If you’re wondering where to travel for the perfect vacation this summer, look no further than this list of Best National Parks in the United States for Families. These are the most scenic places for families to see the natural outdoor diversity that exists across the United States. From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains and everything in between, you’ll find incredible places to explore with your children. Spread across the country, you’re sure to find a national park on this list within driving distance of home! Keep reading for an overview of the best hikes, family-friendly places to stay, and even tips for where to eat at these parks. This summer, why not plan a trip to explore outdoor beauty with your family?
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States and remains a favorite family. Its popularity means advanced reservations are needed. In the park, find unique hot springs and geysers, with Old Faithful being the most popular. Then, don’t miss the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Kids will also enjoy participating in the ranger program, featuring talks, tours, and Junior Ranger activities. For a vintage-inspired perspective, take a Yellowstone Yellow Bus Tour. Additionally, embark on an array of family-friendly hiking. The West Thumb Geyser Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, and Wraith Falls Trails are ideal for tiny trekkers. With teens, consider Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Observation Point Loop, a beautiful 4.5-mile hike. A trek through Lamar Valley may include sightings of grizzly bears, wolves, and bison! Finally, families typically head Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria & Bake Shop or the Canyon Lodge Eatery for a bite to eat.
Pro Tip: Parking lots for popular stops fill quickly. Plan ahead and get an early start! Then, to avoid the crowds, also consider going during the off-season. Each month definitely has its own unique highlights.
Where to Stay Near Yellowstone with Kids
Yellowstone National Park is also a great place to camp, but there are nearby towns offering hotel accommodations. Families looking to stay inside the park will love Canyon Lodge & Cabins and Old Faithful Inn. Additionally, there are also great lodging options in nearby Big Sky, West Yellowstone, and Jackson Hole, depending on where you want to have your home base. Jackson Hole offers the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which may be ideal for families looking to mix comfort with outdoor adventure.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park’s beauty is truly indescribable. Boasting majestic rock formations like El Capitan and Half Dome, this large park offers incredible natural diversity. Many families spend most of their time in Yosemite Valley, but don’t forget to explore like Wawona and Mariposa Grove, featuring the iconic giant sequoias. In fact, you can even view Mariposa Grove on a tour by horseback! In the valley, there are many options of places to hiketoo. Embark on the Mist Trail, which climbs to the top of Vernal Falls. Families looking for a less strenuous hike will adore the view from the Vernal Fall Footbridge. Then, families with young children can find time to splash in the waters of the Merced River or visit the popular Mirror Lake swimming hole. Finally, who could leave out mentioning the awe-inspiring views at Bridal Veil Falls, Tunnel View, and Glacier Point?
If you’re interested in park organized tours, be sure to check out the schedule of tours and other activities happening. If your family enjoys biking, there are bike rentals within the park, as well as the Yosemite bike sharing program. This program is a fantastic addition to keeping traffic congestion down in the park!
Families looking to stay near Yosemite National Park have a variety of options to choose from. Favorite places to stay include Curry Village, Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite, or the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel within the park. Then, Tenaya Lodge is just two miles from the south entrance. At Tenaya Lodge, you’ll find adventures right on site as well as Yosemite tours from the lodge. Finally, AutoCamp Yosemite is another family-friendly option. Wherever you stay, book well in advance as reservations fill quickly.
Grand Teton National Park
While you can visit the striking Grand Teton National Park in all seasons, a summer visit shows the park at its finest. From May to September, all of the activities and trails are available with extended hours! Be sure to save an hour or two for Jenny Lake, a glittering two-mile-long body of water offering a wide variety of activities, like kayaking, canoeing, or paddling. Our families recommend taking the shuttleacross the lake and then hiking to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. For a more relaxed experience, there’s also low-key hiking and simply exploring along the water! Additional family-friendly hiking includes include Leigh Lake and Hermitage Point.
Then, if you’re looking for other Old West experiences, be sure to try an adventure or covered wagon dinner with Bar T 5. Finally, since Grand Teton and Yellowstone are around 30 miles apart, combine a trip for a discount on admission!
It’s easy to see why Arches National Park is called a red-rock wonderland! In fact, the park has over 2,000 lovely natural stone arches and other awe-inspiring geological formations. Firstly, stop and hike at Park Avenue Trail. There are a few stairs in the beginning, but most of the hike is very kid-friendly and flat. The trail is about one-mile-long with a unique landscape between enormous towering walls of red sandstone— truly an incredible sight! Then, drive to Balanced Rock to take another short walk. It’s a paved path that’s also very convenient for strollers! With spectacular views all around, this walk is very family-friendly as long as you don’t decide to go to the top.
Then, drive to The Windows Trails next to Double Arch. This one-mile loop will highlight three main attractions: North, South Window, and Turret Arch. Afterward, stop at the Delicate Arch Lookout, which you can see closely from the Delicate Arch Trail. As a 3-mile round trip, keep in mind it’s a more strenuous hike with kids and can be very hot in summer without shade. Additionally, you can drive to the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint to take family photos. Finally, Sand Dune Arch will become your kid’s new favorite spot. In this shaded trailhead, your family can experience a slot canyon. Take off your shoes, climb on rocks, or play in the sand.
Pro Tip: While the park itself is relatively easy to explore on your own, there are a number of fun tours too. Consider Colorado River Jet Boat Tour for white-water rafting (only offered during the summer months), a Hummer Safari on Hell’s Revenge Trail, 4×4 riding, or an off-road Jeep tour that passes through stunning sandstone arches and other remote areas.
Glacier National Park is located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains and showcases picturesque glacier-covered peaks! A little wild and unpredictable, flexible plans are necessary for families planning to make the journey here. As a lesser developed national park, Glacier often attracts those who want a tranquil hike in solitude. Our families recommend driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a must-do activity (seasonally open during the summer months). If you want the freedom to ride and simply soak in the beauty, try the Red Bus Tours, which drives this route and offers other tours. Then, spend time hiking trails like theHidden Lake Trail. Or, go swimming in Bowman Lake. Families can also take a Grinnell Lake Tour for a ride across the lake. Because the lakes are fed by glaciers, they’re cold and best visited in the afternoon. For other amazing adventures, try horseback riding or a whitewater rafting trip.
Families may want to visit the famous Acadia National Park as part of their East Coast national park tour. Its popularity is no surprise, as the options here for enjoying Maine’s picturesque landscapes are undeniably incredible. Even with young kids in tow, your family can explore miles of Atlantic shoreline. Enjoy the scenery by hiking along beginner trails, or by water on a sea kayak! Family-friendly hikes like Jordan Pond and Bubble Rock are perfect for all levels of hiking ability. For families with older hikers, you may want to try the challenging Beehive Loop hike. Whether you explore the park solo or join the Junior Ranger Program, don’t miss a visit to Cadillac Mountain; it’s Acadia and the North Atlantic coastline’s highest point! Near Acadia, you’ll also find Bar Harbor, a small village where you can explore and choose from various restaurant options.
For first-time visitors to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is an ideal location to make your home base. From here, you can easily visit some of the park’s best attractions. We recommend The Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina, the West Street Hotel, or the Bar Harbor Inn & Spa. Then, many families also love staying at a local rental through VRBO or the local rental company, Davis Rental Agency. Alternatively, many families love to campin the national park. For an upgraded camping experience, try glamping at Terramorwhere families love staying in huge tents.
Denali National Park and Preserve
As the home to North America’s highest mountain peak, many families put Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve on their bucket list. Before you go, however, understand there is just one road into the park – and it can get crowded! For your convenience, the shuttle bus is available and private vehicles can only drive to mile 15. Most of the park’s hiking trails begin at the park entrance and are shorter distances. One popular hike is Horseshoe Lake Trail which is two miles round-trip. Along the way, watch for trees gnawed by beavers, and at the end of the trail, spot the beaver dams.
Due to the opportunities to learn and explore, spend time at the Denali Visitor Center to soak it all in. At the front desk, kids can check out Denali Discovery Packs to further engage in their learning. Then, families with teens can white-water raftin Canyon Run! Along the way, spot large wildlife like grizzly bears, moose, and wolves! Denali is also the only national park with a kennel, unique to its location in Alaska. Plan time to visit Denali’s Alaskan huskies. Your family may even have the opportunity to watch a Sled Dog Demonstration! Then, one of the best ways to explore Denali National Park is taking a bus tour through the park, like the Denali Backcountry Adventure tour. While this tour is 13 hours long, it is family-friendly and appropriate for your kids because buses are equipped with large windows and the bus will make frequent stops.
Pro Tip: The park doesn’t fully open until June 8, so plan accordingly.
Prepare to be in awe when you visit Zion National Park! The park has plenty of light trails for beginners. Firstly, the 2.2-mileRiverside Walk is one of the easiest hikes to take with kids or grandparents at Zion (stop 99 via shuttle). Once known as the Gateway to the Narrows, it’s very flat, safe, and stroller-accessible. Plus, the walk is next to a cascading river where you can get plenty of photo opportunities! As one of the most famous hikes in Zion, be aware it can get crowded, however! For more easy hikes, try Weeping Rock Trail, Grotto Trail, and Pa’rus Trail.
With spring-fed pools, canyon views, and many waterfalls, The Lower Emerald Pools Trail will excite your entire group too. Visit the middle or upper pool, but remember some spots have steep cliffs! Older kids or those up for a challenge will love Angels Landing, a thrilling 5-mile hike with a steep drop. Finally, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive also provides a driving option to experience via your family vehicle.
Pro Tip: Be sure to secure your spot on the park’s shuttle bus service in advance of your trip, though, since Zion closes the park to private vehicle access during certain months. Additionally, anyone visiting Zion National Park should also be aware of the possibility of flash floods and park-wide closures.
Any list of the top 10 national parks for families would be incomplete without mention of the Grand Canyon National Park! This Arizona national park is one of the most well-known in the country and certainly one of the most frequented. Overall, many families who visit here choose to start at the South Rim, open year-round. The South Rim Trail is ideal for kid-friendly trekking, as it is fairly flat, but still offers iconic canyon views! Many visitors are also happy to simply take in Grand Canyon’s beauty from a panoramic view from its top. Then, add a hike, ride a mule, or raft on the Colorado River to enrich your experience.
Several amazing hikes begin directly from the Visitor’s Center, such as South Kaibab which is a great option if you’re looking for an incredible view that’s less crowded. Another popular hike for families is the Bright Angel Trail to 1.5 Mile Resthouse. This three-mile hike features a wide path without steep drop-offs. Families also love that restrooms and water are available at the turnaround point. Don’t miss the Desert View Watchtower for amazing views! Also, consider a helicopter tour for a unique memory and perspective on the canyon. Finally, don’t forget, the Grand Canyon operates the super convenient park shuttle which will get you to all the popular trails.
Where to Stay Near the Grand Cayon with Kids
If you want to soak in the experience of the Grand Canyon, we recommend spending about three days. You’ll find great lodging options when planning your vacation here. One premier place to stay in the park is the Grand Canyon Lodge, and families especially love the luxurious El Tovar. Be sure to book in advance. Then, nature lovers may want to camp. Under Canvas is an amazing option for families interested in glamping under the stars. Another unique choice, in nearby Williams, for families with train lovers is Canyon Motel & RV Park where you can sleep inside an authentic caboose! The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon is another nearby option for families who desire a traditional hotel stay.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Lush forests and mountain hikes define The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Offering a wide variety of accessible and more challenging adventures, the many outdoor adventures make this a popular vacation destination for nature enthusiasts of all ages. Cades Cove, an 11-mile one-way loop road, is a popular route to drive, with parking along the way to stop for a quick hike. While you drive the loop, stay alert! Use the opportunity to teach children about the black bears roaming the roads of one of the best national parks for families. If you’re looking to stretch your legs, considering hiking to Alum Cove. This 5-mile out and back trail crosses Walker Camp Prong and Alum Cave Creek on log bridges, delighting avid adventurers in your family. Kephart Prong Trail is a 4-mile round trip offering wildlife sightings, including salamanders! Finally, Porters Creek is a moderate 2-mile hike ideal young hikers.
Where to Stay Near the Great Smoky Mountains with Kids
Before leaving home, you’ll want to research these national parks for families and verify that facilities and trails are open as some are experiencing temporary closures during COVID-19. If you’re considering visiting multiple parks in a year, look into an America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass. Extra bonus if you happen to have a 4th grader; you can receive a free pass for the whole family!
Also, remember to download maps with directions and routes before leaving home. National parks are known for inconsistent cell service. In fact, many families download apps for navigating national parks before leaving home. A few favorite apps we recommend when exploring the best national parks for families include The National Park Service App, REI Co-op App, and GyPSy Guides. Whichever park you select, spending time together in one of the best national parks for families will unquestionably be a vacation your kids will remember for years to come!
Whichever park you choose, spending time together in one of these 10 Best National Parks in the United States for Families will unquestionably be a vacation your kids will remember for years to come! A special thank you to the Families Who Love To Travel Facebook community who generously shared their travel recommendations for this list of top national parks for families. We could not have compiled such a thoughtful and helpful list without their dedication to our community. Families Who Love To Travel is a group of amazing families who also love adventure and exploring through travel. For more family vacation recommendations and inspiration, be sure to join us on Facebook at Families Who Love To Travel. Plus, follow us on Instagram (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the locations in this article may be temporarily closed or may have reduced services. Please ensure availability before making your decision and embarking on your family vacation to one of the top national parks for families.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.