Are you looking for the best national parks for families in the USA? Want to explore the best national parks for kids? Awesome! We are going to dive into the best kid-friendly national parks in the USA!
In the United States, the National Park Service manages over 85 million acres in all 50 states. That means there are a lot of parks, trails, historic sites, monuments, memorials, and battlefields all throughout the US including 63 national parks.
In this post, we will be selective on what we feel will make the best national park vacations for families. This includes fun camping sites, short hikes, and beautiful overlooks.
We will break this down with the best national parks for toddlers, the best national parks for kids, and the best national parks for teens. We will help you plan a national park family vacation you will not forget.
There are incredible East Coast National Parks as well as West Coast National Parks. We are going to list some of the best National Parks to visit in winter as well as summer. The United States National Park system is really amazing and planning a national park family vacation is a great idea!
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National Park with Kids 4th Grade Pass
Before you plan the best national park family vacation, I want to make sure you know about a few things that will make your national park with kids experience better.
4th Grade Pass
If you have a 4th grader you get a free national park family pass. This is awesome! Typically an annual national park pass is $80.
The pass starts in August and ends in August. So you have an entire year including the summer to use your pass. We have had 3 kids use this pass and have been able to go to many national parks and monuments for free.
Get your National Parks Kids Pass
It is really easy to get a pass. All you have to do is go to the “Every Kid in a Park website” and sign up. You will have to print your pass and bring it to any national park to exchange for an official card.
We have tried to just show it on our phone and they cannot give you a card unless you print it out. They did however let us in for free but told us we need to print the paper to get the official card.
National Park Kids Junior Ranger Program
The Junior Ranger Program will make your national park family vacation amazing! At each park, you will want to visit the ranger at the visitor centers and grab a Junior Ranger Book.
Inside the books are kid-friendly national park activities that will entertain your kids. Based on their age there will be specific requirements to accomplish throughout your visit. It makes going to national parks with kids fun.
Get a National Park Kids Badge
After you finish the requirements, you will come back to the ranger and they will give you a cool collectible badge! It is the best thing to do in national parks with kids!
Best National Park for Toddlers
We are going to talk about the best national Park for toddlers a little later but for now, I wanted to mention something extremely important before you head out on your national park family vacation. Get a hiking backpack!
If you have kids under the age of 5 a hiking backpack is essential. We have had two types: one is for smaller babies and a framed backpack is designed for older kids. They have made our national park family vacations so much better.
If you do decide to look into these what I found was the tall framed bags did not work for me because I am very short. It was fine for my husband but very uncomfortable for me.
Little kids can wear out fast but the backpacks will allow you to be able to enjoy the parks so much more.
The Best National Parks for Kids in the Western United States
As you plan your National Park road trip are going to start with the Best National Parks for kids in the Western United States. This will include National Parks in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, and New Mexico.
Out of the states listed above, the following are our top choices.
1. Denali National Park
Denali National Park in Alaska is one of the most beautiful and exciting national parks in the U.S.A. If you love mountains and wildlife, this place is for your national park family vacation.
If your kids are excited to encounter grizzly bears, caribou, and moose, Denali is the perfect national park for kids. One or two days is the perfect amount of time to visit Denali.
What's more, you will have the chance to see the highest peak in North America Mt Kinley, called Denali, which is 20,310 feet (6,190 m) above sea level. Your kids might enjoy a day in Talkeetna to get a better view!
As you plan your visit to Alaska be sure to add this amazing national park to your itinerary. Let's talk about why this is one of the best national parks for kids.
Take A Bus or NOT
Denali has only one road and only one park entrance. The way is 92 miles long, and you have to take a bus to visit the park past mile 15. Cars are not allowed after mile 15.
So you must book your bus trip if you want to go past that point. The best option is to take the most extended trip to Wonder Lake and back, which gives you plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, and bus drivers often stop to provide you with a chance of taking photos. This is a good option if you are visiting with teens.
Denali National Park with Kids
Hiking in Denali
There are plenty of beautiful hikes within the first 15 miles, and you can even visit the Alaskan sled dogs that live at Denali National Park. This is a highlight for any kid!
At the visitor center, you can participate in a family hike with a park ranger. It is really cool and geared toward kids. My family had an amazing time learning all about Denali! It is also free!
Best Denali National Park Tours
If you like camping and sleeping in a tent, Denali is perfect for you. It's an amazing experience. You have six campgrounds in the Park to choose from, but you should book it ahead.
They are very rustic but beautiful. You can go hiking from your campsite. But most vital for you to know is that some of the trails are not marked in Denali, it's pure wilderness. So you should prepare perfectly for your adventure, take a GPS, maps, enough food, and bear spray.
Denali is the best national park for kids in Alaska!
Contributed By: The Van Escape
2. Grand Canyon National Park
I could go on about how the sight of the 277-mile-long, mile-deep gorge fills up your entire field of vision with chromatic excellence, but I'll let former president Teddy Roosevelt sum it up: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison–beyond description, absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world.” Your kids will hopefully fill the same way!
Established as a national park in 1919 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Grand Canyon National Park welcomes over six million visitors every year. The vast majority of visitors flock to the South Rim, which offers several observation decks.
The entrance fee is $35 per vehicle, and even if you are going alone it's more than worth that price. The South Rim observation decks do get crowded, but trust me, you'll get a good view. You can also hike in from the North Rim, or climb the Desert View Watchtower from the East Entrance.
Grand Canyon Views
No matter what angle you take, the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. It's interesting to note that despite its incomprehensible magnitude, the Grand Canyon isn't even the country's largest canyon. That, however, does nothing to take away from its grandeur.
The Grand Canyon is an incredible experience that will fill you with wonder and appreciation for our natural world. To use a well-worn but perfectly apt phrase: it must be seen to be believed.
National Park Family Vacation
The Grand Canyon with all of its glory is a really fun place to take your family. The South Rim is an easy trail that has many different viewpoints. There are looking glasses along the trail your kids will love.
If you are lucky you will see some amazing birds flying over the canyon. This can be pretty exciting. Another reason the Grand Canyon makes our list as one of the best national parks for families is that you can rent bicycles. It is a fun activity to enjoy as a family.
Best Grand Canyon National Park with Kids Tours
Contributed By: Onebagnomad.net
3. Grand Teton National Park
If you are planning a visit to Yellowstone think about adding Grand Teton National Park both parks are relatively close to each other. There are many things to do at the Grand Tetons your family will love.
Take a scenic drive to look for wildlife. They will be easy to spot. Feel free to get out of your car and head on a breathtaking hike. Your kids might also like to go on a horseback ride.
If you are more adventurous camp in the backcountry but be sure to get a permit! You can also do a little mountaineering and climbing after you finish boating and fishing on the Snake River.
Best Grand Tetons National Park Family Vacation Tours
The Grand Tetons need to be on your list of must-sees best National Parks for Kids!
Contributed By: Ordinary Wanderer
4. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is located in Montana's Rocky Mountains and extends up to the Canadian border. There are over 700 miles of hiking trails. One of the highlights is hiking to Hidden Lake where you will find the most breathtaking views and a photographer's dream location.
Best Glacier National Park Tours for Families
Backpacking and camping are some of the most common activities to do at Glacier National park. If you are planning to go check out Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Night. It is a time with no light to help raise awareness to the air population and is pretty incredible to experience.
Undoubtedly, Glacier National park is a great spot to for a national park family vacation!
Contributed By: The Trecking family
5. Zion's National Park
Zion National Park, located in Southern Utah, is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the United States. In Zion, you'll be out in the wilderness getting in touch with nature and seeing some of the most beautiful sites in the world, while also checking out the local wildlife and having a wide variety of adventures.
Zion National Park with kids
One thing that makes this the best national park for kids is that there is a shuttle bus service. That means your kids to don't have to walk except when hiking!
While you won't want to hike the famous Angel's Landing and Observation Point, you can take your kids to the Narrows. You can hike through the Virgin River, where you'll be surrounded by cliffs hundreds of feet over your head.
I would recommend this hike for kids over 6. It is about 1 mile to get to the river, we did this when our kids were under 6 but did not go in the river. Once our youngest was 6 we had so much fun walking through the river.
If you are headed to Zion National Park with teens, you can go rappelling, white water rafting, or even try out skydiving over the huge Utah desert!
Zion National Park Tours for Families
Zion is the perfect national park family vacation. It is full of amazing things to do for people of all ages, whose interests vary from a leisurely walk to jumping off a cliff with a harness on. You'll have an incredible time in Zion, this will be a memory that will last a lifetime.
Contributed By: Ruhls of the Road
6. Arches and Canyonlands National Park
There are glittering rivers edged by lush trees cutting through vibrant monoliths of rock. Cool dark canyons abound which create an oasis of respite from the desert heat.
There are sunsets so intensely red that you think the sky is on fire. Even the dirt in Utah is a stunning shade of crimson. Your kids will love the red rocks!
A 1-week itinerary for Arches and Canyonlands is the perfect amount of time to plan a national park family vacation.
Best National Parks for Kids
Delicate Arch is the coolest hike in Arches. I took my 7 and 5-year-old. It was hard. We had to rest a lot! It is so cool to make it to the top!
Canyonlands is really nice because there aren't a lot of long hikes. You can pull off at lookout areas and take in the beauty!
Arches and Canyonlands are some of the best national parks for family vacations.
Best Arches and Canyonlands National Park for Families Tours
Contributed By: When You Wander
7. Bryce National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in the south of Utah around 70 miles from Zion National Park. It is a great park to spend 1 day or 2 days as there are many beautiful viewpoints and hikes to do.
The park has an 18-mile scenic drive from the visitors center to Yovimpa Point with lots of stunning viewpoints along the way.
The bottom of the canyon has streams and so grasses and willows are growing, giving a beautiful green background to the yellow and orange hoodoos that
dominate the park.
Hiking in Bryce Canyon
On this drive, you can also do one of the many loop hikes which are less crowded than the hikes which start in the amphitheater. Bryce amphitheater is the busiest and most popular part of the park and here you have great views of Bryce Canyon.
You can walk along the rim of the canyon and at Bryce Point, you can see the most amazing sunrises. Many hikes start around the amphitheater which takes you down into the canyon and explores the different hoodoos close up.
Your kids will absolutely love the hoodoos! They are so amazing. It is a kid-friendly national park because there are a lot of viewpoints as well as short hikes.
The Queens/Navajo loop hike is the most popular hike in the park and at only 3 miles it is a great hike that everyone can enjoy and one that I can recommend.
Best Bryce National Park Family Vacation Tours
Contributed By: I live 4 Travel
8. Yellowstone National Park
Location: Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana
Yellowstone National Park is the 4th most visited national park with over 4 million visitors annually. It is located mostly in Wyoming but also extends into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone is most likely, unlike anything you have seen before! Your kids will love it!
Old Faithful is the most well-known geyser in the park. Eruptions can produce 3700- 8400 gallons of boiling water 106 ft into the sky. It really is a sight to behold.
A visitor center is located at the Old Faithful site. There are park rangers at this location ready to guide and direct you to the many amazing sites throughout the park.
Taking Kids to Yellowstone
Taking your kids to Yellowstone is a great idea. Yellowstone National Park has a junior ranger and scientific program. My son was able to check out a thermal temperature reader allowing us to measure the temperature of the water all around Old faithful. It was really cool. My kids had a great experience and learned a ton.
National Park Family Vacation Tip
Another really important thing when you bring your kids to National Parks is to make sure they stay hydrated. Always bring water bottles when you are hiking with kids.
Best Yellowstone National Park for Families
Yellowstone is a national park everyone should see at least once in their lifetime and one of the best national park family vacations.
9. Redwoods National Park
Having lived in Northern California for 40 years, I can attest that one of the most beautiful places in nature is Redwood National Park. Imagine walking through the majestic giant redwood trees, hearing the chirping of birds, and seeing squirrels scampering around.
It is truly a blissful experience! If your kids have an active imagination the Redwoods is the best national park for kids. It is the perfect place to pretend and dream.
My favorite part of Redwood National Park is located in Humboldt County. Two of my favorite things to do in the park are to hike through Fern Canyon and see the elk in Prairie Creek State Park which is part of Redwood National Park.
As you head to the Prairie Creek visitor center, keep your eyes open for herds of elk. You can pull over and watch them for a while along with other tourists. Continue to the visitor center where you will find several different hikes you can take. There are easy hikes for the kids.
Hiking at Redwood National Park
If you want to take a long hike, I suggest James Irvine Trailhead that will take you through Fern Canyon and the beach and back. Fern Canyon may be one of the most beautiful spots on earth! Ferns grow up a 50-foot wall and Home Creek runs through it – simply breathtaking!
The hike over small wooden bridges, the sound of water running, and the beauty of nature will make you feel like you had a spa day. One of your most unforgettable hiking days will be in Fern Canyon!
Redwoods is a fantastic national park family vacation!
Contributed By: Travel Hacking Mom
10. Yosemite National Park
Upon entering Yosemite National Park you’re immediately awestruck with the beauty and majesty of the scene. It’s absolutely breathtaking and the memory still gives me chills so I know that it will impress your kids!
The park is comprised of large granite mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and forests providing a variety of activities for visitors. It’s also a popular destination for amateur and professional rock climbers alike drawing in climbers from all over the world.
National Park Family Vacation at Yosemite National Park
Other popular activities include trail and backwoods hiking, river rafting, camping, picnicking, and animal sightings.
The park is home to many black bears, deer, squirrels, and other forest creatures. Be sure to learn a bit about bear safety upon entering, not only to protect yourself but also the bears living in the park. It’s one of the first national parks I ever visited and one I think everyone should get the chance to see someday.
Best National Park Family Vacation Tours
Contributed By: Traveling Tayler
11. Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake in Oregon is easily one of the best national parks in the USA for families. As the name suggests, the lake was formed 7700 years ago after an eruption caused the collapse of the peak. Today, it is the deepest lake in the USA at 1943ft deep, and one of the purest in the world.
Crater Lake is fed only by rain and snow which is what helps to maintain its deep blue color and makes it one of the best locations for photography in Southern Oregon.
Winter at Crater Lake
It is a beautiful place to visit year-round. In the winter it is only accessible through the southern entrance. However, it transforms into a winter wonderland under a blanket of snow and you can even go snowshoeing with a park ranger.
It is, in fact, one of the snowiest places in the US with an average of 43ft of snow per year, which can last into May.
Summer Time at Crater Lake
During the summer, both entrances are open to the park and there is more accessibility throughout once the snow has melted.
There are some incredible hiking trails throughout the park taking you through old-growth forests and offering spectacular views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island within it.
If you are touring the national parks with kids, it is better to come during the summer.
Best National Park Family Vacation Tours
There are also two campsites so you can spend the night under the dark skies watching the Milky Way overhead. If you’re feeling brave you can swim in the lake in designated areas, but it is very cold!
Contributed By: We Dream Of Travel
12. Muir Woods National Park
The Muir Woods National Monument is located in Marin County, California, just an hour outside of San Francisco. Muir Woods is a coastal redwood forest, with some trees that are up to 1,000 years old and rising to the astonishing height of 260 feet. If you can't make it all the way to the Redwoods your kids will love Muir Woods.
The park has a variety of trails ranging from 1 mile to 6 miles in length and easy to hard difficulty. There is a trail option for everyone, allowing everyone the opportunity to see the beautiful redwoods!
This is a great national park for toddlers. One really nice thing is that the paths are wooden. If you have a sturdy stroller you can bring it along. Most national parks are not stroller friendly!
National Park Family Vacation Tour
It’s a sight that you definitely will not want to miss on your visit to the San Francisco Bay area!
Contributed By: Unapologetically Bossy
13. Sand Dunes National Park
Contributed By: Always up for an Adventure
14. Rocky Mountain National Park
If you're on a family road trip with your RV you won't want to miss Rocky Mountain National Park. This stunning park is a nature lover's dream come true, with awe-inspiring mountain views, tranquil lakes, and endless opportunities for adventure.
National Park Family Vacation Camping Options
There is so much to do inside the park along with parking for camping out in your RV, check out the best time to visit RMNP to get the most out of your National Park family vacation!
There are a few options where you can park your RV. One option is Moraine Park Campground, which is located on the east side of the park and is the largest campground in the area, with 244 campsites available.
This campground is open year-round and offers amenities like flush toilets, fire pits, and access to potable water.
Another great option is Glacier Basin Campground, which is located near the park's popular Bear Lake area and offers 150 campsites. This campground is open from May through September and offers amenities like flush toilets, fire pits, and access to potable water.
Finally, Timber Creek Campground is located on the west side of the park and offers 98 campsites. This campground is open from late May through September and offers amenities like flush toilets, fire pits, and access to potable water.
No matter which campground you choose, you'll have access to some of the park's most stunning natural scenery and endless opportunities for adventure.
National Park Family Vacation Activities
Once you're settled in, it's time to explore all that the park has to offer. There are over 350 miles of hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs.
The Bear Lake Loop is a popular and scenic trail, with views of tranquil Bear Lake and the surrounding mountains. The Emerald Lake Trail is another must-do, with breathtaking views of three stunning alpine lakes.
If hiking isn't your thing, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the park. Scenic drives offer incredible views of the mountains and valleys, while wildlife viewing opportunities allow you to spot elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and more. Fishing is also popular in the park's lakes and streams.
Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect national park family vacation destination you won't want to miss. With its stunning natural beauty and endless opportunities for adventure, it's sure to be a trip you'll never forget.
Contributed By: Thetravelscrapebook.com
Best National Parks in the Central States
Did you know that we have some amazing national parks for kids in the central part of the United States? The best national parks for a family vacation are located in Texas!
If you know of more national parks for kids in this area make sure to comment below!
15. Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is such a unique destination in Texas because of all that it offers. Hike through Santa Elena Canyon with some of the best views of the river running by, relax in the natural hot springs, cross the border into Boquillas, Mexico which is only accessible through the park, and so much more!
Just as exciting are the surrounding towns to access Big Bend, National Park. Check out the funky ghost town of Terlingua that is a mixture of strange art and abandoned buildings or visit the North entrance of Marathon where you can stay in a beautiful blue and orange papercrete castle!
Best National Park Family Vacation Tours
Contributed By: My Curly Adventures
16. Guadalupe National Park
Most people are familiar with Texas’s most famous National Park, Big Bend, but did you know that there are actually two National Parks in the Lone Star State?
The benefit of visiting this lesser-known park could be all yours because you can experience the feeling of having Guadalupe Mountains National Park all to yourself!
This secluded National Park is located in far west Texas, and houses a plethora of intriguing and challenging hikes, remote camping opportunities, and even the state high point of Texas at Guadalupe Peak!
Hiking at Guadalupe National Park
The best thing about hiking here at Guadalupe is that you will intersect with multiple ecosystems and varying terrain all within this one area.
There are canyon hikes, ponderosa forest hikes, high-elevation mountain hikes, and hikes that traverse the expanses of the surrounding Chihuahuan desert. Your kids will love checking out the terrain.
Camping at Guadalupe National Park
Camping at Guadalupe is a guaranteed night of adventurous solitude framed by an enormous panorama of the west Texas sky.
The Guadalupe Mountains range provides the perfect backdrop to any outdoor activity here in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and successfully shatter the misconception that Texas is all just flat and boring!
Contributed By: Yonderlust Ramblings
Best National Parks in the Eastern United States
There are more National Parks for kids in the Western United States but we can't forget the Eastern States. We have listed the best national parks for families below!
We choose our favorite national parks for family vacations and now we want to hear what your favorites are in the comments below!
17. Shenandoah National Park
One of the best national parks on the East Coast is Shenandoah National Park. Located in the middle of Virginia and only an hour and a half from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah is best known for its gorgeous foliage in the Fall.
This is also the most crowded time of year, with cars almost bumper to bumper along the famous Skyline Drive.
Hiking in Shenandoah
Shenandoah also has a lot to offer off the main road. There are more than 500 miles of hiking trails that include a little bit for everyone, from forests and meadows to waterfalls to scenic mountain overlooks.
The Appalachian Trail also cuts through parts of Shenandoah, so hikers can try out how it feels to walk on this historic trail. Other attractions to enjoy are the Byrd Visitor Center with interactive exhibits and the adjacent open grassland, Big Meadows, which is ideal for relaxing and wildlife-watching.
While visiting Virginia, or even Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is the perfect bucket list destination. Whether you visit during the popular months of Fall, or any time of the year, Shenandoah is a must-visit destination for any national parks-lover.
National Park Family Vacation Tips and Tours
Don't forget your Shenandoah National Park Trail Map!
Contributed By: The Solo Life
18. Acadia National Park
Found along Maine’s rocky coastline, Acadia National Park is considered to be the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast. As one of the most beloved national parks for families in the United States, Acadia welcomes over three million visitors a year!
And it is no wonder why. Acadia is home to a diverse landscape that offers a multitude of outdoor activities for people of all ages and interests to enjoy.
Hiking at Acadia National Park
With more than a hundred miles of hiking trails in varying lengths and difficulties, it truly has a trail for everyone.
For those looking for a challenge, we highly recommend the Precipice Trail. Here you will scale the side of the mountain using metal rungs. Talk about a rush! However, for those looking for something a little bit more leisurely, we suggest exploring the Carriage Roads. This scenic network of flat, car-free roads is perfect for bikers and families alike.
National Park Family Vacation Tours
Once you have built up an appetite exploring the park, make sure to visit the quaint town of Bar Harbor. Here you will find unique restaurants that offer an array of food. Just don’t forget to at least try the lobster. You are in the northeast after all!
We have road tripped through most of the United States and have visited several of the beautiful national parks it has to offer, but there is just something special about Acadia National Park!
From eating lobster bisque to putting your fear of heights to the test, Acadia is sure to leave you with some amazing memories.
Contributed By: While We Were Wandering
19. Smoky Mountain National Park
Location: North Carolina and Tennessee
Smoky Mountain National Park has something that everyone will enjoy making it one of the best national parks for kids in the USA! Kids are sure to love hiking amongst the canopy of trees available in this national park. There are over 150 trails for all skill and age levels to choose from.
If you love to relax and listen to the wind blowing through the trees or the sounds of the birds singing in the morning, you might consider camping at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There are plenty of areas to camp, from campgrounds to backcountry to horse camps.
Or maybe you'd prefer to take in the beauty of this park. Hop in the car and take a drive along some of the many scenic roads located within this national park. Whatever you like to do, you're sure to find it at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
National Park Family Vacation Tips and Tours
Contributed By: Way Beyond The Norm
Renting an RV
Now, that you have seen all of these amazing National Parks for kids you are probably so excited to plan a road trip. Me too! There are so many more National Parks not included in this list.
I just learned about one I had never heard of before called Black Canyon of Gunnison. This might be one to consider on your national parks with kids trip.
Comment below and tell us which national park is your favorite and if you have any plans of visiting them this year!
National Park Family Vaction Tip
Did you know you can rent RVs? This is such a great idea if you want to try them out and see if you like them. Also, as you enjoy all the national parks it makes it very convenient for lodging purposes! If you want to learn more check out my post on How to Rent an RV from RV Share.
Also, if you are considering this or you already have an RV, check out my Free Cheat Sheet For the Best Apps and Websites for Boondocking and Camping.
Are you Ready for a National Park Family Vacation?
Hopefully, you have learned a little about the best national parks for kids in the USA! There are some great choices! As you travel to national parks with kids remember that you are creating some of the best memories!
A national park family vacation is one of the best ways to visit all of the best US national parks!
If you have any questions let me know in the Facebook Group!
Also, join our Facebook Community and ask any questions you have about your upcoming trip. We have lots of members who would love to help you. Also, I try to post any good deals companies send me!