV Parkfor 2 nights
--check out Hayden Valley on the way to Fishing Bridge
Any spots particularly appealing for 3 year olds (ones that I missed)?
Thanks for any and all input!
We used to live in Jackson but before children. We visited Jackson when they were three so here are some thoughts about my observations from that trip and my memories of trips to Yellowstone.
When we were visiting Jackson and camping in the Gros Ventres with the children, they were interested in picking through rocks and looking at tiny stuff or big animals. We found no big animals - NONE and they had no interest in the scenery. We knew this would be the case but were really bummed we could find no big wildlife. We'd lived in the immediate area where we were camped and had often gotten stopped while driving because of bison in the road, herds of elk crossing the road, moose chomping in the sage flats, eagles perched along the river, pronghorn running across the flats, you name it and once we had the children with us, we couldn't find anything. Big bummer.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Yellowstone is the reliability of getting a campground space along your exact schedule. I'm not sure about RV parks (we always tented) but I thought the NPS campgrounds don't take reservations and Yellowstone is busy busy BUSY in the summer. Okay, I reread your post and see you're talking about Aug/Sept. My experience was that it generally snows at least once (and not just a dusting) but the beginning of September, even in the valley floor. The crowds usually all but disappear after Labor Day weekend (relatively speaking, of course).
A lot of the wildlife viewing happens while people are driving around. Will you have a car to drive also or will you spend time driving the RV? Bear jams happen with a fair degree of regularity, where you'll run into a crazy traffic back up and folks will just park on the road, get out and walk to find whatever the crowd is looking at. If you've not been to Yellowstone, the roads are narrow and that would make me a tad nervous with small children.
Will you plan to do a lot of hiking while there? Are the children good with that? If so, I'd super make sure you've got a plan for getting them off the ground and being careful with being in the backcountry because all the critters will be in "prepare for winter" mode and busy gathering food everywhere.
The geysers could be fun with little people. I don't know. I am generally a "bring children anywhere, not let anything phase me" kind of person but as I think through my time in Wyoming and now having children, I'm not sure I'd spend the time or effort with them to go to Yellowstone for a few more years and my two are already six. I'm sure you could have a great trip but wildlife viewing can involve a lot of still time and Yellowstone is so big and the roads are slow going (35 mph -ish) and windy and that may not be terribly appealing with small children and hiking, even without children, leaves me edgy there because of the huge wildlife. Grizzly bears are the one critter that make me a tad nervous.
Have you considered going to Jackson Hole and visiting the Tetons instead?
Have fun continuing to figure out what you're going to do!
We brought ds to Yellowstone when he was 3.5. It was great: the scenery doesn't just sit there, it does stuff! He could have looked at geysers and mudpots for hours. It was exciting to see elk, bison right next to the car, and even a bear (from a distance). We did a boat ride on Yellowstone Lake. Ds was (is) very independent and not big on holding hands, so I was a little worried about him falling off a boardwalk into a hot spring, but it was fine. (I did pack a toddler leash, but never used it.)
We stayed in a cabin in the center of the park, and drove to different areas each day. Most of the 'main attractions' are a very easy walk from the parking lot. We did some medium hikes to get away from the road (maybe 3-5 miles round trip?) and ds was fine walking on his own.
I haven't taken DD to Yellowstone yet as we're planning that for this coming summer but we have been to Yosemite. Would that be of help to you?
R~Mama to my sweet A 7//07 & bubbly Z 3/12
AND due 9/13
I worked in Yellowstone for a season and have visited there with young children (once with just myself, a 2 1/2yr old and a 4 1/2-yr old; again with my husband, 9yr DS, 7yr DS & 3 1/2 yr DS). My kids have loved it both times. Some things I'll mention -
- Make sure you plan enough time, as travel within the park is very slow.
- Kids must be able to behave so they will not go off the boardwalks; mine did just fine with reminders to "walk" and "stay back from the edge" with hand-holding in particular areas. When I had the 2 1/2 yr old, he only walked a bit of the time, holding my hand, & the rest of the time I carried him in an Ergo.
- Be very cautious of the wildlife. I was amazed, working there, how many folks did not understand that although the animals come right up to people/vehicles, they are wild and unpredictable. Never go near the animals. If you go in the fall, the elk will be all over - I worked at Mammoth & in the fall, there were herds that would hang out right around the buildings. If you happen across a traffic jam due to wildlife, stay in your car! Getting out is very hazardous - both from the vehicles and the animals. You'll likely still see whatever animal everyone is gawking at as you drive by.
- Most of the hiking you'll do with young kids will be the standard, boardwalk popular places, so be prepared for crowds. Our last trip wound up being overcast and rainy, which actually worked out great - it was cool enough to enjoy hiking and the occasional cloudbursts kept the crowds to a minimum (we were prepared with rain gear).
- Make sure you have an appropriate first aid kit and at least a small one to carry with you while walking around.
- My kids loved the geysers, but the best for them were the mud pots
- Relax & have fun!
Raechel, mom to 3 boys (J-14, K-11, & T-8), car seat tech/instructor, gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free cook, chicken-raising, wannabe gardener living on 5 acres.