15 Fun Things To Do In One Day In Jackson Hole

We were on a week-long family vacation to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks when we found ourselves in Jackson Hole for the day with zero plans. After scouring my guidebook for the region — and figuring out why I could only find activities listed for Jackson, not Jackson Hole — we had a game plan. Here’s a list of fun things to do for in Jackson if you find yourself with a free day there.

Jackson vs. Jackson Hole

First off, Jackson Hole is confusing if you’re asking people about it AND using a guidebook.

When everyone heard we were going to Grand Teton National Park, they all asked if we were going to Jackson Hole. So I pictured Jackson Hole as being a city, a specific destination. As it turns out, Jackson Hole is an entire valley, Jackson is the city.

Yes, so when people say they went to Jackson Hole, most likely, they went to the posh town of Jackson. It’s known to attract celebrities and fun-seeking families.

Most of what we did in “Jackson Hole” actually took place in Jackson.

COVID-19 Update

We visited Jackson Hole in the summer of 2020, so there were many safety measures in place to keep the public and employees safe. Here are a few I noticed:

  • Masks were required to enter most businesses.
  • Hand sanitizer was placed at the entrance of many businesses.
  • Employees wore masks.
  • Some stores had arrows indicating the flow of traffic.
  • Many people wore masks while walking on the sidewalks, which made sense – the sidewalks were pretty crowded when we visited.

Check for health updates before your trip to Jackson Hole. Read about local, county and state-wide conditions here.

Snow King Resort in the summer

On the edge of town, Snow King Resort rises into the mountains. In the summer, it becomes a playground for little daredevils who want to race down the mountain on an Alpine slide or the thrilling Cowboy Coaster

I did both, and let me tell you, as an adult, the coaster feels less like I was hurdling down the mountain precariously.

Kim riding the Cowboy Coaster in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Our visit was an impromptu one, so we did not have the chance to make reservations, which would be essential if you want to do the Tree Adventure ropes course. We arrived at around noon and it was full for the day.

It’s usually included in the all-day pass, which we’d bought. There is no discount on the pass, by the way, if the ropes course is full or things like the bungee trampoline are closed. (The all-day pass is $125.)

The all-day pass includes unlimited rides down the slide and coaster, putt-putt golf, and the maze. We visited in a Monday and enjoyed no lines, allowing the kids many, many rides down the mountain.

I’d recommend weighing the option of purchasing ride passes a la carte. While my kids were content to ride the Cowboy Coaster over and over again, if yours are satisfied with one ride, just get the one ride pass for it. It costs $20.

People riding the alpine slides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Things to do in downtown Jackson

I’ll admit, the downtown area is more enticing for shoppers than kids looking for fun activities. There’s a lovely bookstore called Valley Bookstore, a Five and Dime, and tons of souvenir shops.

And if you’re there without kids, there are quite a few saloons including the well-known Cowboy Bar with saddles for seats.

My kids were content playing in at Jackson Town Square. It’s a green space with no playground, but plenty of room to run and play hide and seek. Plus, there were ground squirrels, which seemed to fascinate all kids there.

Real antlers were used to create the iconic sculptures at Jackson Town Square in Jackson Hole.

You know you’re at the city park when you come across the antler arcs at the four corners of the park! They’re pretty iconic, and many people snap a selfie in front of them.

Nearby, a horse-drawn stagecoach trots by occasionally, which always caused my kids to pause and watch.

Where to eat in Jackson with kids

We weren’t in Jackson for long, but we did have a few great meals and ice cream. For good pizza, head to Pizzeria Caldera located pretty near the park in downtown Jackson. The pizzeria is on the second floor and we nabbed a table on the balcony overlooking the busy sidewalks below.

My husband and I split pizzas with creative flavor combos like Pera Cipolle (white sauce, mozzarella, red onion, anjou pear, applewood smoked bacon, gorgonzola, balsamic reduction) and Porcellino (tomato sauce, mozzarella, house-made pork sausage, applewood smoked bacon, mushrooms, spinach, roasted garlic, fresh sage).

Porcellino pizza at Pizzeria Caldera in Jackson, Wyoming

The kids stuck with their standard go-to topping, pepperoni.

If you like local beer and pub food, Snake River Brewing Co. is a family-friendly brewery in Jackson. It’s about a half-mile from Snow King Resort, so it made for a great end-of-day meal. There is a kid’s menu and the serving sizes for kids are huge.

The brewery has a beautiful outdoor eating area but we were so hot from our day at Snow King, we opted for the quieter indoor space.

Outdoor at Snake River Brewing Company in Jackson, Wyoming.

We had ice cream at Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream, a shop that’s within walking distance of Jackson Town Square. It was a very popular ice cream shop with some outside seating.

Plan a fun day in Jackson Hole, Wyoming! Use this list to find fun things to do in Jackson Hole, good restaurants to try, and outdoor places to play in the area.

What’s near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

It’s no secret, Jackson Hole is in a beautiful part of the country. Its proximity to TWO national parks is notable. If you are planning a trip to Jackson Hole, I highly recommend visiting both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

Here are a few things to do at the parks:

Easy hikes at Grand Teton National Park

Easy hikes at Yellowstone National Park

This cabin puts you between Grand Teton and Yellowstone

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Try These Awesome (And Easy) Grand Teton Hikes

I spent a great amount of time researching possible hikes for my family’s visit to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. My kids are 8 and 10, so old enough for a few miles, but young enough to complain if it got to be too long or difficult. The kind of trail we sought needed to be less than 3 or so miles and easy terrain.

If you’re looking for a scenic but not-too-challenging hike, read on!

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These great hikes at Grand Teton National Park are easy and less than 3 miles long. The trails suggested are good for families and beginner hikers.

Where to find easy trails in Grand Tetons

Full disclosure: Some of you might think the second trail isn’t really a “hike.” That’s a fair opinion, but if you’re traveling with little ones or someone who needs an accessible trail, it’s a good hike. Trust me.

Both trails start at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, which has ample parking (though it does fill up). 

Hiking around Jenny Lake at Grand Tetons National Park offers many scenic views

I know what you’re thinking: Grand Teton National Park is SO big, couldn’t you find other trails? 

Well, yes, and I had several in mind when I was planning our trip. In fact, I had several picked out that were marked for “Best Hikes for Children,” “Best for Wildlife Watching” and “Best for Great Views,” which I had found in the excellent Falcon Guides book “Best Easy Day Hikes: Grand Teton National Parks.”

Moose Ponds Trail: Looking for wildlife

We settled on Moose Ponds trail after reading the Falcon Guides book. It was ranked high for wildlife watching, and being just at 2.6 miles and marked Easy, it sounded just right for our first outing. 

Father and son hiking at Grand Teton National Park

The start of the hike is at the very popular Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center, and at first, it’s a paved trail. This part is an accessible path down to the lake, and if you have pretty young kids, it may be all you need for family to experience nature.

But, keep going, because it gets even more beautiful and the crowds start to thin out.

The bridge by the boat ferry dock at Jenny Lake

To get to Moose Ponds, you need to walk south of Jenny Lake, crossing the bridge at the boat ferry dock. Most people will stop here to take the ferry; you’ll want to keep walking.

The well-worn trail at this point is dirt with rocks jutting out here or there. It’s still pretty easy to hike, but keep your eye on the ground to not trip.

FYI: There is a parking lot at the boat launch parking, but it is for those launching boats, not hikers.

The trail you’re on now is Valley Trail. Be on the lookout for a sign marking Moose Ponds, you’ll want to head to the left at that point when most everyone else is continuing on Valley Trail.

Sign for Moose Ponds Loop Trail at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Moose Ponds trail feels remote, when it really isn’t. I’ll admit, we were a little nervous about bears and, well, the trail’s namesake, moose. It feels remote, but it really isn’t., though.

Besides birds, we saw a marmot and lots of clues to the busy life of the resident beavers. But, there were no huge animal sightings.

We did cross a few streams and saw waterfalls in the distance, so overall, I’d say it was a wonderful hike.

Girl reaching for a stream at a crossing on Moose Ponds Trail

It felt a little longer than 2.6 miles, by the way. Just ask my kids.

The trail at Jenny Lake Visitor Center

The trail at Jenny Lake starts at, you guessed it, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center. I highly recommend this trail for this with limited mobility or really young kids who can’t walk far. It’s paved, it leads to beautiful views of the lake, and it’s very easy.

A paved path leading to Jenny Lake at Grand Teton National Park

There are benches throughout this trail, which are good for resting, but also highlight a different animal in the park. My kids thought it was funny that it not only showed the animal’s tracks, but its poop, too.

Adapting your plans on a national park vacation

I wish I could say we hiked more in Grand Teton National Park, but time ran short. Our other “long” easy hike was going to be Hidden Falls trail. Our plans changed after one kid fell during a pit stop to the hike to take in the lake views.

Open field at Grand Teton National Park

We decided hiking wasn’t in the cards and opted for a fun day in Jackson, Wyoming (AKA Jackson Hole). I’ll be sharing a blog post about that day in Jackson soon, but suffice to say it was exactly what my family needed that day, after all.

Plan a Grand Teton National Park Trip

Want to do more than just a quick hike in Grand Teton National Park? We stayed three nights at Grand Teton. We combined three nights in Grand Teton National Park with two nights in Yellowstone National Park. They’re very close to each other!

By the way, we went in mid-June and it was the perfect time to see the wildflowers bloom.

Field of wildflowers at Grand Teton National Park in June

Read these upcoming posts to learn more about Grand Teton National Park:

These Cabins Put You Between Grand Teton & Yellowstone

Everything You Need To Know About COVID Protocols At Grand Teton National Park

10 Fun Things To Do In One Day At Jackson Hole

Kid-Friendly Restaurants In Jackson Hole

If you want to read more about what we did in Yellowstone, be sure to read these posts:

7 Easy Hikes In Yellowstone National Park

Everything You Need To Know About COVID Protocols At Yellowstone

Things To Expect If Your Stay In A Canyon Lodge Cabin In Yellowstone

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Looking for an easy trails at Grand Teton National Park, one that's either accessible or easy enough for kids? Read this post about awesome and easy hikes at Grand Teton! #NationalParks #USA #Wyoming

Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Protocols At Grand Teton National Park

This year has been a strange and troubling one for all of us, and what my family needed was a getaway to the outdoors. Grand Teton National Park offered wide open spaces to be social distant while on vacation. But, as you can imagine, it wasn’t business as usual there. Read on to find out what to expect if you visit Grand Teton during the pandemic.

** Everything is subject to change after this post has gone live. We were at the park at the end of June 2020 and COVID-19 health and operational guidelines may change. Please check the Grand Teton National Park official website for the most up-to-date information.

Everything you need to know about visiting Grand Teton National Park in 2020 | What are the COVID-19 safety protocols at Grand Teton National Park | What's open and what is closed during the 2020 pandemic

COVID-19 protocol at Grand Teton National Park

The park has taken many steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The one that will impact any visit is the closures of many buildings like visitor centers and ranger stations.

Places that are open, like some restaurants (for take-out only) and gift shops, encourage face masks, hand sanitizer and capacity limits. You’ll also encounter Plexiglass barriers in retail areas.

Here’s an example of our experience: The gift shop at Jenny Lake, for instance, had an employee at the door keeping track of the amount of people who entered, so a line formed outside.

The line at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose had an even longer line outside since it was not only a line for the gift shop, but a line to get park permits.

A view of the boat dock at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

There are plenty of signs throughout the park reminding people to maintain 6 feet of social distance. 

It was pretty easy to keep a safe distance from people while hiking at Grand Teton. People tried their best to keep 6 feet apart, even while waiting in line at the Jenny Lake boat launch.

Tip: Hikers can take the short boat ride from the dock at Jenny Lake to trails on the other side, including the popular Hidden Fall Trail. The boat ride is an additional fee.

Related post: COVID-19 Safety Protocols at Yellowstone National Park

What are the crowds like at Grand Teton?

I can’t tell you how crowd levels compare to previous visits since this was my first time at the park. However, I imagine summer is typically busy, especially with the return of Grizzly 399.

Kids and photographers watching Grizzly 399 and her cubs in the distance at Grand Teton National Park

We saw her and her cubs, by the way! Granted, we saw them all from very, very far away with the help of binoculars. But still. We saw them!

We tended to encounter a decent size crowd when we stopped at convenience stores. The largest crowd, though, was at Jenny Lake.

The paved path is very popular, but once you got a little ways off the path, the crowd thinned out. Our hike around Moose Ponds, which starts at the Jenny Lake area, was almost entirely ours alone.

Which restaurants are open at Grand Teton

We stayed at a cabin at Grand Teton National Park and it didn’t have a kitchen nor a fire pit outside. So, we did have to get food from time to time beyond our Nutella and Cheerios.

For one breakfast, we grabbed sandwiches at the convenience store at Headwaters. We heated them up at the convenience store.

For another, we got breakfast burritos at the convenience store at Signal Mountain. If you’re a coffee drinker, get the coffee there instead of the coffee at the Headwaters convenience store.

Other dining options that were open (take-out only):

  • Sheffields at Flagg Ranch
  • Colter Bay Convenience Store and Gas Station at Colter Bay Village
  • Ranch House at Colter Bay Village
  • John Colter Cafe Court at Colter Bay Village

What else is open at Grand Teton right now?

As I mentioned before, gift shops were open. Not a whole lot of people wearing masks, save for a handful of families and all employees.

Interior of Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming

Some visitor’s centers were open, though, when we visited, certain areas were still closed within the buildings. What’s open:

  • The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose (exhibits and the auditorium were not open)
  • Colter Bay Visitor Center
  • Jenny Lake Ranger Station

The Jenny Lake Visitor Center, LSR Preserve Center, and Flagg Ranch Information Station are not open for the 2020 summer season.

Horseback riding has not reopened, but there are quite a few other guided activities that are open:

  • Mountaineering
  • Kayaking
  • Float trips
  • Fishing trips

If something isn’t listed here as being open, check the park’s Operating Hours page to see if/when it will reopen in 2020.

Where can you stay overnight at Grand Teton National Park?

I booked our three nights in a cabin at Headwaters at Flagg Ranch two weeks before our trip. In my mind, that’s extremely last minute, considering I tried to book Jenny Lake cabins more than a year in advance. I think that availability is unusual unless there was a cancellation.

Exterior of a cabin at Headwaters Lodge & Cabins in Grand Teton National Park

Want to see what’s available this summer? Here’s the lodging that is open:

  • Headwaters Lodge & Cabins
  • Signal Mountain Lodge
  • Triangle X Dude & Guest Ranch at Moran
  • Colter Bay Cabins
  • Colter Bay Tent Cabins

These are the open campgrounds:

  • Headwaters Campground and RV Park
  • Gros Ventre Campground at Moose
  • Jenny Lake Campground
  • Signal Mountain Campground
  • Colter Bay Campground and RV Park
  • Lizard Creek Campground

Plan a vacation to Grand Teton National Park

In the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing more stories about our trip to Grand Teton (and nearby Yellowstone National Park). Stay tuned for more stories about:

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These Cabins Put You Between Yellowstone & Grand Teton

With Grand Teton National Park being so close to Yellowstone National Park, it’s pretty common to visit both on a trip. We did it this summer and found a great cabin in Grand Teton that just happens to be 2 miles from Yellowstone: Headwaters Lodge & Cabins. 

Where are the Headwaters Cabins within the Grand Teton National Park?

Headwaters is located at Flagg Ranch on the far north end of Grand Teton National Park. While a lot of the park’s attractions that we were interested in, especially Jenny Lake, were on the other end of the park, we enjoyed driving through the park to get to our cabin.

Entrance to Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

It’s even further (about an hour) to drive to Jackson, Wyoming. Go there if you want a variety of shops, restaurants, and kid-pleasing tourist activities.

The good thing about the location of Headwaters?

Headwaters is very near Yellowstone National Park, making it almost a no-brainer that you should visit both parks. Separate entrance fee applies, though.

COVID-19 measures in place

**We stayed three nights at the cabin in June 2020, so while there were measures in place then, they could very well change before your visit. Read more about Grand Teton COVID-19 safety measures

Check-in for Headwaters cabins is at the lodge, where you’ll notice the hand sanitizer outside and signage prior to entering.

We wore masks indoors, and you’ll find that less than 50% will too when you go in. Employees wore masks at the lodge and the nearby convenience store.

The cabins didn’t have regular housekeeping.

The restaurant in the lodge did not offer a dine-in service; you could only order take-out. We found this to be the case throughout Grand Teton National Park, as well as when we visited Yellowstone National Park.

What the Grand Teton Headwaters cabins are like

There are two options for cabins, as well as tent and lodge accommodations (though in 2020, the lodge is not open). 

We reserved a deluxe cabin since it was the only one available, but also because it was the right size for our family of four. It had two queen size beds, a bathroom with a bathtub, and a small sitting area in front with two rocking chairs.

Exterior of a cabin at Headwaters Lodge & Cabins located in Grand Teton National Park, which is close to Yellowstone National Park.

I took zero pictures of the interior of the cabins because there really wasn’t anything to distinguish it from a regular hotel room. Set your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed.

The cabin is actually a building with four separate rooms to reserve. We never heard neighbors, so it did feel like we had the place to ourselves.

Like all accommodations inside the park, there was no TV, which just about ruined my kids’ lives. 

Just kidding.

But, there was no TV and there was no WiFi and it took a while for all of us to accept that it was a time to unplug.

There is no air conditioning but you also didn’t need it, even in June. It got pretty cold each night.

How much are the cabins?

The price of the cabins was pretty steep. I’m talking $300+ a night.

There are several lodging options, many with fewer amenities and therefore a better price. But, be warned: Not all lodges at Grand Teton are open due to COVID-19.

You may have better luck finding a cabin outside of the park with more amenities for a more reasonable price.

But you really can’t beat this location of Headwaters, so I’m torn between recommending you look elsewhere or spend big.

If you’re still convinced that these cabins are for you, I recommend booking as early as possible. While I snagged this cabin at the last minute (less than two weeks from our vacation start date), that is not common.

What’s near the cabins?

As you drive south from the cabin into Grand Teton National Park, you’ll pass several pullout stops with great views of Jackson Lake with the Grand Tetons towering behind it.

Wildflowers in June at Grand Teton National Park

We visited at the end of June during wild flower season, and it was stunning. 

This park is considerably smaller than Yellowstone National Park, so having a home base in the north part of the park was no big deal. During our drives through the park, we spotted several mama bears with cubs, even the famous Grizzly 399!

Watching from a safe distance as Grizzly 399 and her four cubs roam at Grand Teton National Park.

While seeing the famous grizzly and her cubs off in the distance was definitely a highlight, we saw a juvenile grizzly much closer to the road on our last night in the park.

Keep in mind this was in late June, so the bear activity will likely be different if you visit during a different season.

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Want to stay near two National Parks? We stayed at the Headwaters cabin inside Grand Teton National Park, which is just 2 miles away from Yellowstone National Park! Is this cabin right for your family? Read on for more details on booking a cabin at Grand Teton!

Everything You Want To Know About COVID-19 Protocols At Yellowstone National Park

People on the Grand Prismatic boardwalk in Yellowstone National Park

Our first trip to Yellowstone National Park was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Granted, Wyoming hasn’t been hit like other states, but it was still a little nerve-wracking when we decided to load up our car and make the road trip. How safe was it? Read on.

** Everything is subject to change after this post has gone live. We were at the park at the end of June 2020 and health and operational guidelines may change. For up-to-date operating hours, visit the Yellowstone website. Please read the CDC’s guidelines for visiting parks.

Safety measures at Yellowstone

The park has taken many steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The one that will impact any visit is the closures of many buildings like visitor centers and inns. Places that are open, like some restaurants (for take-out only) and gift shops, encourage face masks, hand sanitizer and capacity limits.

There are plenty of signs throughout the park reminding people to maintain 6 feet of social distance. I saw them at lookouts and on boardwalk trails. 

The popular Ranger chats were canceled while we were there, as well as most guided tours. * See the section below about which activities aren’t canceled.

What are the crowds like at Yellowstone?

I can’t tell you how crowd levels compare to previous visits since this was my first time at the park. However, I had been warned about crowds, and traffic jams, and I didn’t find much of that during our visit in what I had anticipated being peak summer crowd levels.

The most crowded area was at Old Faithful. There were a few people wearing masks outdoors, but the majority of the crowd did not. If you wanted to maintain social distancing and still have a good view, it was quite easy to do, though.

And side note: Parking at Old Faithful was not a problem, which I’m told is unheard of in the summer.

The crowd waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. There is a small sign in the background asking people to maintain 6 feet apart.

Tip: There are bathrooms near the general store at Old Faithful that will have less of a wait (or no wait) versus the bathrooms much closer to the geyser. There wasn’t much social distancing going on in the geyser bathroom line.

Key lookouts always had a handful of people there, but it was easy to keep 6 feet apart.

The only spots that were a little more difficult to maneuver around people were the boardwalks at Grand Prismatic and Mammoth Hot Springs. At least with Grand Prismatic, it was a one-way walking path. Mammoth Hot Springs had people coming and going down every path.

Related post: 7 Easy Hikes At Yellowstone National Park

Which restaurants are open at Yellowstone

We stayed at a cabin at Yellowstone National Park and it didn’t have a kitchen nor a fire pit outside. So, we did have to get food from time to time beyond our Nutella sandwiches. Luckily, there were some grills and dining rooms open – all for take-out, by the way. These were what were open in June 2020:

  • Old Faithful Cafeteria: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Get your ice cream here!)
  • Old Faithful Lodge Bake Shop: 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Old Faithful Snowlodge Geyser Grill: 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Canyon Lodge Eatery: 6:30 to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Lake Lodge Wiley’s Canteen: 6:30 to 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Mammoth Terrace Grill: 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Grant Village Dining Room: 6:30 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.

It was an interesting experience getting food there. Employees all wore masks but I rarely saw guests in line with masks, even indoors.

Some places, like the soda fountain at Canyon Lodge, served food to go in compostable containers.

What else is open at Yellowstone right now?

As I mentioned before, gift shops were open. Most seemed to have a single entrance and a separate exit to make sure the crowd went in one direction; though really, once you were inside, it was a free for all.

Exterior of the Yellowstone General Store near Old Faithful.

Again, not a whole lot of people wearing masks, save for a handful of families, and all employees. There were masked employees standing at the entrance and exit of the Yellowstone General Store.

The gift shops that were open when we visited were:

  • Old Faithful Lodge Gift Ship
  • Old Faithful Snow Lodge Gift Shop
  • Lake Hotel Gift Shop
  • Canyon Lodge Gift Shop
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Gift Shop

Along with those gift shops, you’ll find general stores open at Old Faithful, Mammoth, Canyon, Lake Area, Fishing Bridge, and Grant Village.

When I was planning this trip a year ago, I had dreams of chuckwagon dinners and, who knows, maybe some twilight ranger chats. Well, most ranger chats and most activities have been canceled this summer. What IS open? 

  • Horseback rides at Canyon Corrals
  • Guided fishing and sightseeing charters at Bridge Bay Marina. You can also rent boats there.
  • Rent bikes at Old Faithful Snow Lodge Gift Shop.

There are two medical clinics open, though luckily, we never needed to visit one. Find the open clinics at Mammoth and Old Faithful.

Where can you stay overnight at Yellowstone National Park?

I almost thought the trip I started planning in May 2019 was going to be canceled since the park delayed reopening some lodging. Luckily, the cabin we reserved in Canyon reopened a few days before our reservations.

At check-in, the clerks were wearing face masks and stood behind plexiglass windows. Our room keys were plastic cards, which were handed to us in small envelopes, presumably so we never had to touch the cards, just the envelopes.

Other accommodations that are open:

  • Lake Yellowstone Cabins
  • Lake Lodge Cabins
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Cabins
  • Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
  • Old Faithful Snow Lodge Cabins
Old Faithful Lodge Cabins have reopened for the summer of 2020, though nearby Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful Snow Lodge have not.

Tentatively, there are plans to open up Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Snow Lodge, Canyon Lodge, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel later this summer. See the predicted reopen dates here.

Most campgrounds are open, and many seemed to be full when we were there during the week. Reservations are highly recommended. To see which campgrounds are open and which are still closed, click here.

Roads that are closed

Unrelated to a pandemic, there are one road closure and construction that will affect visits in the summer of 2020. The biggie: The road between Tower-Roosevelt to Chittenden Road is closed. That closure will probably affect any of your North Loop plans. Check out the map of the road closure to get a better idea of how it will affect your plans.

There is also road construction near the North Entrance and along the Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond. Those closures didn’t really cause us a traffic headache for us, at least.

Plan a vacation to Yellowstone National Park

In the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing more stories about our trip to Yellowstone. Stay tuned for more stories!

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Want to visit Yellowstone National Park this year? Here's what to expect with new COVID-19 safety protocols. Plus, see what lodges and activities open and what's closed to better plan for your trip.

7 Easy Trails In Yellowstone National Park

Boy looking at Lower Falls in Yellowstone Grand Canyon

With two kids comfortable hiking in Nebraska, hitting trails in Yellowstone National Park was going to be a huge step up (not just in altitude). So, I sought easy trails that packed a lot of views or cool geologic features. Read on for which trails we did!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, making a purchase through an affiliate link helps bloggers like me continue doing what we love to do.

Explore Yellowstone National Park by trail! Here are kid-friendly and beginner-friendly trails to try at the park, some paved and accessible and others are more of a challenge.

How We Found These Trails In Yellowstone

I started planning this trip months in advance, highlighting possible “easy” hike options in Lonely Planet’s “Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks” guidebook. To be honest, though, the easy hikes listed in the book were still long ones for my kids, who are 8 and 10. 

We were able to find shorter routes of the suggested hikes in the book, though. Time to put those map-reading skills you learned long ago to good use.

A lot of our hikes were spur-of-the-moment hikes at quick stops as we drove around the park. If something catches your eye, stop! The park usually posts signs at parking lots with trail lengths.

What To Bring For Easy Hikes

Even for a short hike, it’s smart to be prepared in Yellowstone. Bring plenty of water and, if you’re going beyond boardwalks, bring snacks.

Comfortable hiking shoes are important. My kids have been wearing Keen boots for this trip and they’ve been light and durable.

Bug spray and sunscreen are other obvious needs. A hat is also a good idea. 

Raincoats are also smart. We left on a hike and it was sunny with puffy, “The Simpsons” type clouds. After about two hours, rain clouds rolled in and drenched us.

Family smiling after a rain-soaked hike in Yellowstone.

Guidebooks and park officials all highly recommend bringing bear spray. I suggest buying it before you make the trip to Wyoming. In Omaha, I could’ve bought it for under $30. On our way through Wyoming, every store we stopped at was sold out of it, so we ended up buying it inside Grand Teton National Park for $55. And, on several trails, I had my hand on it because we were in a remote enough and alone.

Yellowstone National Park trail safety

My advice is to listen to the experts. We followed all of the rules posted at Yellowstone regarding hiking safely, especially since you’re in Bear Country and could be on a trail passing a hydrothermal area.

You can find Yellowstone safety tips for hiking as well as day hike suggestions here.

Southern Loop Easy Trails

Lewis Falls

Time: 5-10 minutes

This short, but sweet, hike was our first to stumble upon when we entered the park from the south entrance. Lewis Falls is a 30-foot waterfall that’s visible from the road.

Kids walking up incline to see better view of Lewis Falls in Yellowstone National Park

I noticed that most who stopped snapped pictures from the small parking area and moved on. That’s fine, but they missed out on a short, dirt trail that takes you closer to the falls.

There is an incline at the beginning that is off-putting, but don’t let it deter you. In a matter of minutes, the trail ends at the falls.

It’s not as spectacular as some of the larger, well-known waterfalls, but it’s nice, short hike that let’s kids (or adults who “don’t do hiking”) feel adventurous.

Tip: If you don’t want to spend much time hiking to get a good view of a waterfall and you don’t want to deal with crowds, stop at Kepler Cascades.

Midway Geyser Basin trail

Time: 30 minutes 

The Midway Geyser Basin is home to one of the park’s biggest show stoppers: Grand Prismatic Spring. Its popularity is well deserved. The area is stunning and unearthly. It’s also pretty easy to get to, so you can expect a lot of people on the boardwalk with you.

Raised boardwalk trail around Grand Prismatic Spring area at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

By the way, the first unreal pool of water you encounter is huge and impressive. Many people stop here thinking it’s the main attraction.

Expect less than an hour to see all the sprigs, even if you linger and take a lot of selfies. I think we spent more time trying to get a parking spot than trekking up to see the sites.

Tip: Keep a close eye on kids. The boardwalk is wide but there are no rails on most of the path.

Lower Geyser Basin

Time: 20 minutes

This fairly short trail was very crowded when we visited, probably because there are a ton of unique geological sights packed into a small area.

Erupting Clepsydra Geyser at the Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

You’ll find the fascinating Fountain Paint Pot there, a bubbling spring. And while we were there, Clepsydra Geyser erupted.

It’s near the Midway Geyser Basin, so if you’re planning on seeing Grand Prismatic Spring (which I think you should), this is an easy stop to tack on.

Mud Volcano Area

Time: 30 minutes

We almost didn’t stop for Mud Volcano. It was dusk, we’d spent a hot day exploring the park’s Southern Loop highlights. We were tired.

Trail around Mud Volcano area at Yellowstone National Park.

But the draw of names like Mud Volcano and Black Dragon Caldron on the sign caught my kids’ eye, so we swerved to make the turn.

Good thing we did, because Churning Caldron is worth seeing!

The total hike along this boardwalk is 2/3 of a mile. Part of the route are steep and might make you winded, and may cause a bit of whining, but hang in there.

Tip: There some stairs on this path, so it’s not 100% accessible.

Dad and daughter walking up stairs at Mud Volcano trail in Yellowstone National Park.

We had a few visceral memories of this area. For one thing, it smells like a lot of stinky mud pots and fumarole do. My kids were pretty dramatic about the stench.

Be sure to keep an eye on kids and stay on the trail here.

Second, like many places in Yellowstone, wild animals abound. A long bison rested very close to the trail. Very close!

Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Time: 2 and ½ hours

By far, the most rewarding hike and the most difficult hike was the one we took to see the beautiful falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Granted, can easily drive and park at Uncle Tom’s Point or Artist’s Point to catch glimpses, but the most breathtaking vistas are away from the crowds.

Tip: Uncle Tom’s Trail was closed when we were there.

Boy looking at Lower Falls in Yellowstone Grand Canyon

This hike was originally going to be 6 miles and marked “easy” in our Lonely Planet guide. FYI: For kids and non-experienced hikers, 6 miles is never easy, and the incline on some parts of that path would be more considered “moderate.”

Anyway. Six miles was too long for us so we shortened the route.

Hikers at a fairly steep part of the South Rim Trail at Yellowstone National Park.

Parking at Uncle Tom’s Point, we first saw the Upper Falls, before taking the Southern Rim Trail toward Artist’s Point, where you get a great view of Lower Falls (the taller falls). 

Tip: Artist’s Point has bathroom facilities. No, it doesn’t have a water bottle fountain. You can guess why I know both of these things.

After admiring the view, we continued on toward Clear Lake. We passed a bubbling hydrothermal area with steaming pools of water. It was hot and stinky and a little eerie to walk through alone.

Clear Lake was a gorgeous view, but also a little nerve-wracking since we saw many piles of fresh bear poop. Hurrying on, we came to an open field and saw a pronghorn. 

Mom and daughter admiring the view at Clear Lake in Yellowstone National Park.

And then it started to rain. Seriously. Look at the clouds in the Clear Lake picture. We didn’t expect it to be raining about 10 minutes later!

Granted, we had just been complaining about the heat, so it was refreshing. However, we’d also talked to a family who’d mentioned being caught in a hailstorm there. So…

We ran the last stretch back to Uncle Tom’s Point. 

Old Faithful area

Time: Varies, but we only spent about 20 minutes on the trail because we wanted to catch Old Faithful’s eruption.

A beautiful hot spring near Old Faithful geyser.

By far, the most crowded area in the park during our visit was around Old Faithful. Before your visit, download the Yellowstone app so you can keep track of when the geyser is predicted to erupt. If you have more than hour, hit the nearby paved trails to explore.

This area is full of geysers and steaming hot springs. Stay on the path!

We ran into a park ranger who answered the kids’ questions. This was the only place we encounter a ranger. I imagine back in non-COVID times, the rangers were a lot more accessible (ranger stations in the park were not open during our visit).

Northern Loop Easy Trails

Mammoth Hot Springs trail

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

The other-worldly terrain at Mammoth Springs is a popular attraction in the northern section of the park. We only explored perhaps half of the trail, since we were nearing the end of our stay and the kids were openly rebelling against hikes at that point.

Mound Spring at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone

The boardwalk has several steps, making it a bit more strenuous of a trail than others, especially if you make your way to the lookout.

Our favorite part of this area were Mound Spring and Palette Spring, but I imagine you’d find a different favorite. It’s all very strange and unique there.

It’s very important to stay on the trail at Mammoth Hot Springs.

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Plan a Yellowstone trip

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more stories about our time in Yellowstone National Park. Be on the lookout for them:

If you plan on combining Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, read these posts, too!

  • Easy Hike In Grand Teton
  • What To Pack For A Grand Teton National Park Cabin Vacation
  • Everything You Want To Know About COVID-19 Protocols At Grand Teton National Park
  • What To Expect If Your Stay In A Headwaters Cabin In Grand Teton

Let me know if you’re interested in an itinerary for this trip!

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Planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park? Here are a few of our favorite easy hikes! These Yellowstone trails are good for beginners and families.