view of grand prismatic spring from the grand prismatic overlook
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All the Best Things to Do Near Old Faithful with Kids

The Old Faithful area is the most unique and diverse areas in the world of hot springs and geysers. There are so many fun things to do near Old Faithful with kids! The area around Old Faithful, including the Upper Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, Biscuit Basin, and Black Sand Basin, has tons of accessible areas for families to hike and walk in Yellowstone. This is also one of the most crowded areas in Yellowstone National Park – for good reason! If you want to beat the crowds, you can still find almost complete solitude early in the mornings. This area is so magical and has such interesting history. Old Faithful was named before Yellowstone was even a National Park! The list below contains all the best things to do near Old Faithful with Kids!

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1. Watch an Old Faithful eruption (obviously!)

Okay I know this is an obvious one. However, I have some tips for avoiding the crowds near Old Faithful. My number one tip is to go EARLY, and I mean near sunrise. There is a huge crowd of people if you visit midday, but we visited at sunrise and it was absolutely magical with almost no one there. You can also visit near sunset. It will be less crowded than midday but still more crowded than sunrise.

My second tip is to do the short hike to Observation Point. This is a 0.5 mile walk (one way) with about 200 feet of elevation gain. Most people aren’t willing to do the hike, so you can beat some of the crowds! My last tip, if you must visit midday is to get there early. If you want a space near the boardwalk you’ll have to be at least 30 minutes early. It can also be hot so keep that in mind for the littles.

The famous Old Faithful geyser erupts on average every 90 minutes (ranging from 50-120 minutes between eruptions). The eruptions last anywhere from 1.5 minutes to 5 minutes and reach a height of 100 feet to 180 feet in the air. If you want to find the predicted eruption times (+/- 10 minutes) you can see the sign in the Visitor Center nearby, the Old Faithful Inn, or check the website geysertimes.org. However, keep in mind that service is not great within Yellowstone National Park. We did have service near Old Faithful but it was a bit spotty. @GeyserNPS on Twitter also posts predicted eruption times!

Other geysers in Yellowstone National Park are tougher to see due to longer intervals between eruptions and more variability. From the NPS website, here are the predicted eruption intervals for other geysers.

  • Beehive: Irregular 22-36 hours or longer than 2 weeks
  • Castle: 13 hours 30 minutes (+/- 45 minutes)
  • Daisy: 2 hours 45 minutes (+/- 30 minutes or longer if windy)
  • Riverside: 6 hours 30 minutes (+/- 30 minutes)
  • Grand: 6 hours 30 minutes (+/- 60 minutes but can be variable)

2. Walk the boardwalks and paths near Old Faithful

The Old Faithful area of the park has so many unique thermal features. Whether you want to do a short walk with the kids, or a longer walk to head to Biscuit Basin and avoiding navigating parking, there are several options near Old Faithful.

  • Observation Point: View the Upper Geyser Basin from above – 1.6 miles, 160 feet elevation gain
  • Upper Geyser Basin Loop: definitely one of the best trails in the park for viewing thermal features and about 3 miles long so this is a doable walk with kids
  • Walk to Biscuit Basin: about 5 miles roundtrip from Old Faithful

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3. Visit Grand Prismatic and the Midway Geyser Basin

Grand Prismatic Spring is the 3rd largest hot spring in the entire world, and the largest in the United States. It’s also 160 feet deep! In addition to it’s massive size, the colors are absolutely incredible with stunning shades of blue, yellow, orange, and green. These colors are created from the different thermophilic bacteria that live in the spring. The boardwalk that surrounds Grand Prismatic Spring brings you very close to the hot spring, and the steam coming off even appears to be colored at times. Look for fresh animal tracks near the hot spring along the 0.7 mile loop.

SAFETY TIP: Keep the kids close for this one because there are no railings on this path. Also make sure if it is windy that your hats and other belongings are secured so they don’t blow off.

4. Hike to Fairy Falls/Grand Prismatic Overlook

Hike five miles roundtrip on a fairly flat and easy trail to this 200 foot tall waterfall! Along the way, you can stop at the Grand Prismatic Overlook (A MUST DO!) which adds 0.4 miles roundtrip. If you don’t want to go all the way to Fairy Falls, I highly recommend stopping by the Grand Prismatic Overlook. This will give you a view of the stunning hot spring from above and let you see the beautiful colors that are hard to see from the boardwalk below because you are so close to the hot spring.

The trailhead to Fairy Falls and the Grand Prismatic Overlook is located by the parking lot to Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. The parking lot is pretty small and this is a popular trail so as with everything in Yellowstone – plan to be there early! The hike to Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook is one of, if not the very best, Yellowstone hikes with kids.

Hiking with your kids? Check out our favorite front pack for young babies, front pack for babies with good head control, and our favorite hiking backpack!

5. Visit Black Sand or Biscuit Basin

Black Sand Basin:

Getting here is a 1 mile walk I(one way) from Old Faithful area, or you can also drive if you don’t want to do the walk. I personally prefer Biscuit Basin if you have to choose, but why not do both? The loop here is about 0.5 miles.

Biscuit Basin:

The biscuit basin loop itself is a 0.6 mile boardwalk loop. However, you can also access Biscuit Basin by walking or biking from Old Faithful (~5 miles roundtrip). On the way you will pass several geysers and hot springs including one of the park highlights, Morning Glory!

Mystic Falls:

From the Biscuit Basin area you can also hike 2.4 miles roundtrip (175 feet elevation) to Mystic Falls. There are so many options for great trails and sights in the Upper Geyser Basin, you could explore for days here and not see it all!

6. Get your passport stamped (don’t forget the special stamp!)

Get your passport stamped at the Old Faithful visitor center. In addition to the normal stamp, ask at the gift shop about the special park stamp. I was told that the “special” stamp is the only one they have in the park and it is extremely old so it is kept behind the counter. There are several other normal stamp locations around the park if you miss this one, but you can’t find the special stamp anywhere else.

Don’t have a National Parks Passport yet? It’s such a fun family tradition to start – get one here today! Tip: You can mail a letter to parks you’ve visited in the past and they will send you a stamp from the date you visited (most of the time anyways!)

7. Check out the Old Faithful Inn

The Old Faithful Inn is one of the most incredible park lodges in the United States. The Inn was completed in 1904 and remains one of the biggest log structures in the world. It still has most of it’s original fixtures and furnishings. They do offer tours of the Inn, but if you want to avoid crowds I would go early in the morning or in the evening. The lobby gets very busy during tour times and midday. If you get a chance to stay in this rustic inn, you won’t regret it – it’s beautiful!

FUN TIP: You can also grab a drink and watch Old Faithful erupt from the deck. We loved watching it like that! The lobby of the inn has predicted eruption times for all of the geysers.

TIP: If you are going to get dining reservations here, you will need to do this way ahead of time. The Obsidian Lounge is first come first serve if you aren’t able to get a reservation.

8. Stop by the Visitor Center and the Interactive Exhibits

The Old Faithful Visitor Center is definitely worth a stop. Located right by Old Faithful, it has a great section of interactive exhibits that both kids and adults can explore! The visitor center also displays the predicted times of the geyser eruptions, a theater, and is a great place to find a park ranger to get advice from (I love talking to park rangers to get the best info!). This is also where the small gift shop is that has the “special” stamp for your passport.

9. Get Ice Cream at the Gift Shop or in the Old Faithful Inn

I’m always going to point you in the direction of some ice cream. We make ice cream a priority when traveling with our kids! Kids go through a lot on busy travel days and we think they deserve some ice cream after a long day. Try the classic flavor of huckleberry or go with one of the many other options.

10. Visit West Yellowstone

West Yellowstone is a fantastic town about 45 minutes away from Old Faithful. This gateway community has lots of great activities for kids. The list below has our favorite things to do in West Yellowstone with kids.

  • IMAX Theater: watch a movie (either a regular movie or one about Yellowstone) on a 60 foot by 80 foot screen! They have the only certified giant screen in the 12 state area so this is a must do!
  • Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center: an educational, non-profit facility where you can see grizzlies and wolves in captivity. They have 8 wolves who were born in captivity in a facility that could not keep them but they cannot be released into the wild, They also have 6 bears that were deemed “nuisance bears” and had to be placed in a facility or be euthanized.
  • Shop for souvenirs
  • Grab a beer and pizza at the Slippery Otter Pub downtown

There are so many other things to do in and around West Yellowstone, but those are our highlights if you only have a small amount of time outside the park!

Map of Old Faithful Area

Exploring more of Yellowstone National Park? Here are our other guides to all the best things to do in other parts of the park!

If you’re visiting Grand Teton National Park on this same trip – check out our One, Two, or Three Day Itinerary for Grand Teton National Park with Kids

If you want to continue to explore the National Parks with your family, go check out our National Parks page to see where else we’ve been and all of our favorite things to do!

Looking for a great book to read before your Yellowstone National Park vacation? Here are our 9 Must Read Yellowstone National Park Books: For Kids & Adults!

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