two bison grazing in the lamar valley yellowstone

10 Things to do with Kids Near Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs, located in the Northeast part of Yellowstone National Park, is a great place to bring your kids. Because of the year-round access to the roads, Mammoth Hot Springs is the headquarters for Yellowstone National Park. Since the earlier days of the park, the hot springs in Mammoth were a destination for people seeking relief from various ailments. This area is a great destination with enough family friendly activities to keep you busy for several days. Read on for our favorite things to do near Mammoth Hot Springs with your kids!

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1. Walk the boardwalk at the Mammoth Terraces

Grab your front pack and check out the Mammoth Terraces trail. Mammoth Hot Springs has stunning otherworldly travertine terraces that can be viewed from a boardwalk path. The terraces are created by limestone being carried to the surface by hot water. The limestone is dissolved and the calcium precipitates on the surface which in turn creates the travertine. It’s likely that the next time you visit Yellowstone National Park, these terraces will look different. They are constantly changing, sometimes rapidly. The boardwalk also occasionally has to be moved due to the changing hot springs. Colors come from thermophiles (heat loving microorganisms) and range from bright white, to beautiful shades of orange, green, gray, and more. If you do one thing in Mammoth Hot Springs, make it the terraces!

TIP: There are some stairs throughout these loops so a stroller is not ideal!

The Mammoth Hot Springs Lower Terraces

The lower terraces are absolutely stunning and very easily accessed via a short path. This section of the boardwalk will take you past the Liberty Cap, Devil’s Thumb, and Palette Spring (one of my favorites). If you are crunched for time, I would recommend just doing the lower section of the boardwalk.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Upper Terraces

The upper terrace loop is another fantastic boardwalk to take. The actual distance of this loop is difficult to judge because there are a few different offshoots you can take, and part of the boardwalk was roped off while we were there for construction. However, it’s probably about 1.5 to 2 miles to walk the entire thing. The absolute highlight of this part for me was the Mound Spring – make sure to walk by that one if you have a chance.

SAFETY TIP: For your safety and to protect the park, do not walk off the boardwalk or touch any of the terrace features. If you take your kids on this boardwalk (or any other boardwalk) please make sure they don’t have items they can drop off the side. And of course, watch your little ones extra closely near these dangerous features.

2. Drive or walk through the Roosevelt Arch

The 50 foot tall Roosevelt Arch was built in 1903, when the park was still being protected by the army. It was thought that the approach to the park was too plain and that a grand entryway would help attract visitors to the world’s first National Park. It wasn’t initially intended to be named after President Roosevelt; however, he happened to be visiting Yellowstone while the arch was being constructed. He was asked to speak at a ceremony which was attended by thousands of guests. He never returned to Yellowstone, so he never actually saw the completed Arch named in his honor.

The Arch is inscribed with a phrase “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People“, taken from the legislation that established Yellowstone as a National Park in 1872. The Roosevelt Arch has become known as one of the great symbols of the National Parks.

TIP: You can walk through the side of the arch, the center, or drive your car through! Whichever way you decide to enjoy the Roosevelt Arch, it is a great photo opportunity and an important piece of history.

ANOTHER TIP: Arch Park right nearby has a big grassy field and picnic tables if you need to eat a packed lunch somewhere. You also might spot a herd of elk grazing here!

3. Take a picture with the Yellowstone National Park sign

If you are entering the park through the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana you will be passing right near a Yellowstone National Park sign. It’s such a fun tradition to try and take pictures at all of the National Park signs with your family.

yellowstone national park sign gardiner

4. Swim at Yellowstone Hot Springs

If you are traveling through the North Entrance of Yellowstone, you will definitely want to stop at Yellowstone Hot Springs in Gardiner, Montana. The natural hot springs are just 8 miles north of the park entrance, and are a fun and relaxing stop for both kids and adults. If you are visiting in the winter, you will definitely love to soak here to warm up. Additionally, if you are visiting in the warmer months like most people, you can enjoy a cold plunge at a temperature of 60-65 Fahrenheit, a warm pool at 98-100 Fahrenheit, or the hot pool at 103-105 Fahrenheit. The warm pool also makes Yellowstone Hot Springs a great place for young kids – it’s basically the same temperature as a bath!

TIP: Both tent and RV camping are available at Yellowstone Hot Springs if you plan to stay outside of the park. Check out their website for more information.

ANOTHER TIP: Don’t forget swim diapers, but if you do – you can purchase them at the hot springs. However, I wouldn’t count on them having every size in stock.

5. Stay at the Mammoth Hotel or cabins

The Historic Mammoth Hotel was initially built in 1913, but was most recently remodeled and renovated in 2019 with an emphasis on sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint even including using recycled carpet! The cabins located just behind the hotel have a quaint and rustic feel and we loved staying here! Some of the cabins don’t have private bathrooms, but they are a short distance away and the cabins do come equipped with a sink.

TIP: Several of the lodges in Yellowstone have a stuffed animal (ours was a bison) right in the middle of the room that is “available for purchase”. If you don’t want to buy a $20 stuffed animal, but also don’t want a meltdown from your child, get in the room before they see and hide that thing STAT. Just don’t forget to unhide it before you leave so you don’t get charged for it.

6. Look for elk

The Mammoth Hot Springs area is known for having elk that roam around town. We saw them several times around time. Don’t get too close (at least 25 yards away), but take the opportunity to watch these beautiful creatures! Elk are the most common large mammal in Yellowstone, and are attracted to Mammoth because of the green grass around the area.

elk on the lawn of mammoth hotel

SAFETY TIP: Be extra cautious if you see a cow elk with a calf and give extra space! There have been incidents with elk attacking humans, especially when they are with their babies.

7. Get your National Parks passport stamped

Get your National Parks Passport stamped at the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth! While at the visitor center, grab your Junior Ranger booklets and talk to a ranger. Also take the opportunity to explore this historic building. The Albright Visitor Center was built by the US Army in 1909 and served as officer’s quarters for troops who protected the park before the establishment of the National Park Service.

8. Explore Gardiner, Montana

Gardiner, Montana is the perfect gateway town. There are so many options for adventure outside of the park including whitewater rafting, horseback tours, and bike rentals. You could also spend several hours looking for souvenirs, getting ice cream, or trying one of the many restaurants available.

TIP: We ate at Yellowstone Pizza Company, and it was kid friendly due to the fast casual service. However, the pizza was not my favorite, especially with the high price tag.

10. Scope out wildlife in the Lamar Valley

The Lamar Valley is located in the Northeast corner of the park. Some call it, “America’s Serengeti” for it’s abundance of large animals and easiness of sighting them. The Lamar Valley is home to several wolfpacks and is the best place for sighting wolves since their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park. The Lamar Valley also has many bison, elk, grizzlies, antelope, coyote, and more! Not to mention, the scenery in the Lamar Valley is beautiful. Visit at sunrise or sunset to have your best chance to see wolves or grizzly bears. Bison will likely be seen at most hours in the Lamar Valley. We visited around 8:30 AM and saw antelope, tons of bison, elk, and several birds.

If you’re wondering “is Lamar Valley worth it to drive extra?” The answer is YES absolutely. Mammoth Hot Springs to Lamar Valley is only about a 30 minute drive. Lamar Valley is one of the best things to do near Mammoth Hot Springs and you shouldn’t skip it unless you are really crunched for time. I know the thought of driving any further with kids can be daunting, but if you are interested in animals, Lamar Valley is the best place for seeing wildlife in Yellowstone. You might see bison, elk, or other large mammals in other parts of the park, but you might not. If you wake up early and make the drive before the day gets too hot, you will definitely see wildlife.

TIP: There are several pullouts on this road, so please use them instead of stopping in the middle of the road (that is unless there is a bison in the middle of the road!). Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!!

Mammoth Hot Springs Map

Exploring more of Yellowstone? Check out 8 Fun Things to do with Kids in Lake Yellowstone or All the Best Things to do Near Old Faithful with Kids! If you’re also visiting Grand Teton National Park on this trip – check out our One, Two, or Three Day Itinerary for Grand Teton National Park with Kids.

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!

Make sure you are prepared for your Yellowstone vacation with your kids. Use our travel tips to make sure you have the best experience ever!

Headed to Glacier National Park as part of your vacation? Check out our other posts or our National Parks page!

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