Which National Parks are best to visit with kids? All National Parks have a special place in my heart, but some are more enjoyable with young children than others! This list of 10 National Parks all have features that are kid-friendly and make for an especially wonderful family vacation.
Top 10 National Parks to Visit With Kids
Nature awaits! Most US National Parks are absolutely incredible. I’ve never regretted a trip to one yet! We have seen the most beautiful, breathtaking things in National Parks and we all agree that we’ve never left a park without being changed somehow forever. The following 10 national parks are not really ranked in any particular order (except the first one because it’s our favorite!), but are all sure to make for an unforgettable experience!
1. Yellowstone National Park
First thing: yes, you need bear spray. Buy it somewhere before you get there because the price is CRAZY in the park and anywhere near the park. We bought ours at a Costco in Idaho (we were driving up from AZ) for half the price of what they were selling it for in the park.
I will never forget the first time we entered Yellowstone National Park. We entered through West Yellowstone at sunset and I had no idea what to expect! The sun was setting in that breathtaking way where it was golden, orange, and blush pink all running together in a sherbet sky.
Vents of steam dispensed thin, billowing clouds from deep within the earth, and there were massive, shaggy bison all over the place! I cried.
Yellowstone is an amazing outdoor experience, offering activities like hiking, wildlife watching, geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, and great junior ranger programs. It has wonderful visitor centers, clear signage, maps provided at the entrance, and lots of easy and moderate (and hard!) hikes.
2. Grand Teton National Park
Yep, you still need bear spray! We actually had our closest bear encounter here while hiking Cascade Canyon. Thankfully it was still from a good distance and the bear totally ignored us, but I was still really glad we brought the bear spray!
Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is renowned for its stunning mountain vistas, sparkling lakes, and abundant wildlife. Families can hike, camp, boat, swim, and go horseback riding, or participate in ranger-led programs that offer educational opportunities for kids. It’s amazing!
3. Glacier National Park
Known for its rugged terrain, Montana’s Glacier National Park is a great place for families to take in the beauty of the mountains and glaciers. When we went to Yellowstone, we didn’t have the time (or gas money.. we were paying something like $5.70/gallon 🤢) to jot up to Glacier, but I’ve since heard that on our next Yellowstone visit – yes, there will be a next – we need to make it happen!
Families can ride the historic Red Jammer buses, participate in the junior ranger program, hike scenic trails, watch wildlife, and enjoy the park’s bike trails. Oh, and see glaciers 🤯 !
4. Yosemite National Park
Somehow I was shocked when I first realized Yosemite is in California! I think the lack of beaches is what threw me.. which I know is ridiculous because California is huge and most of it is NOT coastal. Nonetheless I was surprised!
Yosemite is known for its impressive waterfalls, valley meadows, granite cliffs, and giant sequoia trees. Families can hike, bike, camp, swim, fish, and participate in ranger-led activities. Junior ranger program is available here as well.
5. Zion National Park
This park offers diverse landscapes, from narrow canyons to towering monoliths, making it an ideal destination for families who enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and exploring the outdoors. Zion also offers family-friendly camping and epic stargazing programs.
We even attended a ranger-led talk about plant life one evening in a campground amphitheater. It was pretty cool! The junior ranger program here was probably one of the more demanding in terms of tasks the ids (and thus us parents) had to complete.
6. Acadia National Park
Located in Maine, Acadia offers endless opportunities for family fun, including hiking, biking, canoeing, horseback riding, and tidepooling. This is very far from AZ so we haven’t made it there yet, but I am SO excited for the day!
Visitors can participate in the junior ranger program (yes, all parks and many recreation areas have junior ranger programs) and explore the park’s unique flora and fauna. There are carriages?! And hiking aplenty (158 miles to be exact). Camping too! According to the National Park Service, Acadia hosts 4 million visits a year!
7. Rocky Mountain National Park
This incredible park in Colorado has scenic drives, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as ranger-led programs like campfire talks and guided hikes. Families can also participate in outdoor activities such as fishing and horseback riding.
FYI, there are other National Parks nearby, so if you have time, you may also want to check out Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Great Sand Dunes NP, Mesa Verde NP, or one of the many historic sites, recreation areas, and historic trails (looking at you, Pony Express!).
And, yes, Rocky Mountain National Park has a junior ranger program!
8. Grand Canyon National Park
I haven’t been here with my kids yet.. and we live in AZ! Whoops. Adding that to my list of things to do before the year is up! I’ve seen it many times, just pre-parenthood.If you can work it into your schedule, find a way to ride The Grand Canyon Railway.. it will elevate your experience to something the kids will NEVER forget!The Grand Canyon offers a variety of activities for families, such as guided tours, hiking, camping, and water rafting. With trails to suit every age and skill level, kids and parents can enjoy the breathtaking vistas and inspiring landscapes. Don’t forget the junior ranger program!
9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Oh Tennessee, how I love thee! My big regret is that we road tripped through TN a couple of years ago, and DIDN’T see Great Smoky Mountains NP. We saw the Smokies from Dollywood (super fun, by the way!) but we didn’t make time to see the park.
Oh well, we’ll just have to plan another trip! Great Smoky Mountains provides a range of activities for families, such as hiking, cycling, fishing, wildlife watching, and scenic drives. The park also offers junior ranger programs, ranger-led hikes, and educational exhibits that teach kids about the park’s history and wildlife.
10. Olympic National Park
Offering everything from lush rain forests to snow-capped mountains, Olympic National Park is an ideal place for families who love outdoor adventure. This park has numerous hiking trails, hot springs, sandy beaches, and striking waterfalls.
As a family who sometimes travels with our family dog, this NP has a decent amount of trails they allow dogs on. Many parks allow NO dogs or just one or two trails.
We have young kids and aren’t into extreme distances, but we don’t usually bring our dog to National Parks because of how few things we would get to see. Be sure to be a responsible pet owner and bag your dog’s poop and use a leash to protect wildlife!
Enjoy America’s most incredible spaces! We’re always looking out for outdoor adventures with young kids, so if you’ve got a favorite place, please let me know!
One more thing: if you live near a national park that isn’t any of these, I’d say the BEST national park to visit with kids is the one you’ll actually make it to!
Check out these other great articles:
- Toddler Safe Nature Walk Tips
- Natural Science For Kids At Home
- Rocks and Sticks: Natural Science for Kids