black pool with people on the boardwalk behind west thumb geyser basin yellowstone
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The 8 Best Things to Do Near Yellowstone Lake With Kids

Yellowstone Lake is the largest high elevation lake in the lower 48. There are so many amazing things to do near Yellowstone Lake with kids! Whether you want to relax, hike, boat, or see wildlife – Yellowstone Lake has something for everyone. Also, if you want to avoid crowds in Yellowstone National Park, the Lake Yellowstone area tends to be a little less crowded.

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1. Take a Scenic Cruise of Lake Yellowstone

Choose to take a one hour scenic cruise of the largest lake above 7000 feet in the lower 48. This cruise will give you the opportunity to see beautiful views of Lake Yellowstone, learn the history of the area, and scope for wildlife! Kids under 3 are free, but still must be registered on the tour. Tours are offered several times throughout the day, so you can plan around nap time! Keep in mind that the weather can change rapidly in Yellowstone, so bring layers. Also bring some binoculars in case you spot some far away wildlife!

Book a reservation ahead of time here.

NOTE: Lake Yellowstone is an alpine lake and generally stays very cold all year with temperatures not rising above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep that in mind if your kiddos want to swim! Lake Yellowstone is beautiful, but not necessarily the best place for swimming with kids.

2. Visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

If you are visiting near Lake Yellowstone, you definitely will want to take time to check out this stunning canyon. The canyon was created by one of the massive volcanic eruptions in the park’s history and due to the softness of the rock, the river has carved out the canyon over the last 160,000 years. The North and South Rim drives give access to several different viewpoints of the canyon, and the massive waterfalls. Upper Falls is 109 feet tall, but if you’ve seen pictures – they have most likely been of Lower Falls which is 300 feet tall and very impressive.

If you drive the North Rim and South Rim drives, there are several viewpoints that you can access to get a different view of the canyon and the waterfalls. The easiest, most kid friendly options are Lookout Point on the North Rim Drive and Artist Point on the South Rim Drive. Artist Point is one of the most photographed places in the park, and for good reason – it is AMAZING! The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is one of the more popular places to visit in the park, so if you want a little more solitude, visit early.

If you want to spend more time here, there are many more viewpoints some of which are trails or stairs! This would be the best time to bring out the front pack since those longer hikes can be tough for little legs!

3. Look for Wildlife in the Hayden Valley

Hayden Valley is centrally located in the park and is one of the best places to spot animals in Yellowstone. If you want to see predators like wolves and grizzly bears, you will want to visit at dusk or sunset. You are likely to see many bison, some elk, and a good variety of birds. However, you will be less likely to see animals in this area if you visit in the heat of the day. There are many pull outs along this road, so utilize them instead of stopping in the middle of the road (unless of course there is a bison jam!) Definitely bring your binoculars to this stop because some of the wildlife can be a little farther away.

FUN TIP: The Bison make really loud grunting noises – make sure to roll down your windows to get a listen to them! You’ll have your kids grunting like bison the whole drive home.

4. Watch Sunset on Lake Yellowstone

Lake Yellowstone is the largest high elevation lake (above 7000 feet) in North America! It is about 20 miles long and 14 feet wide, and almost 400 feet deep in certain spots. Since this is such a big lake, there are so many amazing spots to watch the sunset. We were able to pull over on a roadside pullout and watch an incredible sunset. We saw birds and were lucky enough to also see a River Otter. Also, keep your eyes peeled for moose since they are known to visit Yellowstone Lake. Bring a big blanket (the one linked is awesome for outdoors!) for the family to sit on and enjoy the sunset. Watching sunset on Yellowstone Lake with our kids was one of our favorite Yellowstone memories!

5. Explore the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Lake Lodge

You won’t be able to miss the Lake Yellowstone Hotel – it’s bright yellow! Also known as the Grand Old Lady of the Lake, it is the oldest hotel in a National Park (built in 1891). The Lake Yellowstone Hotel was initially envisioned as a large summer resort with golf, tennis, and a swimming pool. Luckily, this never came to fruition, and the natural landscape and beautiful lake views were preserved. The hotel, and Yellowstone National Park in general, have been recognized for their efforts towards environmental sustainability. You will notice these efforts in the compostable to-go containers, water bottle refill stations, and more!

Another beautiful property near Yellowstone Lake is the Lake Lodge Cabins. There are 186 cabins open for reservation, and also a main lodge with a rustic log cabin style, beautiful fireplaces, and a takeout restaurant. The main lodge has a large porch featuring rocking chairs and great views of the lake. This is a beautiful place to enjoy a cup of coffee!

These buildings are both stunning, and have great views of the lake. Although it can be tough to relax with kids, if you can, we would highly recommend getting dinner, drinks, or coffee and enjoying the view. If you want to get dinner at the hotel, make sure to make a reservation ahead of time (like way ahead of time!)

To continue the goal of being eco friendly at the park – don’t forget your reusable water bottle (for the kids and you!). Getting rid of plastic water bottles is one of the easiest eco-friendly swaps!

6. Walk the boardwalk at the Mud Volcano

The Mud Volcano was a totally spontaneous stop for us! This is a super cool spot near Yellowstone Lake to stop with your kids. We saw the sign for Mud Volcano on the side of the road and decided that sounded pretty awesome – and it was!

The boardwalk loop is a little over a half mile, but the main mud volcano is really close to the road if you only have time for a quick stop. Early explorers to Yellowstone described this as a “most repulsive and terrifying site”. This area is considered a resurgent dome, which is an area where the land moves up or down with the fluctuation of the magma chamber underneath it. This area is regularly monitored for information about volcanic activity. The mud pots here are extremely acidic, some the same acidity as stomach acid!

7. See the Hot Springs at West Thumb Geyser Basin

West Thumb Geyser Basin is relatively small compared to some other parts of the park. It is located along the shores of Yellowstone Lake, with some of the hot pots even in the lake. If you are lucky enough to get to walk this boardwalk, you can’t miss the Abyss Pool and the Black Pool. These two hot springs have are the most incredible blue color I’ve ever seen. Another highlight was the Black Pool. The whole boardwalk is about a mile but could be shorter or longer depending on which detours you take. It’s long enough that I would recommend using a baby carrier (we love this one!) if you have one for younger kids.

Like all boardwalks in Yellowstone National Park, they are very busy during the day. If you go early in the morning or late evening you will be able to avoid the crowds.

8. Eat Huckleberry Ice Cream at the Yellowstone General Store

I don’t think this really needs an explanation – huckleberry ice cream is delicious!! I suppose you could have another flavor if you like, but you can’t leave Yellowstone without trying huckleberry flavored something. Wherever we travel, I try to find a good ice cream shop. It give us something to look forward to when we are doing our morning hikes. You can also use this stop to look for souvenirs. We collect a magnet from everywhere we travel to, such a fun tradition!

Lake Yellowstone is a great stop on your Yellowstone vacation with kids. Let us know in the comments what other things you like doing in this area!

Map of Yellowstone Lake Area

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!

Interested in other National Parks adventures with your family? Check out our National Parks page, and some of our other travel guides for nearby National Parks!

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!

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