Who’s ready for some fresh air? If you’re wondering where you can take in some of the United States’ best natural scenery, we’ve got you covered! Our Families Love Travel team has researched to compile a list of the top 10 National Parks for families to visit! Since we’ve found parks spread around the country, no matter where in the U.S. you find yourself, chances are your family will not be far from one of these amazing adventures! Out in nature, you’ll also find so many things to do with kids, from hiking to splashing in springs, canoeing, or just soaking in the sunshine. Whatever you love doing, this list of top 10 National Parks for families will offer you endless opportunities to choose from!
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Book early (even a year in advance!) for this well-known Wyoming destination. In fact, Yellowstone is the world’s first National Park! Part of an active super-volcano, you’ll find unique hot springs and geysers here, with the gorgeous Old Faithful being the most popular. Yellowstone is also a great place to camp. But, if you choose to stay in a hotel, many of our contributors recommend staying in nearby Jackson Hole. Parking lots for popular areas fill up quickly nonetheless, so definitely plan ahead and get an early start! When you do, your family will be rewarded with amazing views and abundant opportunities to view Yellowstone’s amazing wildlife. To avoid the crowds, also consider going in the off-season, as each month has its own unique highlights.
To start planning your trip to Yellowstone, first, visit its official website for information on closings, events, etc. Then, check out our Planning a Family Trip to Yellowstone National Park, a guide written by a knowledgeable FLT contributor. To consult other blogs on the topic check out The Ultimate Trip to Yellowstone or Great Hikes in Yellowstone National Park with Kids to decide what else to do when you actually arrive!
Yosemite National Park (California)
Yosemite’s beauty is truly indescribable. Not only are there majestic views of El Capitan, the park’s famous rock formation, but also of Bridal Veil Falls, and the towering sequoias. There’s no doubt your family will fall in love with exploring nature here! (Our contributors can’t even pick their favorite hikes because of all the many choices.) Honestly, Yosemite’s options are way more than you can experience in a single trip, but you should still try to fit in as much as you can. Young families will love spending time along the Merced River, as it’s a calm and tranquil area perfect for toddlers or babies. Those with teens looking for a challenge will find abundant options catering to older children as well.
To begin your amazing adventure to Yosemite, visit the Yosemite National Park Site for information on closings, weather, or other advisory alerts. FLT Contributor Melissa has also written a fantastic account on Experiencing Yosemite National Park. For a list of activities worth considering within the park, read 21 Epic Things to do in Yosemite National Park with Kids or Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Yosemite National Park.
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
While you can visit the striking Grand Teton National Park in all seasons, a summer visit shows the park at it’s finest. From May to September, all of the activities and trails are available for 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, For the more relaxed, there’s also hiking and simply exploring along the water! If you have animal lovers in the family, definitely don’t miss the Open-air Wildlife Safari. Since Grand Teton and Yellowstone are around 30 miles apart, combine a trip for a discount on admission!
To embark on your exciting journey to Grand Teton National Park, consult the Grand Teton National Park Site to learn about the best time to visit. For more information on the planning process, How to Plan a Vacation at Grand Teton National Park is an incredible resource to ensure you have a checklist of everything you need to know before visiting Grand Teton with kids. When you arrive, choose from Grand Teton Kid Hikes and this comprehensive list of the 14 Fun Things to do in Grand Teton National Park with Kids!
Arches National Park (Utah)
It’s not hard to see why Arches National Park is called a red-rock wonderland! From white-water river rafting to authentic Native American petroglyphs, the park has over 2,000 lovely natural stone arches and other awe-inspiring geological formations. If your family is short on time, maximize your stay by driving a scenic loop around. First, stop and hike at Park Avenue. There are some 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. What kid wouldn’t love looking at a giant balanced boulder? 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.
Drive to The Windows Trails next to Double Arch next. This one-mile loop is definitely worth the hike! During your journey, you’ll see three main attractions: North, South Window, and Turret Arch. It a flat and easy walk with kids, as you can go to Double Arch from the same parking lot as Windows. 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. Or, 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. What a welcome retreat on a sunny day!
Pro Tip: Landscape Arch Hike (1.6 miles round trip) is another easy hike to take with kids in Arches National Park. Remember that food isn’t available here, though, so plan ahead with a picnic!
Glacier National Park (Montana)
Glacier National Park is located in the Rocky Mountains and as its name suggests, has glacier-covered peaks to enjoy! A little wild and unpredictable, flexible plans are a necessity for any family planning to make a journey here. As a lesser developed National Park, Glacier attracts those who want a tranquil hike in solitude. Contributors also recommend driving on Sun Road as a must-do activity, depending on the time of year. There are also plenty of other scenic drives in and around the park. Freedom to look out the window and soak it all in accompanies the Red Jammer shuttle bus!
To begin your adventure toward Glacier National Park, visit the Glacier National Park Site to discern when it’s open. While you’re in the planning stage, it’s best to consult experiences like How to Plan the Perfect Glacier National Park Trip for Your Family and Glacier National Park with Kids: Things to Know Before you Go to ensure you don’t miss any important information that could make your trip smoother. For a comprehensive overlook, read through A Family Guide for your Next Visit to Glacier Park afterward.
Acadia National Park (Maine)
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 at Acadia. Even with young kids in tow, your family can explore miles of Atlantic shoreline, hike along beginner trails, and kayak! Whether you explore the park solo or join a ranger-led program, don’t miss a visit to Cadillac Mountain; it’s Acadia’s highest point and also of the entire North Atlantic coastline! Near Acadia, you’ll also find Bar Harbor, a small village where you can explore and choose from various restaurant options.
Start planning your trip to Acadia by visiting the Acadia National Park Site for information on opening hours. Those looking to spend an extended time in the park will love this helpful guide by FLT contributor Rebecca: 6 Days in Acadia National Park. Or, if you have younger children, Cadillac Mountain, and our First National Park with a Toddler also provides some pretty useful tips for little ones. Use other accounts like Visit Maine’s Majestic Acadia National Park for a more general overview of what to expect when you visit Acadia!
Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Given Alaska’s frigid climate, most visitors venture to Denali National Park during the warmer summer months. Before you go, however, understand there is just one road in the park — and it can get crowded! To travel beyond Denali’s first 15 miles, you’ll need to walk, bike, or jump on a bus. Select a bus and you’ll have a choice between narrated tours and transit buses. No matter what you choose, you’ll surely stay on the edge of your seat! 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 and your family may have the opportunity to watch a dog sled demonstration!
To plan your action-packed trip to Denali National Park, consult the Denali National Park Site for important advisories. Then, different first hand-accounts like Exploring Denali National Park with Kids, Denali with Kids, and Denali National Park with Kids give important detail on how to make the most of your visit to Denali!
Zion National Park (Utah)
Prepare to receive your daily exercise when you visit Zion National Park! Be sure to ensure 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. No worries if your family includes younger children, as the park has plenty of light trails for beginners too! The 2.2-mile Riverside 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.
The Riverside Walk is also known as the Gateway to The Narrows, which is a steep, one-of-a-kind hike usually better-suited for experienced hikers in the summer months. Though it’s a bucket-list activity for many, it may not be best for young families due to the possibility of flash floods. (Bring waterproof boots, hiking poles, and prepare to wade through water if you do try!) 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. Even the first mile of this lengthy trail is doable with younger kids (and definitely worth the view!) The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive also provides a driving option to experience via your family vehicle.
Pro Tip: Anyone visiting Zion National Park should also be aware of the possibility of flash floods and park-wide closures. Check the Zion National Park website for more details.
Start your trip to Zion by visiting the Zion National Park Site for important information on advisories or opening hours. For a stay of a week or longer, FLT contributor Rebecca has a wonderful One Week Itinerary in Zion and Bryce Canyon. If you have less time, check out One Day in Zion National Park or The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Zion National Park with Kids to maximize your time!
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
Any list of the top 10 National Parks for families would be incomplete without mention of Grand Canyon! This Arizona National Park is one of the most well-known in the country and certainly the most frequented. Overall, many families who visit here choose to start at the South Rim, open year-round, and calm enough for children. Many visitors are also totally happy to simply take in Grand Canyon’s beauty from a panoramic view from its top. Still, you should confidently try to pack in as much as possible. Add a hike, ride a mule, or raft on the Colorado River to enrich your experience. Also, consider a helicopter tour for a unique memory. Don’t miss the Desert View Watchtower for amazing views!
Plan your spectacular getaway to Grand Canyon by consulting the Grand Canyon National Park Site for important information. Before you pack your bags, read the Grand Canyon with Kids – What you Need to Know Before you Go. Or, the 10 Best Things to do with Kids in the Grand Canyon. Visiting with younger children? This list of 8 Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon with Toddlers has everything you’ll need!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina/Tennessee)
Lush forests and mountain hikes define The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Offers a wide variety of both accessible and challenging adventures, the plethora of experiences make this a popular vacation destination for adventurers of all ages. Those with children have plenty of options, too! 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 dangers of black bears roaming the roads. Also consider Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for lodging, dining, and fun for all ages, two towns recommended by our contributors!
Start planning your trip by visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Site for important information. If you’re not convinced it’s family-friendly yet, blogs like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: A Place Worth Visiting will definitely change your mind! Once you arrive, all you need to know is where to head to. These lists of What to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids and Kid-Friendly Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can definitely help you out!
Before You Go…
Before leaving home, you’ll want to research these top 10 National Parks for families and make sure the facilities and trails are open. If you’re considering visiting multiple parks in a year, look into an America the Beautiful National Park Pass. Extra bonus if you happen to have a 4th grader; you can request a free pass for the whole family! Also, remember to download maps with directions and routes before leaving home. National Parks usually have spotty cell coverage.
To avoid hungry children and long food lines, most contributors also recommend bringing your own packed food due to limited options. Consequently, you may want to consider packing healthy food to keep your energy high.
Whichever park you choose, spending time together in one of these top 10 National Parks for families will unquestionably be a vacation your kids will remember for years to come!
Which one is at the top of your list? Share your favorites and your National Park travel insights below!
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