Bozeman parents, you sure are lucky. You get to live within an hour and a half of two Yellowstone National Park entrances. There’s a lot to see from the car or the boardwalks, but the Park really comes alive when you step away from the throngs of people and into the woods—or sagebrush, as the case may be.
Whether you want to geyser-gaze, watch trout spawn, photograph wildflowers, or simply push a stroller, you’ll find some easy areas to explore with your kids in tow.
Here are a few.
Trailhead: On the northeast entrance road west of Pebble Creek campground
Distance: About 0.5 miles one-way
Difficulty: Easy. The trail is steep, but so short that almost anyone can make it.
Trail description: The trail switchbacks up the side of a hill through open sagebrush steppe, wildflowers, and forested pockets.
What you’ll see: A beautiful lake nestled in a meadow at the base of Mt. Hornaday. If you visit in June, you’ll see hundreds of cutthroat trout spawning above the inlet in just inches of water. Otters and muskrats also make Trout Lake home. Get there at the right time and you’ll see otter pups playing on fallen logs and chasing each other around the lake.
Trailhead: Behind Roosevelt Lodge
Distance: 4 miles roundtrip
Trail description: This loop departs from behind Roosevelt Lodge and climbs 300 feet onto the bench. Here the trail joins the Roosevelt horse trail and continues west to Lost Lake. If you take the trail east, you loop back to the Roosevelt corrals on the horse trail or continue on to Tower Fall Campground. From Lost Lake, the trail follows the contour around the hillside to the Petrified Tree parking area. Cross the parking lot and climb the hill at its northeast end to loop back behind Tower Ranger Station. Cross the creek and return to the Roosevelt Lodge cabins. It’s easier, if a little longer, to hike back the way you came or walk on the road back to Roosevelt Lodge.
What you’ll see: A pretty lake, wildflowers, waterfowl, wet meadows, petrified trees, black bears (maybe, but carry bear spray any time you hike in Yellowstone).
Trailhead: Cascade Lake Picnic Area, 1.5 miles north of Canyon Jct. on the Tower-Canyon Road.
Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip
Trail description: Fairly flat trail through meadows. This trail is often muddy through July, so hold off until late summer. You can make this a through-trip by hiking three miles out the Howard Eaton Trail to the trailhead 0.5 miles west of Canyon Junction on the Norris-Canyon Road (leave a vehicle).
What you’ll see: Wildflowers and wildlife, in season, and a lovely lake. Since the Canyon area can be such a zoo, this is a nice way to take a short break from the throngs.
Lone Star Geyser Trail
Trailhead: 3.5 miles southeast of Old Faithful, just beyond Kepler Cascades parking area.
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Trail description: This mostly-level trail follows an old service road along the Firehole River through unburned forests of lodgepole pine. This trail can be accessed by bicycle with the final approach to the geyser on foot. There aren’t many trails in the park where bikes are allowed, so take advantage of this one.
What you’ll see: Lone Star Geyser erupts about every three hours. Even if you miss the eruption, the ride or walk along the Firehole River is worth the trip. Plus, it’s fun to see a geyser off the boardwalk, even when it is just gurgling.