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6 Best West Coast National Parks For Kids

Two young girls crouch in the snow while building a snow hill at Yosemite National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Christi Flanary

A visit to some of the best West Coast National Parks for kids will impress even the most seasoned adventurers! If your family is looking to explore the vast and picturesque nature offered throughout Washington, Oregon, or California, you definitely won’t be disappointed with these exciting suggestions! To help you plan a future vacation with kids, we’ve compiled a list of the 6 Best West Coast National Parks For Kids.

From the stark desert of Joshua Tree National Park in southern California to lush greenery in Washington’s Olympic National Park, your kids will love roaming free on the West Coast! What could be better than a family vacation to one of these places filled with natural wonders? Whether you plan to discover all of America’s National Parks or simply want to sneak in a quick day hike, your family will cherish the opportunity to make memories in one of the 6 Best West Coast National Parks For Kids!

Crater Lake National Park 

Near Klamath Falls, Oregon

A woman sits enjoying the view at Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake National Park is one of the best west coast national parks for kids!
Photo Courtesy: Sakshi Thawani Mirchandani

Stand along the edge of the deepest U.S. lake at Crater Lake National Park! With its cavernous blue waters, you’ll want to soak in its intense beauty slowly, either by boat or driving around its shores. If you do choose the land tour, however, you can also drive your own vehicle around the 33-mile Rim Drive. Or, jump on a trolley tour and leave the driving to someone else! Wizard Island Tours also offers a 3-hour boat tour to explore nearby Wizard Island. Of course, there’s even more to Crater Lake National Park for your family to discover. Whether you want to hike overnight or less than 30 minutes, you’ll find a hike suited for your family’s abilities! Don’t forget to check out Rim Village with its historical district, as well as the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which provides legal access to Crater Lake’s shore for swimming and fishing.

A young girl looks across Crater Lake through binnoculars.
Photo Courtesy: Colleen Tran

Plan Your Visit to Crater Lake National Park

Boy stands smiling in the snow at Crater Lake National Park
Photo Courtesy: Jon and Teaya Tompkins

To start planning your trip to Crater Lake National Park, check out their website for all the information you need. If you plan to stay directly in the park, for example, there are lodge and cabin options for families, along with campsites. All of these can be reserved ahead of time! Adding to the convenience factor, families can also enjoy a number of delectable restaurants and an on-site grocery store. Our Facebook community also recommends lodging at The Aspen Inn to relax and enjoy cabins that are just a short drive from Crater Lake. If you’re looking to supplement your visit, check out other amazing spots in Central Oregon, like the SunRiver Resort near Bend, Oregon, where kids can discover more nature at every turn. To the south, you may want to check out the town of Ashland, where families can attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, running June through September!

Mount Rainier National Park 

Near Tacoma, Washington

Two young kids stand in front of the entrance sign at Mt. Rainier National Park, one of the best west coast national parks for kids!
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

Mount Rainier National Park will not disappoint those looking for a wild adventure. It has five developed areas, including three visitor centers, two inns, and a museum. Not to mention, the ever-present glaciers and volcano! Be sure to check out the operating hours and current conditions before you go, since some areas only open seasonally. Active kids will also love hiking at Mount Rainier, given it’s Ranger Service has highlighted five family-friendly hikes for visitors. This attention to detail surely makes Mount Rainier National Park one of the best West Coast national parks for kids! Besides hiking, you’ll also discover gorgeous wildflowers blooming in late-July through mid-August. This picturesque sight is sure to leave the whole family in awe. Finally, Tipsoo Lake is a magical place for the kids to explore. Families will love it, no matter the season! Find maps and other helpful information by visiting the park’s website

A young girls hikes across a field of rocks in Mt. Rainier National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

Plan Your Visit to Mount Rainier National Park

Mom and son stand excitedly in front of Mt. Rainier covered in snow.
Photo Courtesy: Swati Sinha

Planning a visit to Mount Rainier National Park doesn’t have to be complicated if your kids have varying interests. The park has some must-see areas regardless of age or skill level! For stunning views of Mount Rainier and the Cascades, for instance, be sure to schedule a time for the Crystal Mountain gondola, accessible for all family members. Kids and adults alike will be wowed by its magnificent view and neat restaurant at the top. Finally, if your family wants to add extra nearby experiences, check out Visit Rainier for ideas about zip-lining, berry picking, and lodging recommendations. There are also so many outdoor adventures waiting for you at Mount Rainier, making it one of the best West Coast national parks for kids!

Olympic National Park 

Near Port Angeles, Washington

Olympic National Park offers endless diversity amongst its family-friendly activities. In fact, when you visit here, you’ll get to explore several different ecosystems, all within one park! Kids will be mesmerized by the temperate rainforest, mountains, and miles of pristine coastline. Plan on encountering a lot of water, perfect for viewing and playing! In case of rain, pack umbrellas and bring footwear that’s ready to get muddy. (You won’t be able to stop your family’s temptation to investigate tidepools or hike up a glacier!) When visiting Olympic, also pencil in time to visit its beaches, from the Tree Root Cave at Kalaloch Beach to the extraordinary waves at Rialto Beach. Your whole family will lose track of time in the best way while exploring tide pools at Ruby Beach! Get ready to discover marine life such as sea stars and anemones along with unusual driftwood and haystack formations. 

Outside of Olympic National Park, families can also visit Cape Flattery, where the views are simply unbelievable! Hike the 1.5  mile Cape Flattery out-and-back trail for dramatic panoramas of the coast. Plus, if you visit at certain times of the year, you may even see some whales! This remarkable spot is a bit out of the way, but visitors still flock to this incredible destination. Still, because of its location, families should plan ahead, as you won’t just happen to wander by. Before you go, make sure to purchase a Makah Recreation Pass in Neah Bay. It’s also important to know that it takes some time to get to Cape Flattery. Be sure to plan your visit ahead of time! With so much to discover in and nearby Olympic National Park, families will quickly understand why it’s one of the best West Coast national parks for kids. 

Plan Your Visit to Olympic National Park

Two young girls stand below a large tree with roots hanging down into a cave in Olympic National Park, one of the best west coast national parks for kids!
Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

Planning a trip to Olympic National Park is easy thanks to all these great resources! The park service also has suggestions for things to do, no matter the length of your family’s stay. Members of our Families Who Love to Travel community also recommend visiting the nearby Sol Duc Valley. Here, your family can visit the hot springs, hike family-friendly trails, or stay on-site at the lodge or one of the many campsites! Finally, also check out Lake Quinault Lodge, another community-recommended place to find accommodations. Families will appreciate its stunning grounds and an excellent on-site restaurant. 

Pinnacles National Park

Near Soledad, California

Two kids explore large rocks within Pinnacles National Park, one of the best west coast national parks for kids!
Photo Courtesy: Dejana Dua

From talus caves to red-legged frogs and California condors, Pinnacles National Park provides optimal opportunities to unwind among nature. In fact, this unique national park offers experiences that you won’t find anywhere else! First, families can marvel at the California Condors, once extinct in the wild, but now living in the park. Accessible via multiple trails, spot some when you hike up to the High Peaks during the early morning! Families who choose the Bear Gulch day-use area will also wander through Bear Gulch cave, a 6.5-mile loop proving a worthy challenge for teens and avid young hikers. After, head to the talus caves, a highlight requiring no spelunking experience. (Just verify their hours before visiting, since it may be closed to protect its big-eared bat inhabitants during certain seasons.) Investigating the talus caves makes Pinnacles a truly rare experience among the best West Coast National Parks for kids. 

Plan Your Visit to Pinnacles National Park

A view of a large rock cliff in Pinnacles National Park
Photo Courtesy: Dejana Dua

Pinnacles National Park is located south of San Francisco, about 60 miles inland, giving it the feel of a Mediterranean climate. During long summer days, temperatures can soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to dress in layers, packing plenty of water for everyone in your group – and watch the weather. With that said, there are also many entertaining night-time activities for the whole family. Cooler night-time temperatures are ideal for a guided night hike! Prefer to be on your own? Simply throw down a blanket and look up at the many dazzling stars, which can be seen in abundance in this area. If you’re hoping to stay overnight, there is also an option to camp on the East side of the park. Remember: Pinnacles National Park has an east and west entrance with only hiking trails to connect them! Plan ahead accordingly depending on your itinerary. 

Joshua Tree National Park

Near Twentynine Palms, California

Two young boys sit laughing in Joshua Tree National Park, one of the best west coast national parks for kids!
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Short

Delight in seeing Joshua Tree National Park’s namesake tree when you visit this thrilling park! Located in Southern California, where the Mojave and Colorado deserts come together, its remoteness makes it all the more exciting to explore. Planning ahead is extra important for your visit here, though, as the park has very few facilities. There are so many hiking trails at Joshua Tree, however, your family will definitely find a trail that meets your skill level and interests. From 15-minute nature walks to challenging treks for avid hikers, witness many amazing sights and creatures along the way. (High temperatures require extra precautions and planning for longer or more challenging hikes!) Through these many hikes, families can find a historic adobe structure, a palm tree oasis, the notorious Skull Rock, and venture through the iconic Joshua Trees. 

There are a number of other fascinating places to seek out within the park. One that is particularly specific to this location is the Ranch Tour, perfect for the entire family! You’ll need pre-purchased tickets for this 90-minute half-mile tour, but your kids will love learning the story of the family who lived and worked at this ranch. This unparalleled experience makes visiting Joshua Tree National Park the perfect location for your next family vacation to one of the best West Coast National Parks For Kids. 

Plan Your Visit to Joshua Tree National Park

Father and daughter sit among dessert rocks within Joshua Tree National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Jessica Prechtl

Enjoying a trip to Joshua Tree National Park requires ample planning. There’s no cell service, and weather conditions can vary widely depending on where you are. You’ll need to pack all the food and water needed for your visit, as there are no concessions available in this large national park. Also, know that Joshua Tree National Park’s busy season is from February to May. If you come during this time and want to camp, be sure to secure reservations ahead of time. All 500 campsites fill quickly during the busy season! During the summer months, many campsites are also available first-come, first-served. Other lodging options in Joshua Tree Village provide an inspiring day trip when visiting the park, located just 10-15 minutes from the West entrance.  Here, families will find a whole host of restaurants, shopping, and other lodging options. It’s no wonder kids will have a blast! 

Yosemite National Park

Near Mariposa, California

A dad and two children bike on a path within Yosemite Natioanl Park, large trees and mountains dot the background.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Dunkin

Yosemite National Park’s sheer beauty is truly indescribable. Boasting majestic views of El Capitan, the park’s famous rock formation, it also offers picturesque views of Bridal Veil Falls. And, who could leave out the impressive towering sequoias? With so much to do here, pick your top choices for this visit and save the rest for another time. After all, it’s no secret that Yosemite is one of the most frequented U.S. National Parks. Plus, if you have toddlers and young children in tow, they will love splashing and floating in the calm waters of the Merced River. Teens looking for a challenge will also find abundant options for exciting hikes, beaming with pride to have completed the more challenging ones (after a quick rest, of course!) 

A favorite Families Love Travel hike is climbing to the top of Yosemite Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in North America. Assess the abilities of your group before you do this, though. Some travelers may prefer to stay at the base of the falls, which nonetheless offers dramatic views. Continue along the trail and you’ll be rewarded even more as you stand at the edge, allowing water to splash down around you! After, there are at least two amazing places to stop and gaze upon more stunning scenery. For one, Tunnel View is an iconic picture spot. Another with breathtaking views is Glacier Point. Here, you’ll find a direct view of Half Dome, where you can enjoy the panoramic scenery of the park. The nearby parking lots fill up fast, so make sure to arrive early! 

Plan Your Visit to Yosemite National Park

A family of four sits upon a log in front of a mountain view at Yosemite National Park, one of the best west coast national parks for kids!
Photo Courtesy: Nicole Ross Peirce

Yosemite knows what visitors need, especially families seeking to relax in and explore the park. That’s why the park has your every need covered, from lodging to dining options. 

Since it is a well-loved and well-documented National Park, families have been visiting its boundaries for generations, building traditions each time. If you don’t know where you begin in this vast gem, don’t worry! You’ll find tons of other information to fully plan your family vacation to this National Park. Start with our article, Experiencing Yosemite National Park from contributor Melissa Dona. For even more ideas, you’ll also want to read 21 Epic Things to do in Yosemite National Park with Kids and Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Yosemite National Park. The variety of options definitely makes Yosemite one of the best West Coast National Parks For Kids! 

Before You Go

Family of five sits on a large wooden bench at Yosemite National Park.
Photo Courtesy: Angie Reedy

Before your family heads out to these best West Coast National Parks For Kids, check each park’s individual websites. We strongly recommend that you look up the latest information on potential changes or unexpected closures this summer. While some parks have restaurants and stores within the park grounds, others do not, or maybe experiencing closures. Looking into this ahead of time will ensure your family is prepared and will have an amazing vacation. We all know the impact hungry kids can have on everyone’s spirits, so remember to plan prior to leaving, as well as pack snacks and plenty of water!

Don’t forget: if you have a 4th grader in your family, you are also eligible to receive a free pass to National Parks in the U.S! This is a wonderful way to engage young children with developing minds. Not to mention, National Parks also provide a unique chance to pique little one’s natural curiosity about the world around them. Be sure to take full advantage of this opportunity while you can!

Thank You to Our Community!

A mom jumps in front of the Mt. Rainier National Park sign while her toddler son looks on.
Photo Courtesy: Swati Sinha

We think you’ll agree that there are enough adventures waiting at these 6 Best West Coast National Parks For Kids! No matter where you choose to visit, we hope you make memories to last a lifetime. A special thank you to the Families Who Love to Travel Facebook community for helping to compile this list of the 6 Best West Coast National Parks For Kids! Any of these national parks would serve as a wonderful backdrop for a family vacation. Families Who Love To Travel is a group of amazing families who love adventure and exploring through travel. Join the Facebook community and the Instagram community (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer.

Planning a road trip to get there? Check out these entertaining family road trip games (includes a free printable!) and our tips for keeping kids entertained on a trip!

Which of these West Coast National Parks For Kids do you plan to travel to first? Tell us in the comments below! 

Angie Reedy

Angie Reedy loves traveling and writing. When life brings opportunities to combine these loves, she finds much joy. Although she lives next to Normal, Illinois, life there with her family, which includes her husband, three children, an anxious dog, and a hedgehog named Megan, is anything but normal. Angie is a freelance writer and editor who mixes travel writing alongside her work on a true-crime book. She's always looking for the next adventure wherever in the world it might lead!
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