The best way to see Yellowstone National Park: A family vacation

I process and reflect through writing (I have journals spanning the last ten years of my life). It’s always fun to read through my old stories and relive details that didn’t stand the test of time. Consider buying one of our Features as a way to remember your last family vacation.

 Eight members of my family and I (two of us aren't pictured) escaped our hectic lives and traveled to Yellowstone National Park for the better part of a week. 

Eight members of my family and I (two of us aren't pictured) escaped our hectic lives and traveled to Yellowstone National Park for the better part of a week. 

The car vibrated with the sound of our chanting. 

“We will, we will see-a-bear,” we sang, hands clapping to the rhythm of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”  

My mother, grandmother, sister and I were driving through the streets of Yellowstone National Park. It was day two, my sister’s last, and the thought of seeing a mama bear and her cubs rendered us giddy. We took turns bursting into fits of laughter — giggling through versus of Disney’s “The Bear Necessities,” or Sesame Street's “Mad” hoping to lure a bear in by our melodies. Any song was fair game… as long as we included all possible bear puns. 

I don’t see my family often. I live far away and am lucky to sneak in a visit two to three times a year. That made our Yellowstone trip (which also included five other members in my family, safe in the other car during our singing escapade) all the more momentous. 

Plus, finally, I had the opportunity to show off the state I’d made my home. 

Yellowstone National Park's reputation precedes it. Across every twist and turn its beauty took our collective breath away. My mom would quietly say, “look at this” and we’d stare out at the lush forests, the snow-capped mountains, or the icy lake that seemed as vast and mysterious as an ocean. 

Herds of bison blanketed the landscape, sometimes traveling into the road, so close I could almost feel the heat of their breath on my skin. 

The entire time I felt as if I’d stepped through a painting and was now living in some pseudo-world far more vibrant and full than the real one. 

 My grandparents in front of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The lookout here is called  Artist Point , and has inspired thousands of people to paint, draw or otherwise recreate the majestic canyon. 

My grandparents in front of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The lookout here is called Artist Point, and has inspired thousands of people to paint, draw or otherwise recreate the majestic canyon. 

 Every member of my family says the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. We could've stayed there for hours. 

Every member of my family says the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. We could've stayed there for hours. 

But The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone stands out as the most magnificent feature of the park. I heard the waterfall before I saw it — a stunning triumph of nature that cascaded down canyon walls that could’ve given Yellowstone its name (a quick Google tells me this isn’t exactly true, but I stand by the fact that it could’ve). The canyon’s yellows, oranges and deep reds became glittery when the sun shone down upon them. 

When we’d gotten our fill of photographs, we stood in silence appreciating the view. The nobility of the canyon put my small world, and life, into perspective. I could’ve stood at the edge of that canyon for hours.  

But we had more views to revel in, geysers to gawk at, paths to walk. 

And every day when the sun dipped low in the horizon, when our feet ached, and our stomachs growled we drove to our cabin outside the park. It was then that we’d have hours-long discussions about life, the world, and all the superficiality in between. 

We never did see a bear. But the trip was unforgettable in a myriad of other ways — a story the nine of us will always hold in our hearts. 

We can all close our eyes and see the sunlight reflect off the canyon walls, feel the kiss of the geyser mist on our skin and, most importantly, hear our laughter as we share a meal, take in a beautiful site, or ride through the winding, endless roads of Yellowstone National Park. 

 Animal footprints seen traipsing across the Grand Prismatic Spring. Here, water temperatures can reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Animal footprints seen traipsing across the Grand Prismatic Spring. Here, water temperatures can reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  

 The obligatory photograph of Old Faithful. We waited over an hour for the geyser to erupt; it was well worth the wait.  

The obligatory photograph of Old Faithful. We waited over an hour for the geyser to erupt; it was well worth the wait.  

 There are thousands of hot spring pools and geysers spotting the landscape in Yellowstone. All of them are  unique and lovely in their own way. 

There are thousands of hot spring pools and geysers spotting the landscape in Yellowstone. All of them are  unique and lovely in their own way.