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  • Trevor Perkes

Best 9 Picnic Areas in Yellowstone – For the Whole Family

Updated: Mar 21, 2019

Picnicking is a great American pastime that is loved by all. When the weather permits, folks love to get out of the house and go somewhere that offers a unique, relaxing, and fun experience while enjoying a good meal. Our family considers picnicking as one of the truly enjoyable experiences of spending time in the great outdoors. And when that “great outdoors” is Yellowstone National Park, the enjoyment is magnified 10-fold. After all, if you have children that are part of your Yellowstone experience, then they like us, need a filled belly for all to be good. So, to help you out, we invite you to consider our top 9 picnic areas in Yellowstone for the whole family and the reasons we like them so much. Then, you decide which picnic spots, if any of them, would best fit the type of experience you desire to have when picnicking in the park.

Note: Each picnic area is linked to our Yellowstone Interactive Map so you can see exactly where it is in the park (specific road section) and can read up on more specific information and look at some more photos of the picnic area.

This picnic area is a literal hidden gem in the park, located off the beaten path and right on the edge of a bluff overlooking Yellowstone Lake. There are only five picnic tables, two of which are near the bluff’s edge 20 feet above the lake. Chipmunks tend to hang around and can be fun to watch. The views here are spectacular, and an area with a sloping descent to the water allows you to walk down and take advantage of the lake. Last time we were in the park we all waded out into the cold, and I mean cold, water of Yellowstone Lake. Kind of a challenge thing we have going on. It’s very shallow for several yards out into the lake. And on shore, we love to skip rocks on the nearly flat surface of the water (before the afternoon winds kick up). Talk about a fun setting to teach your kids to toss a rock. We love this picnic area and from the moment we arrive, our kids are fully engaged in playing on the beach from until we call them back for lunch, which is quickly devoured so they can return to playing along the water. Note: There are some places near the picnic area where the drop off to the lake is steep, and even a hangover at one place, so keep an eye on the little ones.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 5 stars – for the spectacular views of the lake and multitude of play activities available

· Wheelchair Accessible: No, sand and gravel trail from the parking lot to the tables

· Restroom: Yes, at the parking lot

· Shaded: Fair

· Privacy: Good

At this site are 15 picnic tables nestled among trees adjacent to the paved road that loops the picnic site. After eating your lunch, we love to take a roughly 3-minute gentle downhill walk through a thick forest area with a few fun obstacles for kids to maneuver along the way, before arriving at a long and sandy beach. It is easy to find a stretch of beach all to yourself, even during peak season. The beach looks like what you would see at the ocean and offers the fun of running in the sand, tossing around a ball or frisbee, or of course lounging.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 5 stars – for the fun of playing on a beach and the adventure in getting there

· Wheelchair Accessible: Some, the picnic tables are close to paved area, but on gravel areas, and the trail to the beach is inaccessible

· Restroom: Yes, at the parking lot

· Shaded: Good

· Privacy: Good

This picnic area is located at the beginning of one of the most beautiful valleys in the park and alongside the Soda Butte Creek. The creek runs immediately next to parts of the picnic area and is considered a prime location for fishing of cutthroat trout. Some of the picnic sites have little paths that lead directly down to the creek. If you make this one of your picnic stops, you will feel dwarfed by the trees that stand very tall in this area. This is a great last stop if you are leaving the park through the Northeast Entrance.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 4 stars – for the beautiful setting, nearby fishable stream and secluded location

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes, but the picnic tables are not designed for wheelchair accommodation

· Restroom: Yes, and easily accessible

· Shaded: Good

· Privacy: Good

This picnic area is on our list because of it is situated near an open meadow through which the Gibbon River gently flows. It’s a great place to take the kids for a walk out to see the stream or maybe try their luck at fishing. Small brook and rainbow trout call this place home and can often be seen from the banks. In the early part of the season, the water may be high making it difficult to get to the stream’s edge. Keep and eye out for bison, elk and coyote as we have seen them walking in the woods across the stream and near the forest.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 4 stars – for the nearby stream and meadow with a chance at wildlife sightings

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes, but the picnic tables are not designed for wheelchair accommodation

· Restroom: Yes, and easily accessible

· Shaded: Fair

· Privacy: Fair

You almost get the impression that you are picnicking on an island with the Firehole River and Nez Perce Creek flanking the area on two sides. Can be a great place to fish. Green grass is plentiful, and the scenery is beautiful. A very short walk from the picnic area is the grave site for Martha “Mattie” Culver who died of tuberculosis at the age of 32 in March of 1889. Also located nearby are scattered broken remnants of the old Marshall-Firestone Hotel. It is not uncommon to have bison roaming nearby and sometimes simply wandering right through the picnic area.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 4 stars – for the beautiful nearby streams and a chance to take in a bit of the park’s history

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes, with some picnic tables designed for wheelchair accommodation

· Restroom: Yes, and easily accessible

· Shaded: Some good, some Fair

· Privacy: Fair, tables somewhat close to each other, and this area can be busy during peak season

The best picnic table locations in this area are at the end of a .3-mile drive and adjacent to the Yellowstone River at a location known to be part of the escape route Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce Native American tribe during their flight from the U.S. Army in 1877. The river here is wide and shallow and rolling hills are located on the other side of the river where elk and bison are sometimes seen moving about in their endless quest for food.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 5 stars – for the beautiful scenery of Yellowstone River and the variety of picnic settings offered throughout this expansive picnic area

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes, but only a few picnic tables are designed for wheelchair accommodation

· Restroom: Yes, and easily accessible

· Shaded: Fair

· Privacy: Good to Fair, depending on which table you choose

This picnic area is connected to Madison Campground via a short walk, nestled among tall trees, and adjacent to a variety of notable features and facilities. Unlike most picnic areas, there are three fire circles with grates so you can cook your meal, a centralized water spigot, and a large restroom facility complete with flush toilets, a drinking fountain, and vending machines to spice up your picnic offerings. A short walk to the nearby valley is where the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers converge to form the Madison River, and a location that is often filled with kids enjoying splashing around in the river during summer afternoons. It is also in this area that a group of early park adventures determined to return and convince Congress to make Yellowstone a national park.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 4 stars – for the nostalgic setting, additional conveniences, and nearby rivers

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

· Restroom: Yes, with flush toilets and running water

· Shaded: Good

· Privacy: Fair

The beauty of a high-country lake set amid towering mountains on all sides provides a picturesque setting to relax and enjoy a picnic. The picnic area is actually divided with some of the table sites on one side of the main road and another group of tables on the lake side. Those on the lake side are right next to the lake. Our kids love playing in the water and exploring for frogs that can be found in the grasses along the lake’s edge. I have never personally fished Sylvan Lake but have seen anglers wading out and casting a line.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 4 stars – for the picturesque setting, great photo op availability sites, and for the fun of watching our kids enjoying the experience of seeing frogs jumping around near the water’s edge

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

· Restroom: Yes

· Shaded: Good

· Privacy: Good

The picnic tables here are located near the stretch of land on the north side of the Bridge Bay Marina and offer the experience of watching the various boats exiting and entering the marina to or from an adventure on Yellowstone Lake. If you are vacationing with a large group, there is a central area that can accommodate several people and a fire circle with grate so you can cook your meal. Nearby facilities make it convenient to pick up some additional supplies for the picnic.

· Fun or Wow Factor: 4 stars – for the chance to see the wide array of boats moving in the marina, the convenience of nearby stores, and the fire circles on which to cook if desired

· Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

· Restroom: Yes

· Shaded: Good

· Privacy: Fair

List of Picnic Sites in Yellowstone National Park by Road Section

1. Barns Hole Road

2. Madison River Picnic Area

1. Madison Picnic Area

2. Firehole Picnic Area

3. Nez Perce Picnic Area

4. Whisky Flats Picnic Area

1. Spring Creek Picnic Area

2. DeLacy Creek Picnic Area

3. East Divide Picnic Area

1. Grant Village Picnic Area

2. Lewis Lake Picnic Area

3. Snake River Picnic Area

1. Tuff Cliff Picnic Area

2. Gibbon Picnic Area

3. Iron Springs Picnic Area

4. Caldera Rim Picnic Area

5. Gibbon Meadows Picnic Area

1. Beaver Lake Picnic Area

2. Apollinaris Spring Picnic Area

3. Indian Creek Campground Road Picnic Area

4. Sheepeater Cliff Picnic Area

1. Gardner River Picnic Area

2. Mammoth Picnic Areas (3)

1. Lava Creek Picnic Area

1. Yellowstone Picnic Area

2. Soda Butt Picnic Area

3. Warm Creek Picnic Area

1. Dunraven Picnic Area

2. Cascade lake Picnic Area

1. Norris Picnic Area

2. Virginia Cascades Picnic Area

1. Chittenden Bridge Wapiti Picnic Area

2. Otter Creek Picnic Area

3. Nez Perce Ford Picnic Area

4. Cascade Picnic Area

5. LeHardy Picnic Area

1. West Thumb Picnic Area

2. Hard Road to Travel Picnic Area

3. Angler’s Bluff Picnic Area

4. Pumice Point Picnic Area

5. Unmarked Picnic Area

6. Spruce-Fir Exhibit Picnic Area

7. Sand Point Picnic Area

8. Gull Point Picnic Area

9. Bridge Bay Picnic Area

10. Lake Village Picnic Area

1. Fishing Bridge Visitor Center Picnic Area

2. Steamboat Point Picnic Area

3. Sedge Bay Picnic Area

4. Sylvan Lake Picnic Area

5. Eleanor Lake Picnic Area

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