Jul
16

The Best National Parks in the USA for Families

US National Parks are made for the epic outdoor family vacations with kids. With over 62 national parks spread across 29 US States, you might get confused about which of them are the best for your family. We’ve rounded up the best national parks in the USA for families with the help of family travel experts in the travel blogging industry. So, get ready to plan your next incredibly family-friendly national park adventure with our list of the best American National Parks!

17 Best National Parks in the USA with Kids

We love visiting the national parks with kids as they apart from outdoor activities offer a whole new world of learning for kids. Though all the 62 national parks managed by the NPS are unique in their own way, there are a few that fit the best for families with kids. Here are the top national parks in the US that are perfect for kids:

#1 Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Editor’s Choice

Where to Stay: Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn | Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim | Thunderbird Lodge South Rim

When to Go: As per the guidebooks, summer (June to August) is the best time to visit the Grand Canyon National Park but we beg to differ. We suggest you avoid the peak season and choose to visit during quieter months of spring (March to May) or fall (September to November) for a real immersive experience.

Entry Fee: $35 per vehicle

Closest City: Tusayan, AZ; Williams, AZ; Kingman, AZ; Flagstaff, AZ; Page, AZ

How to Get There: The nearest airports are in Phoenix and Las Vegas. It takes a little over 4 hours from Phoenix or Las Vegas to Grand Canyon.

Pro-Tip: If you are visiting the park during summer and are worried about hordes of tourists, consider going to the relatively remote North Rim for it sees fewer crowds than the South Rim.

Grand Canyon is ‘GRAND’ literally and figuratively! You can’t really capture the beauty of Grand Canyon in its entirety. If you’re looking for an epic outdoor adventure with family, Grand Canyon National Park is the answer.

The South Rim is the most-visited and thus, touristy (read crammed) part of the park. The North Rim, owing to its less accessibility over the South Rim is lesser-visited. Also, the South Rim is open all through the year while the North Rim is open from May until October. However, hikers and skiers with backcountry permits can enter the North Rim during the winter months.

There are many hiking trails in the park, Bright Angel Trail, Havasupai Falls Trail, and South Kaibab Trail are our favorite. Havasu Falls Trail is a bit strenuous trail with a 10-mile hike, one way and is recommended with kids over 10 years. The Bright Angel Trail (3-mile round trip hike) and South Kaibab Trail (2-mile round trip hike) can easily be done with younger kids. Make sure to carry plenty of water and snacks.

When it comes to the best lookout points (well, because Grand Canyon = incredible views), the Bright Angel Point (North Rim) and Desert View, and Yavapai Point (South Rim) are the best of the lot.

There are many ways you can admire the beauty and vastness of the canyon – driving the scenic Desert View Drive, taking a helicopter ride through the canyon, whitewater rafting down the Colorado River, gasping down the canyon fro its varied lookout points, and taking one of the many family-friendly hikes are few of them.

Consider using South Rim shuttle buses to travel around the Grand Canyon Village, lookout points, campgrounds, lodges, and parking lots.

grand canyon national park arizona the best national parks in the usa

#2 Zion National Park, Utah

Recommended by Margherita from the Crowded Planet

Where to Stay: Watchman Campground | Zion Lodge | Desert Pearl Inn

When to Go: Spring or Fall

Entry Fee: $35 per vehicle

Closest City: Springdale, UT

How to Get There: If you’re driving from Vegas, the closest airport, you’ll be entering the park from the main entrance, not far from the town of Springdale, whereas if you’re on a long road trip and driving from Kanab, you’ll enter from the East Entrance, a 20-min scenic drive away from the main visitor center.

Pro-Tip: Visit Zion in winter! The park is at a lower altitude compared to nearby Bryce, so trails are rarely covered with snow. Tourists are also few and far between, so trails that get very busy in winter have next to no people!

Zion National Park is definitely one of the best US National Parks for families, especially if you’re into hiking and nature. The park is located in Southern Utah, not far from the Arizona border. The main feature in the park is Zion Canyon, created by the Virgin River, surrounded by mountains and crossed by dozens of hiking trails. 

Regardless of where you enter, you’ll have to pay a $35 fee per vehicle, valid for 7 days. If you’re visiting several national parks, we recommend investing in the ‘America the Beautiful’ pass, valid for one year for all US national parks, for only $80. 

Start your Zion experience at the main visitor center, where you can get some maps and chat with rangers about trail conditions, and get recommendations for your family depending on the age of your kids and how much you want to hike. For example, if you are visiting with young children or with strollers, the Riverside trail is a great option – it’s paved and only one mile long, running along a section of the Virgin River surrounded by towering rock walls. Another option is the Grotto trail, also a mile long, and a great place to see wildlife. 

If your children are a bit older and like water, you can tackle the Narrows, one of the iconic Zion hikes leading you along the river to a spot where the two canyon walls are almost touching. It’s a full day adventure and you’ll need waterproof gear, but it will be truly unforgettable for everyone. 

Besides hiking, Zion is a great place for scenic drives, with wonderful views around every corner. Other activities include canyoneering, rock climbing, and ranger-led activities – including the possibility to become a junior ranger for one day!

zion national park utah the best national parks in the usa

#3 Yosemite National Park, California

Recommended by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

Where to Stay: The Ahwahnee | Yosemite High Sierra Camps

When to Go: May and September

Entry Fee: $35 per vehicle

Closest City: Merced, CA

How to Get There: Visiting Yosemite National Park is easy from San Francisco, the park is located only approximately 3 hours east of the city via California State Highway 120 East.

Pro-Tip: Explore the park on a bike!

Like most national parks, Yosemite National Park is the perfect natural spot to visit with your family. The park is full of beautiful sights to see giving your children a new appreciation for nature and the outdoors. You’ll get a chance to share gushing waterfalls, gorgeous granite rock formations, and new travel memories with your family. 

Some of the best waterfalls to check out in Yosemite are, of course, the namesake Yosemite Falls. Located in the Yosemite Valley, the base of this waterfall is easily accessible by a short trail. The hike is less than a mile long in each direction and is paved making it quick and easy for family members of all ages. 

Another great waterfall is Bridalveil Falls. Bridalveil Falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley, the waterfall can be reached by a short 0.5-mile round trip hike from the parking lot. This gushing waterfall definitely has a “splash zone” so you might want to be prepared with waterproof or rain gear. 

To see one of the most beautiful views of the Yosemite Valley, one only needs to check out the Tunnel View vista point. Made famous by the famed photographer Ansel Adams, this view encompasses much of the Valley including Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls. The vista point is a short walk from the parking lot and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

The Yosemite Valley, in general, is amazing. Throughout the Valley, you’ll be able to see beautiful granite rock formations even from the grassy meadow areas. Here you’ll be positioned towards the base of the mountains and you’ll find various dining options, campgrounds, and even lodgings. 

yosemite national park valley california best national parks in usa
© Constance

#4 Joshua Tree National Park

Recommended by Abi from Happy Go Abi

Where to Stay: Spin and Margie’s Desert Hideaway

When to Go: Joshua Tree is wonderful to visit year-round, but spring is one of the best times for nice weather and to see the beautiful flowers that pop up across the desert.

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle

Closest City: Palm Springs, CA

How to Get There: The park is an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, 2.5 hours drive from Los Angeles, and about 3 hours drive from San Diego

Pro-Tip: Just be sure to bring food and lots of water, as there’s no place to get food in the park, and there are only very few places along the edge of the park to fill up water bottles.

If you’re looking for amazing national parks to visit with your family, then Joshua Tree National Park should definitely be on your list. This national park is often overlooked compared to some of the more famous parks in California, but it is a unique place to explore whether you visit Joshua Tree for one day or visit for longer.

Families who love nature will enjoy this park because of its unusual and unique plants and landscape. In particular, you will love seeing the Joshua trees that give this park its name, especially since they only grow in the Mojave Desert so this is one of only a few places in the world where you’ll be able to see them!

While this national park can get quite hot (especially in summer), it is still an excellent place for families to explore as there are lots of shorter hikes and walks that allow you to enjoy nature but then cool off in the car or rest in between activities. Hidden Valley Trail and Skull Rock Trail are both easy hikes that will be enjoyed by all ages, and the Cholla Cactus Gardens are also striking to see.

Even families with older kids will enjoy Joshua Tree, as there’s plenty of adventure to experience as well. Rock climbing, bouldering, and even going on a Jeep tour are all viable options for a trip to Joshua Tree. So, no matter the ages of your kids, you are sure to find something to love in this park.

There are no hotels/lodges within the park so you’ll have to stay at one of this park’s beautiful campgrounds or consider staying in the nearby town at one of the motels or hotels.

No matter whether you stay the night or just visit for the day, the beauty of this park and the exciting activities within make it an excellent place to visit as a family!

joshua tree national park california the best national parks in the usa
© Abi

#5 Everglades National Park, Florida

Where to Stay: Holiday Inn Express Hotels & Suites Florida City | Travelodge by Wyndham

When to Go: December to April

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle

Closest City: Miami, FL ; Key Largo, FL

How to Get There: It is about an hour drive from Miami and Key Largo both.

Pro-Tip: Plan to reach early to explore this massive national park. Bug spray, sunscreen, hats are a must.

Everglades National Park is the third-largest national park in the US. Located at the southern tip of Florida, it has a subtropical wetland ecosystem, covered with a lot of water. Due to the marshy ecosystem, the park is famous for American crocodiles and manatees besides other flora and fauna.

There are three entrances to the park and the main entrance is in Homestead. Plan to begin at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center with information about the park through videos and exhibits. Grab a map and head out to explore the park.

Begin by walking the Anhinga Trail, a 0.8-mile-long boardwalk over a wetland. This is a great place to sight alligators and the bird Anhinga on which the trail is named. There are guided tours by the park ranger at specific timings that are great to get acquainted with.

Other spots that are a must-visit in Everglades National Park are Pa-hay-okee lookout tower to get Ariel views of the vast park. Mahogany hammock trail is a 0.5 mile long elevated trail that takes through the world’s largest and oldest Mahogany trees. The park is a haven for bird watchers and the best places to sight them are the Paurotis Pond, Nine-mile pond.

The end of the park main road leads to the Flamingo Visitor Center with views of the gulf. Walk over to the marina to spot Manatees or take a boat/kayak tour.

Since the park is mostly covered with water, there are many air boat tours that take you around to spot crocodiles in their natural habitat and mangroves. There are tram tours to take on a ecotour of the Shark Valley.

It makes a perfect day trip from Miami or can be explored en route a Road trip from Miami to Key West.

everglades national park florida the best national parks in the usa

#6 Glacier National Park, Montana

Recommended by Taylor from Travel Outlandish

Where to Stay: Many Glacier Campground | Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins | Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge

When to Go: Because of the extreme weather, you can experience Glacier most fully in June through September with reduced hours in May and September. So plan your trip early, plan it for the summer.

Entry Fee: $35 per vehicle

Closest City: West Glacier, MT

How to Get There: Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell is the closest airport. It’s about 30 miles from West Entrance of Glacier National Park and takes about an hour’s drive.

Pro-Tip: Remember to pack your binoculars for wildlife spotting.

Glacier National Park is nothing short of spectacular. Sitting in a Northwestern corner of Montana along the border with Canada, it’s a bit out of the way, but certainly worth the drive time.

So what are some of the best things to do in Glacier National ParkGoing-to-the-Sun Road is a good start. The 49-mile road stretches between Apgar Village on the West and Saint Mary’s Visitor Center on the east with 28 points of interest along the way.

Bird Woman Falls and Logan Pass are especially worth a stop, but the drive itself is really the best part of the experience.

Another feature of the park is the wildlife. There are 71 species of mammal and 278 species of birds in the park. Yeah, you’ll see squirrels and deer running around, but even sightings of more elusive large mammals like bighorn sheep, bears, and mountain goats are exceptionally common.

If your family is into hiking, there are trails in nearly every section of the park, and you can get real rewards with very little effort. The most known hike in the park is probably the Highline Trail, a trail cut into the Garden Wall that meanders the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s relatively flat with really exceptional views.

A few other great hikes for families would be the 7.5-mile hike to Grinnel Glacier or the 5-mile hike to St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls & Baring Falls.

As for lodging, you can choose between 13 campsites and 9 historic structures. The most sought after campground is Many Glacier on the east side of the park, but it’s only open late May to late September with primitive camping available outside of this season. Sites are from $23.

glacier national park montana best national parks in usa

#7 Acadia National Park, Maine

Where to Stay: Bar Harbor Inn | Hampton Inn Bar Harbor

When to Go: Late spring or fall

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle

Closest City: Bar Harbor, Maine

How to Get There: Bar Harbor is the nearest town around 15 minutes away from the national park.

Pro-Tip: Wake up early morning to watch the sunrise from the Cadillac Mountain summit and don’t forget the blanket. Most of the Park loop road is one-way, so follow the directions to avoid missing the stop.

One of the most visited Nationals Parks in the East coast is Acadia National Park, Maine. The park spread across 47,000 acres has varied landscapes from rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, ponds, mountains making it a must visit.

The best things to do in Acadia National Park is to drive along the 27-mile Park Loop Road that has many pretty attractions like Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, Otter Cliff, Jordon Pond and many more with parking spaces to pull off. 

The Park loop road runs along the Atlantic ocean with mesmerizing vistas to enjoy. 

Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak of the east coast, and is the first place to see the rising sun. Catch the sun at dawn painting the sky with mesmerizing views of Eagle lake and the national park. It is advisable to carry blankets as it gets very windy.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, is one of the iconic lighthouses of the park and is the best place to watch the sunset with the backdrop of the beautiful lighthouse on the rocky cliff.

There are many hikes – Ocean Path, Jordon Pond Path, Cadillac summit loop, Beehive trail and many more traversing through the mountains, coral ponds, beaches that gives chance to tap some untouched beauty and mesmerizing vistas.

Summer is a busy season with influx of tourists. To avoid the crowd and parking hassles its advisable to opt for the free Island Explorer Shuttle.

Thinking where to stay in Acadia National Park. Read our list of best Bar Harbor hotels in Maine to plan a memorable stay.

#8 Arches National Park, Utah

Recommended by James Ian from Travel Collecting

Where to Stay: Devil’s Garden Campground | Sunflower Hill Inn

When to Go: Try to avoid the incredibly hot summer months. Spring and fall are best, as it does snow in winter, closing many of the trails.

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle

Closest City: Moab, UT

How to Get There: You will need a car to get there. The nearest main airport is Salt Lake City, 230 miles (370 km) away.

Pro-Tip: Go early. There is only one road in the park and most people stay in Moab, so by mid-morning there can be very long lines to get into the park, and parking at popular arches in the park can be hard to find.

Arches National Park is perfect for families who love the great outdoors. The park has several key geographical sections – the Park Avenue section, the Windows section, the Fiery Furnace, and Devil’s Garden. There are hikes throughout, of varying levels of difficulty. Short easy hikes include to the Park Avenue lookout, where there are stunning views over the Park Avenue ‘canyon’; to Sand Dune Arch, which goes through a narrow slot and opens into a hidden ‘courtyard’ with a sand dune and a dramatic arch (the kids will love it!); Double Arch and the Windows; and Skylight Arch.

Moderate hikes include the most famous in the park – to Delicate Arch.  The arch only comes into view right at the end of the trail. It is perched on the edge of a bowl and a steep drop on the other side. Go for the sunset, when the arch glows golden, but head back as soon as the sun sets so you aren’t walking in the dark (take a flashlight to be safe).

The most fun hikes are the Devil’s Garden Trail and the Fiery Furnace. Devil’s Garden Trail is broken into several sections. The first and easiest section is to the longest arch in the U.S., Landscape Arch. If the kids (and adults) aren’t afraid of heights, you can continue on along the tops of narrow ridges called ‘fins’ to the beautiful Double O Arch, passing several other arches along the way.

If you have older kids, you can return via the ‘primitive trail’ that goes through Fin Canyon and sometimes skirts along narrow ledges and goes through the water. Otherwise, you can easily return the way you came. Fiery Furnace is best visited on a ranger-led group tour.

arches national park utah the best national parks in the usa
© James Ian

#9 Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Where to Stay: Canyons Boutique Hotel | The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

When to Go: April to October

Entry Fee: $35 per vehicle

Closest City: Cedar City, UT

How to Get There: 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Cedar City; 4 hours drive from Salt Lake City, Moab,and Las Vegas

Pro-Tip: Ride a free Bryce Canyon Shuttle from Bryce Canyon City to get around the national park. It takes you through the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge, campgrounds, and most of the viewpoints. Though, you’d need your own car to access the viewpoints at the southern end (Highway 63) like Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point.

Know for its unique and stunning red, orange, white, pink, and coral geological rock spires called hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is filled with super family-friendly activities.

The most popular and scenic area in the national park is Bryce Amphitheater. Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Bryce Point, and Inspiration Point are the viewpoints that give incredible views over the Bryce Amphitheater. Sunrise and Sunset are the recommended times if you want to capture Instagram-worthy photographs!

Rim Trail, Queen’s Garden Trail, and The Navajo Loop Trail are easy hikes for families. With younger kids, you can try the canyon trail rides on horseback or mule.

Rim Trail is a 5.5-mile (one way) hike that runs from Fairyland Point through Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point to Bryce Point offering beautiful views over Bryce Amphitheater. You can hike down the Queen’s Garden Trail (1.8 miles) at Sunrise Point to see the hoodoos up close!

The Navajo Loop Trail (1.4 miles) at Sunset Point also takes you down to Bryce Canyon’s floor to see hoodoo formations like Twin Bridges, Thor’s Hammer, and Wall Street. You can combine the Navajo Loop with Queen’s Garden (3-mile hike) for an all-inclusive experience. It takes about 3-4 hours to complete the combined hike.

May to September is the peak season for the national park so, it’s advised to visit between October and April to avoid the crowds. The weather is also pleasant around this time.

You can choose to stay at one of the campgrounds in Bryce Canyon – North Campground and Sunset Campground. North Campground is on the first-come-first-serve basis while Sunset Campground asks you to reserve in 6-months in advance. Bryce Canyon Lodge is a historic lodge within walking distance from the major viewpoints and trails. For those who look for luxury hotels, there are endless accommodation options outside of Bryce Canyon in nearby towns like Bryce Canyon City, Escalante, Kanab, and many more.

bryce canyon national park utah the best national parks in the usa

#10 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Recommended by Erica Cardinal from eastTNfamilyfun.com

Where to Stay: Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort

When to Go: All-round the year

Entry Fee: Free

Closest City: Knoxville and Asheville

How to Get There: The two airports near to the national park are – McGhee-Tyson Airport, Tennessee, and Asheville Regional Airport, North Carolina. Both airports have car rental facilities. You can choose to enter through one of the 3 entrances to the park – Gatlinburg, and Townsend (Tennessee) and Cherokee (North Carolina).

Pro-Tip: Drive the 11-mile scenic loop road to spot amazing wildlife and enjoy the beautiful views.

With over 11 million visitors each year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in the entire United States. With its stunning views, abundant wildlife, and wealth of family-friendly attractions, it’s easy to see why.

Its convenient location has also helped make this national park a vacation hot spot. Most of the eastern US can reach the park in less than a day’s drive, which is great because there are no major airports nearby. The closest one, in Knoxville, is small with limited flight availability.

Thankfully once you get to the park, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that admission, parking, and ranger-led programs, are completely free! The park even hosts several living history events throughout the year, which showcase Appalachian life in the 1800s.

Of course, the most popular activities in the park are wildlife viewing and hiking.

The Gatlinburg Trail is one of the most family-friendly hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can enter the trail directly from downtown Gatlinburg and the roundtrip length is just a short 4 miles. The trail is flat with easy terrain, which makes it a great choice for hiking with kids.

If you hike to the end of the trail before turning around, you’ll reach the popular Sugarlands Visitor Center. The visitors center boasts ranger-led programs, an indoor museum, a gift shop, and an informational movie about the history of the national park.

Just outside of the visitors center is Cataract Falls, a small but worthy waterfall you can walk to in just a few short minutes.

If you’re visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll need a place to stay. The park has a variety of beautiful campgrounds, but none of them offer showers or hot water. For this reason, most families opt to stay just outside of the park in either Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

One of the most popular hotels is the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort. This rustic resort is nestled into the mountains with gorgeous scenic views. The biggest selling feature is its expansive indoor waterpark, which will help you keep the family-fun alive on rainy days. There are also several restaurants and stores located on-site.

Tourism is booming in the Smokies year-round, so there is no bad time to visit. One thing to keep in mind is that some surrounding attractions, like Dollywood, do close down in the winter.

great smoky mountains national park North Carolina and Tennessee USA

#11 Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Recommended by James Ian from Travel Collecting

Where to Stay: Jackson Lake Lodge

When to Go: Spring or Fall | The school holidays in July-August are the most popular times and it can get busy.

Entry Fee: $35 per vehicle

Closest City: Jackson Hole, WY

How to Get There: The main access town for the park is Jackson to the south, where there is an airport. The national park is just south of Yellowstone National Park, and visiting both parks on the same trip is popular. You will need a car to get around.

Pro-Tip: Get up early for the sunrise over the mountains – it is worth the effort. 

Grand Teton National Park is a perfect family destination spot. There are two large lakes, great hikes, stunning views, chances to see wildlife and plenty of places to stay. 

There are several not-to-be-missed hikes around Jenny Lake. An easy hike goes to Moose Pond, a popular place for moose to come and graze the grass growing in the shallow pond. There are often ranger-led hikes there, and this is recommended, as they are very educational.

An easy trail goes around Jenny Lake, though it is also possible to take a boat shuttle across the lake.  From there, a short but steep hike goes up to Hidden Falls or up to Cascade Canyon. Once you are in the canyon, the trail flattens out and follows the river. There are spectacular views of the mountains, a beautiful waterfall, and good chances of seeing moose and maybe even river otters.

The more northern Jackson Lake has several campgrounds, lodges, and restaurants.  There is boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking possible here, which will keep the whole family entertained. 

A huge part of the appeal of Grand Teton National is the stunning views of the mountain range rising straight up out of the plains. As a break from hiking and enjoying the lake, there are several viewpoints you can enjoy on scenic drives, including Oxbow Bend, Snake River Overlook, and Schwabacher Landing (where you may see moose at dusk). There are often herds of bison grazing alongside the roads, which the kids will love. 

Another short trip, actually just outside the national park, is to Mormon Row, a place of great historical importance, where today the remains of picturesque buildings such as Moulton Barn make a great foreground for the spectacular Grand Teton mountain range behind them.

sunrise over grand teton national park the best national parks in the usa

#12 Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Recommended by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

Where to Stay: Old Faithful Inn

When to Go: May to October

Entry Fee: $25 per vehicle

Closest City: Gardiner, MT; Big Sky, MT; West Yellowstone, Mt; Jackson Hole, WY; Bozeman, MT; Cody, WY

How to Get There: Most of the Yellowstone gateway towns have regional airports and car rentals. There’s no public transport system to and in the park, so the best way to get to and around is by car.

Pro tip: Because all the geothermal features and the wild animals can be dangerous you will want to use some caution when visiting Yellowstone with kids. Keep young children within an arm’s length at all times and do not let them leave the marked trails or boardwalks. When hiking or camping, bear spray is also recommended in the event you encounter wildlife. But with the appropriate precautions, Yellowstone can be a spectacular experience for the entire family.

Yellowstone National Park is known for its geothermal activity. It is the oldest national park in the United States and also one of the most fascinating for adults and kids alike. In fact, the park is practically a hands-on science lesson for school-aged children.

More than half of all the geysers on earth are located inside Yellowstone, including the park’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful. The active geyser erupts approximately 20 times each day drawing crowds of onlookers each time who gather around it to watch hot water and steam blast high into the sky. 

The Grand Prismatic Spring is another popular thing to see in Yellowstone National Park. It is one of the largest hot springs in the world and is known for its vibrant colors. The hike to the overlook area is easy to do with kids. For the best views, start the hike in the afternoon because there will be less steam covering the colorful spring when the air temperature is warmer. You can also walk around the Grand Prismatic Spring for a close-up view of this colorful natural creation.

Beyond geothermal hot springs and geysers, Yellowstone National Park boasts several powerful waterfalls, beautiful lakes and rivers, and more than 200 species of animals. Children of all ages will love watching the herds of bison in their native habitat. You can also spot deer, moose, wolves, and even bears within the park. 

Camping is a great way to disconnect, bond, and enjoy the outdoors as a family. But if camping isn’t your travel style, there are several lodges located within the park.

grand prismatic spring yellowstone national park wyoming montana idaho

#13 Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Recommended by Cassandra from CassandraVagher.com

Where to Stay: Moraine Park Campground | Stanley Hotel

When to Go: June to September (very busy); September to April (less crowded)

Entry Fee: The entry fee into the park is $25 per car or $15-day pass per person. The park’s annual pass is $70, which is well worth it if you plan on returning. The pass doesn’t include the campsite. 

Closest City: Estes Park, CO (east entrance) and Grand Lake, CO (west entrance)

How to Get There: Fly into Denver International Airport from where it’s about one and a half-hour drive to the park. Alternatively, you can also take a shuttle from the airport to Estes Park.

Pro-Tip: Get to the park as early as possible.

If you’re looking to educate your children on the great outdoors and help them foster a love for it, Rocky Mountain National Park is the best place in Colorado to bring them! This national park is one of the only mountain locations that you’re guaranteed to see wildlife. It’s also well known for its epic scenic views, variety of hikes, and of course camping.

The park offers a variety of trails that children of any age can handle, so you shouldn’t have an issue spending a long weekend adventuring through the park. Sprague Lake Loop is an easy .92 mile hike with scenic views of multiple mountain peaks; it’s so gorgeous that it’s a popular location for small wedding gatherings.

Have you had your family photos taken? Sprague Lake is a great location to do so, with both the lake and mountains you have the perfect backdrop. Go during September or October to get the gorgeous fall leaves. The most popular hike with a mountain view is Dream Lake, it’s 2.2 miles roundtrip, with outstanding views, wildflowers and possibly elk sitings! 

Rocky Mountain National Park is best known for its hikes and scenic views; however, it’s also an excellent place for families to go camping, picnicking, fishing, and horseback riding. You and your family are more likely to see the wildlife near dusk since animals like dear and elk are crepuscular creatures (so they not nocturnal, they are most active during sunrise and sunset).

The best time of year to go for elk sightings is during the fall since they gather in the valleys and Moraine Park. Hundreds can be seen during this time; however, make sure you do not approach them, and teach your children the same. 

If you’re planning to stay near the park, while there are many resorts in Estes Park nearby, camping in the park truly makes it a lifechanging experience. Moraine Park Campground has scenic views, stunning sunsets, and is peaceful. It’s $20 per night and is first come first serve.

rocky mountain national park colorado best national parks in usa
© Cassandra

#14 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Recommended by Marcie Cheung from Hawaii Travel with Kids

Where to Stay: Glass House in the Heart of Big Island | Volcano Rainforest Retreat

When to Go: It’s perfect to visit any time of year, although it can get rainy in the winter months.

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle

Closest City: Hilo, HI

How to Get There: It’s about 40 minutes drive from Hilo or 2.5 hours drive from Kona.

Pro-Tip: Make sure to wear proper hiking shoes instead of flip flops. The lava rock is very sharp and can cut your feet. Ouch!

One of the coolest things to do in Hawaii with kids is to see a real Hawaiian volcano. On the Big Island of Hawaii, you can actually see two of the most famous volcanoes in Hawaii at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Kilauea and Mauna Kea.

If you’re heading to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with kids, your first stops should be the visitor’s center and the Jaggar Museum. This is where your family can learn all about Hawaii’s volcanoes and find out about the daily ranger programs and special events.

One of the most popular sights to see is the Thurston Lava Tube. It’s kind of like a cave made from hardened lava. The ground is flat and it’s a short walk, making it an easy thing to do with kids.

Another awesome thing to do at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the Crater Rim Drive. This scenic drive starts at the visitor’s center and takes you to the steam vents, some scenic lookouts, Devastation Trail (great for hiking!), Keanakakao’I Crater, and the Chain of Craters Road (where you’ll see old lava rivers and the Holei Sea Arch.) It’s the ultimate way to experience the park in a short amount of time.

If you want to get an unbelievable view of the lava in Hawaii, plan on going down at dusk. This way, you’ll be able to see the lava glow and it’s something you won’t easily forget!

While a lot of people love to camp at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, that’s not always conducive for families with younger kids. That’s why you should consider staying at a vacation rental home in Volcano Village, just outside the park gates. That’s also where you’ll find restaurants and a few attractions.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park makes an epic Big Island day trip or the ultimate weekend adventure!

hawaii volcanoes national park the best national parks in the usa
© Marcie Cheung

#15 Death Valley National Park, California

Where to Stay: The Inn at Death Valley | Inn at Furnace Creek

When to Go: Spring for a good weather and wildflowers blooming

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle valid for 7 days

Closest City: Las Vegas, NV

How to Get There: From LV, it is a 2 hour drive by taking Highway 190

Pro-Tip: Carry a physical map with you to follow directions as there is poor network connectivity.

Death Valley is one of the largest national parks in the US. It is the lowest, driest and hottest place in the US apart from being the world’s hottest place. Even though it is a barren landscape but the place has intriguing beauty in the dry rocky formations, badlands or the colors spurting through the dry desert.

There is so much to see in Death Valley California from the wavy designs on rocks or the colorful soil. The most popular and closest to the Visitor Center is the Zabriskie point for viewing the colorful rock formations, especially at sunrise and sunset making it magical.

For the best view of the badlands, Dante’s View peak is the best place to be. Drive the nine-mile long Artist’s Drive passing through Artist’s Palette through canyons and mountains that give you an insight into the color palette of nature spread across the rocky soil.

The Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation point in the US and flat salt lands.

The temperatures at the park can reach up to 129 Fahrenheit in summers, so have to be mindful of the hot and dry weather. Always carry extra water and keep yourself hydrated. Caps, umbrellas, sunscreen are essential when you are out to explore.

death valley national park california the best national parks in the usa

#16 Denali National Park, Alaska

Where to Stay: North Face Lodge | Alpine Creek Lodge | Mckinley Creekside Cabins & Cafe

When to Go: June to October | June, and July are the best months to enjoy the Midnight Sun | September and October are the best months to witness Northern Lights

Entry Fee: $15 per person

Closest City: Healy, AK

How to Get There: It’s about 2 hours drive from Fairbanks and 4 hours drive from Anchorage.

Pro-Tip: It’s important to know that the park has a limited food and water facility (at a visitor center only). Bring your own snacks and water ( a lot of). Also, the weather is unpredictable here so bring extra clothing and rain gear.

Denali National Park in Alaska boasting North America’s roof, Denali (20,310 feet) is a perfect haven for wildlife and adventure lovers. The park is synonymous with the pure wilderness. A visit to the Denali is a remarkable and life-changing experience for kids. More than one-sixth of the park is covered by Glaciers with Kahiltna glacier being the longest glacier in the park as well as Alaska.

The 92-mile long Denali Park Road cuts through the park offering incredible views of the park’s landscape and wildlife. Visitors can spot the five largest mammals- caribou, Dall sheep, moose, grizzly bears, and wolves along with unique birds and plant species.

The road is open for hikers, bikers, and tour buses but much of the road is inaccessible for private vehicles ( can drive up to mile 15), so visitors can use the park shuttle to get around the park or board a tour bus to take a guided tour. You can apply for a Road Lottery Permit that lets you drive your own car into the park but that’s only possible during shoulder season.

It’s the best bet to take a full-day tour (12 plus hours) wherein a bus takes you beyond mile 15 to explore the various stops (including rest stops) along the way when exploring with kids. Savage River, Teklanika River, Eielson, or Wonder Lake are some of the best attractions along the way. The snacks and drinks are included in the tour but it’s recommended to bring your own picnic lunch.

The best place to start your Denali exploration is the Denali Visitor Center. After watching the exhibits, join the park ranger program to know more about the rich history of Denali and its natives.

Also, you should pay a visit to the working sled dog kennel to meet the park rangers of Denali. Kids will love it.

Most of the marked hiking trails are near the Denali Visitor Center though there are innumerable options when it comes to off-trail hiking which can be accessed via hop-on-hop-off bus.

Did you know that Denali is one of the best places in the United States to enjoy Northern Lights? Plan around fall, winter, and early spring to witness the magical Aurora Borealis dancing in the Alaskan sky. You must know that seeing this natural phenomenon is a matter of luck but the chances can be increased by careful planning and research.

Allow yourself at least 2-3 days at the park to explore the wilderness up close.

denali national park alaska

#17 Olympic National Park, Washington

Recommended by Emily Mandagie from The Mandagies

Where to Stay: Kalaloch Lodge

When to Go: Spring or Summer

Entry Fee: $30 per vehicle

Closest City: Port Angeles, WA; Port Townsend, WA; Seattle, WA

How to Get There: It’s a little over 2 hours drive from Seattle.

Pro-Tip: Olympic national park is huge and lacks roads cutting through the park (only trails), so it’s wise to plan ahead in time keeping all the factors in mind.

One of the best National Parks to visit with families is Olympic National Park in Washington State! Packed with tons of adventure, there is something to keep all ages entertained. From taking short waterfall hikes to searching for marine life in tide pools, there isn’t a shortage of activities for you to do!

The shortest and most direct route to Olympic National Park begins in downtown Seattle and requires a ride on a ferry (that you drive your car on to) across the Puget Sound from Seattle to Bremerton. The journey is only about 60 miles, but between the ferry ride, small towns, and highways through thick forest, it’s an adventure right from the start! Entrance fees are $30 per day per vehicle, but you can purchase an Annual pass for $80 if you plan to visit more than two parks per year.

Some not-to-be-missed activities in Olympic National Park include taking the beautiful nature walk in the Hoh Rainforest, specifically on the Hall of Mosses Trail. This short loop trail (0.8 miles) is perfect for little ones because there are things to see around every corner! For a non-walking activity, drive up to Hurricane Ridge to see mountains and sea in all directions.

If you have older kids and love hiking outdoors, you can hike to the iconic Sol Duc Falls or take the even harder but rewarding trip to Mount Storm King. If you like the ocean, Olympic National Park has over 70 miles of protected shoreline – some of the most popular beaches are Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch Beach.

This park is great for weekend getaways because there are so many great lodging options near Olympic National Park. Consider staying at the Kalaloch Lodge for its central locations to so many attractions. It’s also located on the Pacific Ocean, with options for lodge rooms or your own private cabins. No matter what you choose, you’ll be falling asleep to the sound of ocean waves!

There are so many things to do in Olympic National Park, that you can come back year after year with your family and experiencing something new every time!

sol duc river trail olympic national park washington usa

We hope that this list of the best national parks in the USA inspires your next outdoor adventure. Wait, did we miss out on any of your favorite national parks in the USA? Let us know in the comments section below and we’ll be happy to add it!

travel melodies pinterest
the best national parks in the usa for families

This article includes affiliate links to the products we earnestly love and recommend, meaning at no extra cost to you, we might make a teeny-weeny commission if you click on the link and decide to buy something. The money will be used to sustain this little cozy blog we call our virtual home.

Sharing is nice 🙂 If you have liked our post please share it with your friends and family and feel free to subscribe to our mailing list or you can also follow our stories on Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and Twitter.

We'd love to hear your thoughts

shares