Natalie Ogbourne

Madison Brew @ Gibbon Falls Picnic Area


“He’s a good big brother, helping his little sisters like that,” said an older woman as she walked past us on her way to her picnic table. 

“Thanks,” my husband and I mumbled together, remembering. 

Our kids were playing quite happily together along the shore of the Firehole River while we made lunch at a nearby picnic table. Just moments before, they’d been snarling at each other. While I was busy wondering how I would survive this vacation—and possibly their childhood—my husband simply turned in at the nearest picnic area. 

It was a wise move.

The kids ran off some energy and I enjoyed some peace. They remembered that they were friends and my husband and I recalled why we’d set off on a family vacation in the first place. They ceased squabbling and we moved forward into the day, happy once again. 

Because I promote picnicking as the best way to deal with the inevitable and recurring need for food,  here are some YNP picnicking realities and a few of our favorite picnic areas. (Note:  Each is near water—either beside a river or above Yellowstone Lake.)

Tips for Picnicking in Yellowstone

  • Yellowstone’s picnic areas are small, as in a dozen or fewer tables. They are busiest right at the traditional mealtimes. At other times, they are often empty. 
  • Basic (very basic) groceries are available at general stores in the developed areas of the park. During the summer, stores are open and well-stocked. Early and late in the season, some areas have shut down completely. The remaining stores have shorter hours and fewer supplies.
  • Given their place in the middle of a national park, the picnic areas are picturesque but primitive. They typically don’t have water available. While most have bathroom facilities, they are of the non-flushing variety. Most, but not all, provide hand sanitizer.
  • Because Yellowstone is bear country, you must stow it securely in your vehicle if you are not with your food. 
  • The weather is not always conducive to making food outside.  Be prepared with a plan B–something you can assemble and eat in your vehicle.
  • Check out this list of my family’s favorite picnic areas. 

happy trails ~ Natalie 





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Your Yellowstone Guide's favorite picnic areas