By: Jordan of Jordan & Co
Well we just got back from our trip to Big Sky and I have so much to share with you!
I’m going to tray to answer some of the most-asked questions! Let’s start with our itinerary: Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park with Kids
BIG SKY & YELLOWSTONE ITINERARY
- Day One: We flew into Jackson Hole, rented an SUV & spent the day exploring Jackson Town Square (which is ADORABLE- make sure you pop into Jackson Drug Co for a milkshake, Mursell’s Sweet Shop for some treats, and get some “Old Timey Photos” taken in town!) We then drove through Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) to check out some bison and to hit up Cunningham Cabin…which I was DYING to see! The kids and I have been reading lots of historical fiction chapter books based on prairie life and early settlers, so they thought walking through an original log cabin from the 1800s was the coolest! (for a list of great book suggestions, scroll to the bottom!)
- After checking out GTNP for a bit, we started our drive through Yellowstone up to Big Sky, MT. The drive was estimated at 3.5hrs but because of the backed up ONE lane roads through the National Parks, the drive took us over 6 hours! If you have an RV, love to sight see, and are not in a rush- I 100% recommend the scenic drive. We, however, had a cranky toddler, family that was expecting our arrival three hours earlier and NO cell service to call them to let them know we were safe & en route. Yikes!
- Once in Big Sky, we reunited with family & ordered pizzas in from Ousel and Spur!
- Day Two: Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center *be sure to arrive early and sign your kids up for the bear feeding activity! (we arrived at 9:30am) The kids loved seeing the animals, getting a “Keeper Kid” animal button, and getting to go into the bear habitat (sans bears) to hide food for the bears! We ate lunch at Wild West Pizzeria and stopped in for coffee at Mountain Mama’s Cafe in the town of Madison. We had dinner at By Word of Mouth.
- Day Three: Up at 6:30 for our Tour of Yellowstone (by far my favorite day of the trip!). We used seeyellowstone.com for the 8 hour tour. Be sure to ask for Don! He was wonderful!!! We loaded up all the carseats into the private bus and had the most amazing day touring the southern loop of Yellowstone with the most knowledgeable guide! That night we cooked pasta & went to bed EARLY!
- Lower Falls from Lookout Point
- Bison viewing at Hayden Valley
- Grand Prismatic lookout from Fairy Falls Trail
- Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Flat
Things to see in Lower Loop of Yellowstone:
- Firehole Waterfall
- Old Faithful
- Day Four: lazy morning, followed by The Marina at Lake Levinsky for fishing and lake activities. Then we went over to Big Sky Base Camp to explore. We ate lunch at the Hungry Moose and let the kids explore all the fun outdoor activities! That night we ordered dinner in from Andiamo Italian Grille & played cards.
- Day Five: woke up early and set off for a hike to Ousel Falls! We split off and half the group grabbed sandwiches from Roxy’s and the other half ate at Lotus Pad. After lunch we went horseback riding at Ranch 320. Ages 8+ were allowed to go out on the trail, and ages 4-8 were able to do a guided “totes ride”. After that we went right over to Gallatin Riverhouse Grill for dinner, which was super fun!
- Day Six: departure from Bozeman airport (1 hour and 20 minute drive…much better than the 6+ drive from Jackson!)
Where to Stay When Visiting Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park
Accommodations: We stayed at Villa Hunt’s View & booked through Luxuryretreats.com. The house was beautiful and big enough for our group of 12, however, it’s important to note that getting into Yellowstone was a 1.5 hour drive from our house. If you plan on being in Yellowstone every day, I suggest staying someplace closer, OR in the park. Lake Yellowstone Hotel or Old Faithful Inn are both in-park accommodations, and though convenient, both are very pricey. Another option is to use RVShare and stay really close! You can arrive at Yellowstone (or nearby) and your RV is waiting for you. There are even RVshare rentals that you can pick up, all set up, at a campsite in or near the park. An RV rental with kids doesn’t get much easier than that! For more on RVshare, check out this blog post: RVshare for Family Travel.
BIG SKY RESTAURANTS
- Lotus PadFresh, fun, organic Asian cuisine
- Andiamo Italian Grille yummy Italian food with kid-friendly options.
- By Word of Mouth Relaxed locale serving seasonal, globally influenced bistro fare, plus beer, wine & house cocktails.
BIG SKY SUMMER ACTIVITIES
- Pole Fishing & Lake Activities
- Zip Lining
- Fly Fishing
- Horseback Riding
- Beehive Basin
- Ousel Falls
- Storm Castle
- Yellow Mule to Buck Ridge
- The North Fork Trail
- Hummocks and Uplands (relatively short, multi-use, right in town center)
- Lava Lake (fairly family friendly with no really steep pitches. Note: this can get very busy during the weekend)
*10 Tips for Traveling to Yellowstone with Kids*
1. Read up! Get a few fiction and non-fiction books to read & explore with your kiddos before hand. Educational trips like this are always best if everyone has some prior knowledge. Here are a few kid-friendly books I loved (please read the reviews and decide on age-appropriateness for your children)
- Fiction: Mr. Tucket, Little House Series, Pioneer Sisters (LH chapter books), Magic Tree House Twister on Tuesday, Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, Sarah Plain and Tall, The Courage of Sarah Noble, Adventures in Yellowstone, Caddie Woodlawn
- Non Fiction: What I saw in Yellowstone, Junior Ranger Activity Book, NatGeo Kids National Park Guide, Compass American Guides: Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks (I loved this one for me!), Yellowstone Country, Eye Spy Yellowstone Big Book (saw this in several gift shops and it looks AMAZING for planning a trip!)
2. Passes! If you plan on hitting up 3 or more National Parks in a year, ask about the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. It’s $80 and gives you entry to all National Parks in the USA for a year.
3. When you Gotta Go….! Consider a travel urinal if traveling with small children. The sporadic bathrooms around the park vary in cleanliness. And sometimes there isn’t one near when your little one HAS to go! I like these for little kids, or this travel potty if you have more luggage flexibility. I’m not gonna lie, I totally would’ve used one of these a few times if we had them with us!!
4. Service & Traffic! Be aware that the roads inside the national parks are one lane! If there is a hold up, you WILL be stuck in your car waiting. Bring car games, ipads, snacks and water! Also, note that there is ZERO cell service (at least for us) in the parks. Make sure someone knows where you are and where you are going before entering the park. We got stuck an extra three hours on a backed-up road and had no way of calling family to let them know we were safe & en route.
5. Keep your Car Stocked! We kept a cooler filled with water & light snacks in the car at ALL times. This came in very handy after a long hike & during long car rides! We brought this yeti cooler backpack and Ryan used it as his carry-on on the plane and then we used it the entire trip as a cooler. I also kept a big bag in the trunk at all times with towels, bathing suits, rain coats, a light change of clothes, hats, and fleece jackets. The weather turned on us almost daily and it was nice to be prepared on-site, rather than wish we had the jacket we packed but left at the house/hotel an hour away. The bathing suits and towels are especially great to have on hand if you come across a fun swimming area unexpectedly! And the rain coats (with hoods) also came in VERY handy almost daily.
6. Be Comfortable! Wear layers & comfortable shoes! You’ll be doing lots of walking/hiking and don’t be surprised if you are sweating one minute and chilly the next. Not a bad idea to carry a small first aid kit in your hiking backpack with bandaids for blisters/small cuts!
7. Bear Spray! Buy it before you go, carry it everywhere! On site, it cost upwards of $50 whereas you can find it on Amazon for under $30! This is the one I packed: BEAR SPRAY (note: it IS available to rent for about $8 a day if you’d rather not bring your own.)
8. Baby Safety! If traveling with young children, I HIGHLY advise a hiking backpack and/or child harness. There are MANY areas of Yellowstone that are very dangerous for small children who may not obey rules. We kept Max in the backpack when we were near any/all steep lookouts/cliffs and when we visited the dangerous geysers and hot springs. THIS was the hiking backpack we brought and THIS was the harness. Listen, I used to judge the moms who put their kids on a leash….until I had Max! When in dangerous situations, safety comes before all else!
9. Hire a Guide! If it’s in the budget, I 100% recommend getting a Yellowstone tour guide! They know traffic patterns, the best areas for animal spotting, and can answer all of your questions throughout the day! We used seeyellowstone.com and had the BEST guide, Don!
10. Be respectful, be safe! Seems like common sense, but some words of wisdom: leave the land as you found it, pick up your trash, don’t leave food out, obey rules and signs (they are there for a reason!) and stay a good distance away from wild animals; they are dangerous and unpredictable! And lastly, have fun!!! Yellowstone was an adventure of a lifetime and a trip my family and I will NEVER forget!