The 5 Best National Parks for Kids
I have always LOVED National Parks. There’s something romantic about them. Thousands of acres of interrupted land. In a world that feels so chaotic and noisy, a little claustrophobic and full, National Parks break through the noise to take you back to simpler times. A time when acres of quiet did exist.
We’re blessed to live in the age we live in, with the comfort of modern amenities, technology and connectedness. But I want my children to have spaces to remember what was, to quiet their hearts and feel the beauty that is woven into the earth.
This is why I love our parks. Ryan and I have made it a mission to visit them all, and while we’re definitely not there yet, we have enjoyed every moment we’ve spent exploring them. Now with kiddos in tow, we’ve made a list of our favorites that we feel are just right for children, all the way from infants to older kids. We also pulled in some insight from some favorite blogs out there, as age ranges will vary!
So here goes. Our top five National Parks with kiddos.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
There is so much to do in Yellowstone, and while it’s a hike away from major areas, it’s so all-encompassing that it had to make the list. When researching the next big park to go to with our now two kids, this is the top of the list from so many parent travelers. Most citing that there’s so much variation for lots of ages, easy trails, hard trails for older kids, and paved paths for strollers. There is something for everyone!
They even have a program called Yellowstone for Families. This is a three-day program by the nonprofit Yellowstone Association, and is awesome for helping your kids understand what goes on in our parks.
A guest writer for National Geographic shares, “Participating in a program created specifically for kids opens up the whole family’s perspective, and lets everyone experience everything that is out there without wearing them out. We go out wildlife-watching and have laser guns so kids can take temperatures of thermal features. We show younger kids how to track earthworms, and show older kids some of [painter] Thomas Moran’s work.”
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK (YOUNG KIDS)
Acadia National Park never seems to top the lists as the best ‘wilderness’ park, but it’s truly one of a kind. Situated on the water and home to the first place the sun touches in the U.S., it is a jewel. It’s easy-to-access feel and a myriad of places to stay a short distance away make this park an easy day trip.
The best of Acadia is all within an easy trail hike. Views are everywhere, as Park Loop Road has lots of great pull offs. We love this because our babe can sleep in the car while we enjoy the adventurous look outs and pull offs. Playing all day and spending the night in Bar Harbor was the perfect adventure for a national park visit with young kids or babies!
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Arches Arches Arches. So unique for so many reasons. Only a couple hours from a major city makes it so accessible. Along with this, it offers easy hikes that offer up the BEST of the park. So none of the littler kids need to miss out! The 36 mile loop road is a wonderful drive and gets you to most major locations. Delicate Arch is a fun hike, but it’s a longer one (3 miles, still great compared to many parks!) with some drop offs, so leave that one for the older kids.
We also love that it’s so close to all of Utah’s Mighty 5 parks, so rent an RV and head out on a week long adventure of these wild and beautiful parks.
GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
So full disclosure, we haven’t been to this park yet, but we’re crossing our fingers to get there next year. Time and time again, this park seems to pop up everywhere for us. I swear it’s calling my name. The mysterious Tatooine feel will be sure to mesmerize your Star Wars loving kiddos and the ability to SLED on the dunes is literally the most fun activity ever. (I HAVE gone sledding on sand dunes before and it’s the most bucket list thing ever). Sledding without frostbitten fingers? Yes please.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Glacier is another park that tops my list. It has the best of everything and is straight wilderness, through and through. I can picture what life was like one hundred years ago here and it is beautiful.
There’s so many family friendly things to do here, especially as the park converges at Lake McDonald. This is an easy to access lake with parking, ice cream shops, boat rentals and a KILLER view. Seriously, if you can’t hike and want to sit in awe on the beach, it’s almost enough. It’s paved and easy to drive to….and we had a blast renting a little boat and enjoying the water.
From Lake McDonald, there’s easy to grab shuttles that head up the park road to some of the harder hikes. The Trail of the Cedars is relatively easy. But we especially enjoyed Avalanche Lake. It felt more challenging because of the height and views, but was a perfect length. And enjoying the mountain goats and wildlife along the way was a plus!
Lots of white water rafting is nearby and a blast for a family adventure. Perfect for an after hike cool down!
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
I know I promised only the top 5 parks, but I’m sneaking the 6th one in here because it’s too wonderful to leave out. Yosemite is the first park we ever took our 3 month old to, and it was an amazing experience.
We couldn’t do any of the harder hikes, but the paved paths for strollers, wonderfully windy roads with pulls offs, and fun ranger activities made this park an awesome experience with an infant. We only wish it was a tad closer to major cities, as the drive and finding a place to stay was the only challenge for us during its prime season!