Tips for family vacation to Yellowstone [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Tips for family vacation to Yellowstone

02-27-2004, 10:29 AM
My wife, 1 year old son, and I plan to visit Yellowstone National Park in late August of this year. We've made arrangements to stay inside the park, near West Yellowstone. I'm hoping to wet a line while I'm there. The wife is not a hardcore outdoors person and our little one is obviously too small to do much of anything, so any flyfishing will have to be squeezed in between the more ordinary tourist activities. I had hoped to avoid needing to hire a local guide, but I would also like to avoid crowds to the extent that is possible. Ideally, it would be nice to plan a few day trips where my wife and son could safely picnic and bumble around the picnic area while occasionaly checking off in the distance to observe Dad's futile attempts to catch (and release) a fish on a fly. <GRIN> Does any one have any suggestions as to good streams, camp grounds, picnic areas, etc. that might allow me to pull this off? Perhaps an alternative itinerary? (Wife goes sight seeing, husband hooks up with them later, etc.) We'll have a car, so we can drive anywhere in the park.


Dble Haul
02-27-2004, 11:04 AM

First, welcome to the Forum.

Second, I'm not familiar with that area, but we have some members who are. In order to increase your odds of getting some responses, I've copied this same question to the Trout Forum. Be sure to check there for potential replies as well.

Good luck, and have fun when you get there.

02-27-2004, 12:21 PM
Hey Lee
I lived out there in the early 80's, it's a great place to fish. The first place I would recomend is Buffalo Ford. It is on the no-kill section of the Yellowstone River. It's a mile north of Fishing Bridge where the Yellowstone enters Yellowstone Lake. You'll be there during Hopper season so you will be fishing a lot of top water. The Madison outside the park is good where the no-kill section is but the rate of water flow makes it pretty percarious to wade.
North of the park parelleling 191 is the Gallatin River. This was one of my favorite rivers to fish. In the evning all you have to do is throw Royal Humpys against the bank and wait for hook-up. One thing you want to see is the evning rise on the Yellowstone. If you are standing in the river when this happens it looks like you are being attack by a swarm of Locust. This is a start for you. Good luck


John Desjardins
02-27-2004, 12:29 PM
Welcom to the forum Lee. I've never been to Yellowstone. But, I've tried in the past to combine fishing with family trips with little ones to varying degrees of success.

Whats worked.

20-30 minutes of fishing, followed by a similiar amount of time with the kids while my wife can feel "off duty".

Walking away from the water whenever your spouse summons you.

Staying at a place where you can walk to the water and then fishing durring naps, after dark or at dawn.

What hasn't worked:

Leaving my wife and 18 month old son, carless in a cabin without a tv while fishing in the early morning. Especially after my closing the door woke my son up at 5 am. It was not a happy cabin that I came back to.

Giving the wife the "why the #$*& did you call me out of the water for that" look when she wanted to tell me something of importance to her.

Talking more about the fishing than her or the kids.

Cigars as bug repellants

Good luck

02-27-2004, 03:30 PM
Thanks for the prompt and very helpful suggestions. The rivers/stream suggestions are great, and I'm still chuckling to myself about the tips for combining family and fishing trips. Advice that is both funny and sound is always appreciated. Keep those kinds of ideas coming, even if you haven't fished the Yellowstone! I want to keep the family happy too!

02-27-2004, 04:35 PM
I lived/worked in Yellowstone back in 92, and the area for 2 years after. Realize that anywhere you go will be a drive. If you pack picnic lunches stop near fishing areas eat and fish awhile before heading to the next tourist spot. There are plenty of areas you could do this. If you want to fish the lake, Sand Point or Gull Point are perfect for this. Many rivers have pull offs and picnic tables. My personal favorites are the Gallatin, Soda Butte, Lamar, Slough, and Madison. Thie Slough is a hike, you'd need a day. The rest have easy access for short sessions. The Gallatin above Big Sky into the Park is fairly small, with lots of good holes/runs. Below Big Sky it runs through the canyon section, mostly pocket fishing, lots of pull offs. Below the canyon around Bozeman is some great pool/ riffle areas, but harder access for family style fishing. The time you are planning is a great time to be there. You'll love it. I added a pic of a fat Soda Butte Cutt to help psych you up.

02-27-2004, 06:15 PM

I lived within an easy 2 to 4 hour drive of Yellowstone for 11 of the 12 years I lived in Montana ('79-'91).

There is a lot of very nice water on the Madison in the park that is just off the road. The downside is that during August you will have a lot of company. There is some very nice water on the Madison where the old Barns were once located, this is a short drive off the mail road from West Yellowstone. The upside is that it is only a few miles from West Yellowstone and your wife could spend time shopping at the many fine little shops in West Yellowston while you fish.

The Firehole is another one that is easily accessed and it has a lot of hot pools, geysers, etc. that you wife will like. The trout in the Firehole are very selective, get a lot of fishing pressure, and like small flies.

The Gibbon was one of my favorites (it is the other river that along with the Firehole forms the Madison) granted it is a short walk to the majority of it. However, it will isolate you from your wife. The Gibbon doesn't have many folks fish it though because of the need to walk from parking areas to get to it. The Gibbon basin is full of geysers, many that are much larger than Old Faithful.

The Buffalo Ford area on the upper Yellowstone is a zoo because it is right off the road. Great water, lots of fish, and lots of fishermen. It is also not all that great for a non-fishing spouse.

The Lamar has a day-use area right on the river that is a very nice place to take a non-fishing spouse. It has picnic tables, outhouse, and the river is right there. The Lamar valley is also a great place to see the very large Lamar Valley Buffalo Herd.

Soda Butte Creek (a tributary to the Lamar) is a very nice stream; however, it is in the extreme northwest end of the park near Cook City, MT. It does have easy access from the road though.

The Gardiner just inside the park's north entrance at the town of Gardiner, MT is a very nice small river that has very easy access from the road. Interstingly, it never has that many folks fishing it. This is a great place to go and spend a few hours while your non-fishing spouse goes and spends some time in the little shops in Gardiner.

The upper Gallatin, which flows right next to the hwy from Bozeman, is a very nice little stream. Lots of smaller trout with easy access. However, there is not much for a non-fishing spouse to do in the upper Gallatin.

You could also take a short drive over the hill into Idaho from West Yellowstone and fish the Henry's Fork. This is about a 25 miniute drive.

Nooksack Mac
02-27-2004, 06:33 PM
Lee, I have experience in keeping a non-fishing guest occupied in Yellowstone Park. In 1976, during the middle of my two-month vacation in the area, my mother flew out from Georgia and stayed in a motel in West Yellowstone for ten days, while I camped at Riverside, a few miles north. West Yel. is 100% a tourist service town, and is hard against the western border and west entrance of the park. Motels, restaurants, shops are plentiful and reasonably priced. Your family might be more comfortable in town, convenient to the park.
Or, you all may want to camp in a Forest Service campground like Riverside (next to a loop of the Madison River), or in the Park at a campground like Madison, 14 miles east of W. Yellowstone, at the junction of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers and the start of the Madison River. You have lots of prime trout water there, next to the campground, where swans float on the river and elk bugle in the August/September twilight.
The Park is as big as some eastern states, with wonders scattered through it; so you can't camp next to everything. But if you commit to 1-3 hours of driving a day, you and your family will see tons of wildlife, thermal wonders, and beautiful scenery, and you'll have time to fish in the greatest concentration of trout waters in North America.:cool:
Mom loved it.

02-28-2004, 11:23 PM
Thanks to all of you for the wonderful advice. Can anyone recommend cabin/home rentals in either West Yellowstone or Gardiner? Perhaps some good experiences you have had...

03-01-2004, 10:38 AM
North on 191 toward Big Sky about 10 miles out of West is a little tavern called Eino's. A fun place to go. Order the steak, but be prepared to cook it yourself.

Dble Haul
03-02-2004, 08:06 AM

FYI, you have a few responses to this same post in the Trout Forum as well.

03-02-2004, 08:38 AM
Lee, I found the The Yellowstone Fly-Fishing Guide invaluable when I was in the area last year. See
All of the stores in the park seem to sell it from what I can recall.

03-06-2004, 10:32 PM
I have done the Yellowstone area 6 times over the past 16 years, always with kids and with the bride. #1, you have gotten alot of great info in the other posts, so I will not comment on them. I will mention that I did stay at the Madison Arm Resort, about 20 minutes north of West Yellowstone, it is a private campground, with some nice "barebones" cabins. They did have showers, gas heat and some electricity. The gulpers were sipping emergers, just off the bank and float tubing was fantastic. I towed my youngest, about 6 then, around in a second tube and let him play several of the fish. It was one step up from camping and, over the years..., I have found that I tended to get more fishing time in, especially when the kids were little, when I added a few convienceses, just a thought...., Madison Arm Resort was quite reasonable. My kids are now in college, and now camping is much easier, the wife looks forward to me and the boys leaving camp, so she can read, in peace.
Also, consider driving up the Gallitan Canyon to bozeman and visit the museaum of the Rockies..
Have fun.