Our first stop on our big west adventure was Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park. We live at sea level here in South Carolina, so we walked downtown Denver for several hours to acclimate to the elevation. Denver is perfect for roaming freely, taking pictures, and shopping. We loved the local bookstore downtown. John is a big Denver Broncos fan so we drove our rental car over to Mile High (Empower now) stadium to take some pictures. We also did a quick drive by Coors field. The Rockies were playing later that night so we weren’t able to do a tour and the game started too late for our east coast bodies to stay awake. Besides, we needed to keep moving to stay on track.
We stayed at Best Western Plaza in Longmont that night so we could have access to the park the next morning. We went up through Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and did the Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Bear Lake hike. Not sure how ready our bodies were or how far we would make it, we parked at a shuttle parking lot location. When the park is busy, the parking lots fill up and they use shuttle services to space people out. This also help to avoid congestion of people on the trails.
Perfect Day for a Hike in the Rocky Mountains
It was a tough hike, but I’m always so proud of the kids as they take on the challenge. We use lots of breaks and snacks and photo opportunities to recharge. Honestly, Shep thought we wouldn’t make it and we were all having trouble acclimating and huffing and puffing hard. We persevered and it felt so good to conquer the hike we set out to do.
On the return hike out, John almost got mauled by an elk. It scared the kids big time, which reminds me to warn you of the wildlife. They are indeed wild. We are invading their territory and although John and I are very familiar with how to act in such situations, anything can happen. In this instance, we knew there was a young elk calf that was bedded down well off the trail. The mama was keeping guard and was handling things fine with lots of people trouncing past. For whatever reason, John was the last straw. She hadn’t been acting irritated or agitated in any way and we were walking slowly and quietly, but she charged him. It all happened so fast. He escaped without a scratch, but it was a good reality check that we must always be on guard. The kids and I took the long way around the trail to avoid any more unnecessary run-ins.
Highway to the Sky
Don’t miss the drive up high to the tundra on Trail Ridge Road (highway to the sky) where you will see a whole new ecosystem. Bundle up!! Being in Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park in early June you’ll still find chilly weather in high elevation. Inside the park, you can experience a frozen tundra yet to thaw from a long, hard winter. It was an awesome experience as a family.
It’s easy to combine Grand Teton National Park with Yellowstone, but they both have their own vibe and can be done together or separately with plenty of adventure in the wild. The vistas alone are awe inspiring, but you can enjoy many days trekking through the park or playing in the lakes. Driving into Jackson, WY is like driving into an updated old west town. We stayed at Cowboy Village Resort that is within walking distance of the town square where restaurants, bars, breweries, shopping and tour companies are within easy reach.
Inside the park you will have ample opportunity to see wildlife, do day hikes or multi-day treks, canoe on Jenny Lake, fish on Jackson Lake, and have your kids participate in the junior ranger program. One memorable night we drove down to Mormon Row to await the sunset and boy did we get a beauty. Definitely take the aerial tram up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. You can buy tickets and catch the tram in Teton Village and grab a bite before or after. It gets chilly up there even in the summer, but you can stuff yourself with some gourmet waffles and coffee to warm up.
We had a beautiful spring day on Jackson Lake and so we decided to take advantage of the incredible weather. We were thinking about horseback riding, but the bears were out and on the trails so they had to shut down riding for the day. The next best option was to rent a boat and get out on the lake for a few hours. Colter Bay in Grand Teton National Park is a great place to get rentals for all types of water activities.
This was a really special adventure in America’s first national park for our family as it marked the 20th anniversary of John and I meeting. That’s right, John and I met in the summer of 1998 where we worked as housekeepers at the Old Faithful Inn inside Yellowstone National Park. We were paired up to work together the very first day, and we haven’t stopped laughing yet! What a wild adventure that summer was and an incredible way to start our life together. We had always talked about taking our kids back there, but the timing was never quite right.
A multi-family adventure in the National Parks
We had 2 families of close friends who really wanted to go and had asked us for tips and advice. So instead of handing it all over, we took them on a guided tour. What a fantastic way for our kids to experience this special place. 6 adults and 9 kids trounced our way through America’s first National Park and even out to Cody, WY. We saw abundant wildlife, waterfalls, hiked a lot of miles, saw (smelled) geysers aplenty, enjoyed the open spaces and fresh air. Ultimately we loved taking our kids and friends down memory lane.
Adventure in the park: What to know Before
A few things to know about staying inside a national park. Many of the parks have lodging inside the park, but you MUST book these rooms about a year in advance. We booked at 11 months out and had slim pickings. There are no deals during high seasons or coupon codes for the lodges. Prices won’t be better by booking further in advance. There are, however, places to stay outside the park if you need to work within a tighter budget.
The advantage, of course, to staying inside the park is getting more time at locations and better parking options. Yes, the parking lots can fill up by 9:30 am. You also save yourself from having to criss cross the park and be in the car for longer amounts of time. Although the park isn’t huge, the roads are slow and you may find yourself caught in a traffic jam due to wildlife activity.
Adventure Outside of Yellowstone National Park
We spent over a week moving from lodge to lodge within the park. There are endless trails to hike and so many sites to see where wildlife abounds. If you are willing to take a drive outside the park area, Cody WY is a fabulous town to visit. You could spend all day at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West learning about the history of the cowboy/rodeo life. If you have time to spend the night in Cody, buy tickets and get the real rodeo experience each night at the Cody Rodeo Stampede.
It was a dream come true to take the kids on an adventure in Yellowstone National Park. Check out the rest of our adventures that trip. We road tripped parts of Colorado and Wyoming to visit other beautiful areas of our country including Rocky Mountain National Park and the area of Medicine Bow in Wyoming.
The Go Family Adventure story started in 2012 while I was thumbing through our family calendar while looking ahead at a particular event upcoming. We wanted to block out dates to make sure nothing else got scheduled. Sounds typical, right. Well that was our wake-up call. I looked at John and said, “we only have 10 more years with all 5 of us under the same roof.” Gulp. I actually began to sweat and maybe even tear up a little as I realized our oldest would graduate from high school in 2022. It was a great moment for us because as I blocked out those dates, I simultaneously began to plan our first ever family of 5 adventure.
Where to begin
Admittedly I had no idea where to begin. I quickly became overwhelmed to choose the perfect place. Then I was overwhelmed by the cost. Thus began my determined research attack strategy, and before you know it I had come across a great flight deal to Boston. Plans got underway and we were so excited. Am I right in assuming you may feel stuck in the same place we were? John and I traveled before the children came along and we loved to take a few days of uncompromised time together. But, when the children grew older, it became more and more obvious that we were missing out on building up our family memory bank.
Sharing our Experiences through Our Story
We have learned a few lessons along the way and have taken some really fun adventures, both near and far that we would like to share with you. Ultimately we have shifted our focus away from the things of this world to experiencing this world. Our genuine hope is that we can inspire, motivate, and guide your family to join in the adventures. Adventures happen near and far and we have so many tips, tricks, and itineraries to share with you. If you are a family looking to venture out more, follow along with us as we Go Family Adventure!
The Go Family Adventure Story For Inspiration
The Go Family Adventure story is here to inspire you and your family to take adventures of your own. We don’t do everything “right” and we definitely don’t do everything you should be doing. The key is to find your own family culture and take the adventures that give life to your family. Our story is unique and your story is unique. Our purpose in this space to give you guidance and encouragement to plan epic adventure both near and far. Take another minute and read all about us.