The Road to Yellowstone


Leaving Cody behind, we drive along roughly the same route to Yellowstone that Bill Cody used when he took visitors to the park. Obviously, things are a bit different now. The Pahaska Tepee was a two-day journey back in the day and today it’s less than an hour. A visit to the park that took weeks can now be done in a day of driving. One of the main goals of for Road Trips for Families is to make more families aware of the benefits of road trips, and no where is that more obvious than in Yellowstone National Park.

Our culture has turned into a mindset of flying to your vacation. You arrive there and only then does the vacation begin. In fact, flying is so stressful that many families fly home a day early just to accommodate the schedules and drama that can ensue.

But a road trip is different. Everything is customizable. You eat where you want, you stop when you’re tired and you get out and walk and relax as much as possible. But, many families zoom through the park, not stopping except at the major attractions. Rushing so fast to get to the next scheduled stop that they probably never see but a fraction of the wildlife. And, there’s no time for the magic that happens when you interact with Yellowstone.

In the days of Buffalo Bill, you walked into the park on a horse. You took time to rest and explore places off the beaten track. You didn’t try to see the whole park in a day or two. And, Yellowstone was so amazing that it impressed the visionaries of that time to make it the world’s first national park. Most families never experience that magic. They are too busy running through the park with the DVD player going.

If there’s one recommendation that we have for Yellowstone after this road trip, it’s to just stop. Stop anywhere. Hike a little bit. Sit by a stream. Paint a picture or play a game. It doesn’t have to be planned or scripted, just get out of the car already!

When you enter the park, you receive a fabulous weekly newspaper with updates on ranger presentations, road construction and lots of other useful information. Pull over, read through it and see what is most interesting to your family. Kids will love doing the Junior Ranger program (purchase the kit for $3 from any visitor center). But most of all, they will love interacting with the park and learning about the animals and other unique features.

If you need help putting together an adventure itinerary, we have some expert advice. Or, perhaps you want to do a more varied tour. Janet Chapple has written a fantastic guide book to the park, here’s her advice. Mostly, remember that you’re making tomorrow’s memories. Don’t overschedule or rush, just let it go.