We have a 4th grader in the family which means we have a free national park pass for the school year. (If you have a 4th grader, take advantage of the offer here.) During the summer we made our way to Idaho to visit family. While we were there, we made a last minute decision to drive to Rexburg and see Steve’s parents in their home before they sell it. We’ve loved visiting their home over the years and it’s sad to say goodbye to it now, especially as our kids get closer to college age where they might actually be in Rexburg.
With a free park pass, we took a day trip to Yellowstone. Let it be known – one day is not even close to enough time in Yellowstone. We knew this going into it, but we were so close, we figured one day was better than nothing. We will be back. (When kids are a little older and have longer legs to walk the distances needed to really appreciate the park).
We hit four stops: Fountain Paint Pots, Grand Prismatic Spring, Old Faithful and Firehole River. (We’ve heard from many people that the park isn’t nearly as busy as it usually is – it was still busy, but there wasn’t tour bus traffic which helped. Most everyone we saw wore masks on the walkways to and from sites. But once you were on the loop, it was much easier to social distance and not be close to anyone. The sulfur smell trapped inside our masks was an experience we won’t soon forget!!)
My kids had an unanimous favorite spot: Grand Prismatic Spring – a large multi color hot spring that was majestic and beautiful in every way. I learned that there is a 1.6 mile round trip trail that takes you up and over the spring to see it from a different perspective – I would have done it in a heart beat. But it was hot and some of the little legs we had with us would not have loved it on top of all the walking we were already doing.
I really did think we would make it to more than 4 stops – but each stop just took a little longer and the kids puttered out a little earlier than I had planned. We did see old faithful go off twice, which is impressive, but probably a little overhyped. Don’t get me wrong, if you go to Yellowstone, you can’t not see Old Faithful. I just found so many other areas more impressive!
An impromptu stop on the way home landed us in the Firehole river where the water was impressively warm from the hot spring miles up the road dumping thousands of gallons of water into it. Idaho and Montana have notoriously cold water, especially up in the mountains, but this water was more like bath water – just the way I like it. Had we thought to bring swimsuits, we would have all jumped in.
It was a beautiful day. And it helped us to see how we’d plan our next visit and where we’d focus time. It’s a driving park – we’re used to parks like Zion where you take a shuttle up the canyon and you get off at whatever stop you see fit and hop back on when you want to see something else. Yellowstone is driving and parking and driving and waiting for another parking spot and driving some more – which is why it takes far more time to truly see the park.
It really is an amazing sight and nearly impossible for my kids to comprehend that it is completely natural. Although Hunter joked that we all think Old Faithful is a reliable geyser when really it’s man made and there’s some guy in an office that pushes the eject button every hour and a half. 🙂