Our family loves National Parks and Yellowstone has been high on my list for quite a while. You could easily spend a full week in Yellowstone National Park and not run out of things to do. The park is massive, which also means it’s full of long and beautiful drives throughout the park. We spent a week in Jackson, WY and decided to just do a day trip to Yellowstone.
In the future, I’d love to come back and spend more time in the park. For this trip, a few things factored into the decision to choose a more limited visit:
- We didn’t plan far enough in advance to stay inside the park. Hotels book out months (or even a full year) in advance and so there were no options for us.
- The long drives are amazing, but less ideal for a toddler. Once Jimmy is a little older, this will be a much better option.
- There is so much to do in the surrounding area, we wanted to do a little bit of everything!
We did tons of research and ended up with an awesome itinerary for a day trip to Yellowstone. To maximize the day, we started bright and early, leaving the hotel around 7:30am, and entering the park at the Southern entrance. Here is what we did:
West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb is the southwest area of Yellowstone lake and features tons of geothermal springs. There is a long circular walkway, taking you through all of the hot springs and along the lake. Jimmy loved running along the walkway and standing in the steam clouds coming up from the ground.
This was a great place to start because the kids can run around and exercise their legs before the long day.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Next, we headed north to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which was easily my favorite stop of the day. Head to Artist’s Point for some incredible canyon and waterfall views. From there, we hiked up to Lily Pad Lake. The hike takes you along the side of the canyon for a few different viewpoints. You can also drive over to the Upper and Lower Falls viewpoints for a different perspective.
I recommend stopping at the Grand Canyon visitor center. We grabbed some snacks and drinks there and then stamped Jimmy’s passport in the souvenir shop.
The drive from the Grand Canyon to Old Faithful is over an hour, so this was a great nap opportunity. Jimmy took advantage of it and napped for well over an hour – the heat really tires him out. Originally, we planned to stop at the Grand Prismatic Springs, but the parking situation was wild so we skipped it. We’d seen a few smaller hot springs at West Thumb earlier anyway.
Our final destination was Old Faithful. When we arrived, we checked when the next eruption was going to be. Since there was plenty of time, we grabbed a late lunch at the restaurant before lining up for Old Faithful. Like its name suggests, Old Faithful was right on time and Jimmy absolutely loved it.
By now, Jimmy was thoroughly exhausted so we headed back to the hotel for a quick dinner and then off to bed. Our day trip to Yellowstone was basically the highlights of the South Loop. If we had another day, my next stop would probably be Mammoth Hot Springs at the top of the North Loop. But, I could easily fill another few days with tons of options!
Oh, and don’t forget to always keep your eyes peeled for wildlife — you’ll find them everywhere!
What are your favorite places in Yellowstone?