The United States is home to 63 national parks that cover millions of acres! Each park offers unique experiences, epic hikes and opportunities to immerse your family in the great outdoors. Although they are all bucket-list-worthy, here’s a list of the best national parks for kids!
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From spotting bison at Yellowstone, to climbing rocks at Joshua Tree, your kids will be begging for more national park family vacations! Skip the chaos of Disney parks and allow your children to fall in love with these awe-inspiring national parks.
From sea to shining sea, plus a few bonus parks, the national park system offers incredible landscapes, activities and out-of-this-world environments that kids will love! Amazing junior ranger programs, interactive hikes and unique adventures, these national parks for kids were selected because they’re the absolute best for families!
This list of the best national parks for kids may include parks you’ve never heard of, or spots you’ve seen recommended before – and for good reason!)
Let’s dive in!
Must-watch video: best national parks for kids
Map of the best national parks with kids
There are national parks for kids all over the United States. Check out the map below to start planning your next family vacation! Where are you heading first?
By the way, I haven’t been to all the national parks in the USA (yet), so I’ve asked some of my travel writer friends to compile this list of best national parks for families. Enjoy!
Free national park pass for 4th graders
Before we get too far into the list, you’re in for a treat if your child is in 4th grade! The Every Kid Outdoors program began in 2015, as a way to encourage kids to explore the outdoors and our federally protected lands. It allows families with a 4th grader completely free access to national parks, monuments and other federally protected lands.
How the program works:
- Visit the Every Kid Outdoors website.
- Have your 4th grader read through a few short paragraphs and answer some fun questions – like what they hope to see.
- Your child will get the pass to access all national parks and federally protected lands (over 400 of them!)
- Print the pass for best access. Some parks will accept a digital copy, but others are more strict. To ensure you won’t have any issues, print it. 🙂
Whether you’re traveling over a school break or are taking a quick weekend getaway to visit a park, you’re in for a real treat. Your whole family will love a national park vacation – especially when it’s free!
If you’re not traveling with a 4th grader but do plan to visit 2 or more parks or federally protected lands within the next year, you’ll want to arm yourself with the annual America the Beautiful pass. For one fee, you can access over 400 federally protected lands!
What to pack for your adventure (kid-friendly gear)
Before we get into the full list, let’s go over some basics for visiting these national parks with kids. If you plan to step foot on any hiking trails, it’s imperative to have some hiking gear. Kids are wayyy more confident on the trail!
- Hiking shoes. These give kids incredible confidence when their footing is solid. My daughter prefers these hiking shoes and my son prefers these hiking boots with ankle support. Go with what works for your kids and your budget!
- Hiking socks. Sweaty feet and regular socks equals blisters. Good hiking socks are worth the investment!
- Trekking poles. My kids loooove using hiking poles. We’ve hiked all over the US with hiking poles, like the Tsankawi Ruins Trail in New Mexico, Calico Tanks Trail in Nevada, the Waihee Ridge Trail in Maui and so many more spots! Good news is that these trekking poles are adjustable and will grow with your kids, too.
- Hiking backpack. Of course you can carry their items, but kids love having the independence and options to carry their own snacks, water and other essentials. These are the hiking backpacks my kids use and love! This is the hiking backpack I swear by.
- Layers! Check the weather before you go and be prepared for anything. Pack seasonal layers just in case.
- Bug spray, sunscreen and sun hat. These, and the other 10 essentials will help protect your kids from the elements.
- Satellite communicator. This one’s for the adults, and it’s quite literally a life saver. Most national parks have very little cell phone service. If you (or another hiker) gets injured or lost, this 2-way satellite communicator allows you to call for help. My family always has ours with us!
- Collapsible cooler. Perfect for scenic drives and to keep snacks and food cool, this is a must-have when visiting national parks with kids!
Best national parks for kids
Yippee! I can almost hear the excitement in your kids’ voices when they see their first waterfall or spot their first majestic whale. Without further ado, here are the best national park vacations for families!
1. Zion National Park, UT
Why it’s great for kids: easy hikes plus rivers and waterfalls to play in
You’re going to love this park! It’s the 3rd most popular national park in the US – and for good reason. Located in southwestern Utah, Zion is easily accessible via a 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas, or as part of a larger Utah national parks road trip.
Zion with kids is an incredible family adventure! With kid-friendly adventures like hiking to the Emerald Pools, Pa’rus Trail and the Riverside Walk, your family won’t get bored here.
Perhaps one of the best things to do in Zion with kids is to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail. At just one mile round trip, this trail is beyond impressive. Watch young kids closely as there are some exposed cliffs near the trail. Strap on some grippy hiking shoes and get ready for a fun, interactive hike with amazing views of Zion Canyon!
After all that hiking, cool down with a picnic lunch or ice cream at the Zion Lodge. With a large, grassy area with shade, it’s a great spot to relax for a bit on a busy day exploring the park.
And if your kids love the water, grab your water shoes and let them play in the Virgin River. Just like water shoes come in handy in destinations like Beaches Turks and Caicos, on a Canadian Rockies itinerary and so many more places.
Anyway, the best spot to do this is just past the trailhead to the Riverside Walk. The cool, refreshing river will feel good on a hot summer day, too!
Zion is one of the best national parks for kids, and one your family will love!
Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes
2. Dry Tortugas National Park, FL (the BEST national park for kids who love to swim)
Why it’s great for kids: Least visited, fun ferry ride, & pristine snorkeling and swimming
One of the most family-friendly national parks in the USA has to be, Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida.
After all, this remote oasis of tranquility covers an amazing 100 square miles of land, including seven islands that sit 70 miles west of Key West.
As a result, this park is one of the least visited in the nation and is only accessible by either seaplane or ferry.
Therefore, if your family are looking for a bit of peace and quiet then this is the place for you. You can snorkel through stunning coral reefs, explore deserted tropical islands, and uncover historic forts
Hop aboard the Yankee Freedom III ferry in Key West and enjoy a two-hour boat ride to the park.
You’ll also love that both breakfast and lunch are included with the price of your ticket, which starts at around $190.00 per adult. So, no need to worry about hungry little travelers during your trip to the park.
Then, upon arrival, check out historic Fort Jefferson from the 19th century before going swimming at South Swim Beach. This place is exceptionally good for families since the beach is sheltered from waves, making the waters ideal for a relaxing swim.
Next, go snorkeling near Moat Wall before grabbing a kayak and paddling out to Loggerhead Key. Just keep an eye out for all the giant seat turtles that like to frequent the area.
Finally, unwind with the kids at the Courtyard by Marriott Key West Waterfront. It’s an awesome hotel with a giant outdoor pool that everyone will love.
Recommended by Victoria of Florida Trippers
3. Olympic National Park, WA
Why it’s great for kids: Magical hikes, tide pools, wildlife & beaches
With its spectacular trails for hikers of all levels, abundant wildlife, and fun activities for kids to engage in, Olympic National Park is an excellent national park for kids.
There’s plenty of awesome trails for your family to explore, whether you’re traveling with hikers big or small. For example, the Hurricane Hill trail is mostly flat, paved, and ADA accessible (perfect for pushing a stroller!). It provides jaw-dropping views of the surrounding snow-capped Olympic mountains,
Alternatively, the Hall of Mosses trail, one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, is also short and flat, but, with its location in the Hoh Rainforest, feels like something straight out of a fairy tale.
Your kids will look up in wonder at the trees, stretching up to 300 feet tall above, and primeval ferns that are twice their size. This also just so happens to be an excellent place to spot wildlife, including deer and elk.
There’s so much to do in Olympic other than hiking, though. For example, head to any number of beaches, like Rialto or Kalaloch Beach. Here you can explore tide pools at low tide or play in the (very chilly!) waves.
Alternatively, in the summertime, there’s several ranger-led programs around the park. You can learn about everything from the plight of the Olympic salmon to the wildlife that lives in the park’s Quinault Rainforest.
Even some of the park’s accommodations are kid-approved! For example, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (open only in the summertime!) has a number of cool and warm pools to play around or relax in.
Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
4. Shenandoah National Park, VA (one of the best national parks for families)
Why it’s great for kids: Junior Ranger Program, scenic drive & kid-friendly hikes
Shenandoah National Park is a fantastic national park for kids. With so much to explore, from waterfalls and forest trails to wildlife spotting and fields of wildflowers, you’ll never run out of things to do.
Cruise along Skyline Drive, stopping at different lookout points for amazing scenic views. Hike one of Shenandoah’s many kid-friendly hikes, such as Blackrock Summit, Fox Hollow Trail, Stony Man, and Lands Run Falls.
The park is also very pet-friendly, with most of the trails permitting pets, so you can take along the family dog! It’s also a great park to visit with specific dietary needs, and you can even find gluten free in Shenandoah National Park.
The park is open all year round, with different things to see in different seasons. Splash in streams in the summer, peep colorful leaves in the fall, hike in a snowy wonderland in the winter, or see fields full of wildflowers in the spring. You are also allowed to forage for wild berries once they are ripe in the late summer.
Make sure to stop by the Visitor Center to get insider information from park rangers. Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet; if your child completes six tasks and attends a Ranger program, they can earn their own Junior Ranger badge!
It’s a fantastic way to introduce your kids to learn more about the park, nature, and how they can help care for this special environment.
Another great way to give your kids a more immersive experience in nature is to stay in the park itself. If you like camping, there are multiple campgrounds to choose from. Alternatively, you can stay in the lodge or single cabins at Skyland or Big Meadows, with the beauty of nature right on your doorstep.
Recommended by Megan of Virginia Travel Tips
5. Acadia National Park, ME
Why it’s great for kids: Scenic drive, beaches, big waves & easy hikes
Situated along the rocky coastline of Maine, Acadia National Park boasts some of the most stunning views in the country and offers an excellent selection of family-friendly activities.
Acadia National Park is located on the eastern coast, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and just outside of the charming New England village of Bar Harbor. It’s definitely one of the very best national parks for kids.
One of the best things to do in Acadia National Park for families is to take the 27-mile-long Park Loop Drive. The drive provides an excellent introduction to the park and brings you to most of the park’s most popular attractions, including Thunder Hole and the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Along the drive you will find many overlooks to stop at for stunning views without the long hikes.
You also won’t want to miss the many family-friendly hikes found in the park. The Jordan Pond Trail, Ocean Path, Wonder Land trail, and Bubble Rock trail are all good options for families.
To cool off after a long day hiking, head to Sand Beach for a swim. Check the tide schedule and plan on visiting Thunder Hole 1-2 hours before high tide to hear the thunderous roar of the waves crashing in the cavern.
An additional bonus for families when visiting Acadia National Park is the junior ranger program. Kids can take part in the program by attending junior ranger programs and completing workbook activities to earn a junior ranger badge.
For accommodations, head to nearby Bar Harbor. Acadia Inn is a great choice for families with free s’mores at the firepit, games, movies in the backyard, tent camp out in the room and an outdoor pool. This waterfront inn is located only a ½ mile from Acadia National Park and offers direct trail access.
For even more even more family-friendly activities, check out the best things to do with kids in Portland Maine, just a short drive from Acadia National Park.
Recommended by Melissa of Navigation Junkie
6. Yellowstone National Park, WY (the most diverse national park for kids)
Why it’s great for kids: Diverse landscapes, wildlife, short hikes Junior Ranger & Youth Scientist programs
If you are looking for the best national park for kids, head to Yellowstone. With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique geothermal features, it’s a great place to explore with kids.
All family members 4 years and older can participate in the Junior Ranger program to earn a wooden badge that features a geyser, mountain peak, and a bison. Visit any Visitor Center to pick up the full-color booklet to complete while exploring Yellowstone.
Kids 5 and older can also participate in the Young Scientist Program to earn a patch (ages 5-13) or a key chain (ages 14+). Pick up the self-guiding booklet at the Canyon or Old Faithful Visitor Education Center then set out to solve science mysteries in the park!
If you’re hoping to see bison, elk, bears, or wolves then the best places to see wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are Hayden Valley, Lamar Valley, Mammoth Hot Springs, and along the Madison River.
West Yellowstone is the ideal location to find lodging for families (hotels like Holiday Inn, VRBO cabins and campgrounds). The town has fun shops and restaurants within walking distance.
Kids (and adults) will love the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center to see bears, wolves, otters, and eagles up close! They have a 30-minute Keeper Kids program where kids ages 5-12 learn about grizzly bear eating habits then hide food for the bears in the bear habitat!
It’s fun to watch the bears use their sense of smell to find the hidden food.
And if you have older kids and teens, consider whitewater rafting in Yellowstone, which is an incredible experience!
Recommended by Jamie & Dave of Photo Jeepers
Best national parks for kids continued…
The United States is so diverse and full of so many adventures! Keep reading for more of the best US national parks for families!
7. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Why it’s great for kids: Shuttle to many of the viewpoints & several educational opportunities
The Grand Canyon is one of the most fun national parks for families. There are plenty of family-friendly things to do at the national park, and the scenery is sure to impress visitors young and old.
One of the best things to do at the Grand Canyon with kids is admire the canyon from all the different viewpoints around the park.
You can take a shuttle bus to most viewpoints. Some viewpoints have great views of the mesas, at some you can see the river, and at others there are condor nests nearby.
If you want to do hiking, the Rim trail is flat and easy. Bright Angel and the South Kaibab Trail are very long trails that descend all the way to the river, but most people choose to just hike a few miles on them, which is perfect for kids.
The Grand Canyon also has great educational activities for children, from the Geology Museum, the Trail of Time walking path, and the daily ranger presentations.
Want to explore the Grand Canyon from a different perspective? You can bike along the rim, take a mule ride into the canyon, or even go rafting down the river.
Spotting animals is always an activity kids love, and you can see elk, lizards, mountain goats, and the endangered California condor at the Grand Canyon.
All of these things make the Grand Canyon a great national park to visit with families, and bonus – you can actually stay right in the park at the Bright Angel Lodge, a hotel that overlooks the canyon.
Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
8. Haleakala National Park, HI (a favorite on this list of best national parks for kids)
Why it’s great for kids: out-of-this-world sights, easy hikes and lush waterfalls
It’s one of the most unique national parks in the USA, and one your kids will love. Visiting Haleakala National Park is one of the best things to do with kids in Maui!
Haleakala is a dormant volcano on Maui, and a sacred place for the Hawaiians. It also has a lush, tropical forest and waterfalls in the Kīpahulu District. Both regions are fun to explore, but vastly different.
The Kīpahulu District is located on the Road to Hana, which is best done with kids over multiple days. You can stay in Hana to make exploring the park easier. Be sure to check out the waterfall and bamboo forest along the Pīpīwai Trail. It’s 3.8 miles so probably best done for hikers age 5+.
Another popular activity in Haleakala is to watch the sunrise over the clouds. The summit is at 10,023 feet above sea level, so Mother Nature really puts on a show.
However, due to its popularity, you’ll need to grab a reservation for sunrise passes. Plus, you’d have to get up suuuuper early with kids!
Due to the inconveniences of watching the sunrise above the clouds, Haleakala at sunset is an excellent alternative. As someone who’s done both, I can say they’re both amazing and my kids definitely do better with late nights versus getting up at 2:30am to watch the sunrise. 😉
There’s a short trail at the summit that provides out-of-this-world views of the crater. The White Hill Trail is just 0.5 miles, perfect for families of all ages. It’s another reason is a personal favorite for best national park for kids!
Pro tip: If you’re coming from west Maui, be sure to visit the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm on the way to Haleakala. The kids will love running through the lavender fields!
Also be sure to pack layers and really warm gear – even blankets and chairs if you’re planning to watch the sunset or sunrise at the summit. It gets below freezing!
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
9. Yosemite National Park, CA
Why it’s great for kids: Excellent Junior Ranger program, gentle river to play, & short (but epic) hikes
Yosemite National Park in northern California is an excellent national park vacation for families with kids. The park is a wonderland of natural beauty, with stunning vistas, lush forests, and magnificent waterfalls.
The Junior Ranger Program at Yosemite National Park is excellent. It’s aimed at kids aged 7 to 13 years old, the program allows children to learn about the park’s natural environment, wildlife, and conservation efforts.
The program includes educational activities and games, and upon completion, kids receive a Junior Ranger badge as a souvenir. For younger children aged 3 to 6 years old, Yosemite has a special Little Cub Handbook.
One of the major attractions for families is the Merced River, which flows through the valley floor of the park. During the summer months, the river is quiet and gentle, ideal for kids to paddle and play in while parents enjoy picnicking and relaxing on its banks.
Yosemite offers many easy hikes that are suitable for kids. For instance, Yosemite Falls and Bridal Veil Falls have popular hikes leading to their bases.
Or, hiking in the high country of Yosemite in Tuolumne Meadows offers a beautiful scenic view – kids love watching the deer graze at twilight in the meadows!
In the fall, a great activity is to take the kids on a drive around the June Lake Loop to see the changing fall colors. The area turns into a sea of all kinds of yellow, orange, and green colors.
In the winter, an ice skating rink opens up or there are family-friendly ski and snowboard lessons available.
Campsites are abundant in Yosemite, both to be reserved or on a first come first serve basis. Or, choose from one of the hotels such as the Yosemite Valley Lodge or The Ahwhnee for a more upscale experience. Just make sure to check reservations far in advance – Yosemite is very popular and books up months in advance!
Recommended by Janelle of Make The Trip Matter
10. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
Why it’s great for kids: Life-sized sand box with sandboarding & a calm seasonal creek to play
Great Sand Dunes National Park is located in southern Colorado and is one of the most unique national parks for kids.
There are no hiking trails or waterfalls at the national park. But there are 700+ foot sand dunes that get reshaped everyday as the wind blows.
Your kids will be in awe of these giant and impressive dunes. It’s like a life-sized sand box!
After parking, there’s a short hike from the lot to get to the base of the dunes. Then you can wander around on the dunes all you’d like.
But what makes Great Sand Dunes National Park one of the best national parks to visit with kids is that you can play on them all day long.
Rent a sand sled and sand board from a local retailer in nearby Alamosa and bring it to the park for the day. Kids will absolutely love sledding down these dunes time after time. If they want, they can also try boarding (similar to snowboarding) down the dunes.
Bring tons of water and snacks because it is tiring hiking back up the dunes after each run.
Plan to visit the dunes in fall or spring. They may be covered in snow in early spring, so just wait till midday when the snow most likely will melt and find a south-facing dune.
Late spring and early summer are ideal times to visit Great Sand Dunes with kids because the creek at the bottom will be flowing, providing great relief and fun as you splash away.
Be warned that if you visit in summer, the sand temperatures can rise above 100 degrees. During this time, make sure to visit earlier in the morning or in the evening when it’s a bit cooler.
Find somewhere great to rest at night because the kids will be worn out. Nearby Alamosa has a variety of hotels 20-30 miles away, but you can also book the Great Sand Dunes Lodge just a couple miles outside of the park. Proximity is great in case you’d like to catch the night sky on the dunes.
Recommended by Megan of Let’s Jet, Kids!
11. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Why it’s great for kids: Easy hikes, unique landscape, & plenty of climbing rocks
One of the most popular National Parks to visit is Joshua Tree National Park, which is located not far from the desert oasis of Palm Springs. This park also happens to be one of the most kid friendly national parks in the US as it offers all kinds of family-friendly activities.
For example, Joshua Tree contains an abundance of several easy hikes, such as the 1-mile Hidden Valley Nature Trail and the 0.25-mile loop around the Cholla Cactus Garden.
Another activity that makes Joshua Tree a crowd-favorite for families is the unique landscape. Within the park, you’ll find massive rock formations of all sizes. More often than not, your kids can easily climb on these rocks and catch gorgeous views of the surrounding area.
The best part is that there’s no need to bring any climbing gear as the giant rocks are easy to scramble since they offer lots of traction. But, you may want to bring some band-aids as the rocks can be sharp, and your kids will likely get a little scraped up while climbing around!
For those interested in staying in Joshua Tree, consider staying at the Black Rock Canyon Campground. It has almost 100 sites, and each site is equipped with a picnic table and fire pit.
Recommended by Kristin of Global Travel Escapades
12. Kenai Fjord National Park, AK (best national park for adventurous families)
Why it’s great for kids: Sea life viewing, boat tours, & glaciers
When many families think of national parks in Alaska, they immediately think of Denali National Park. And for good reason. Denali is great if you are looking to experience hiking and camping and have a chance to see Alaska’s “big five.”
But, if you are a family that loves to be on and near the ocean then Kenai Fjord National Park should absolutely be on your list of must-do things in Alaska. It’s one of the greatest national parks for adventurous families.
Near Seward, Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park is the best place to see Alaskan sea life. Home to a wide variety of wildlife, including whales, sea lions, otters, bald eagles, and many species of birds, Kenai is the place to cross off many of those bucket animal experiences.
Whether it is seeing a humpback whale breach or a sea otter mom carrying her new infant on her stomach, your family will see the wonder of mother nature. Families can take a boat tour or go on a wildlife viewing hike to see these animals in their natural habitats.
Kenai Fjord National Park is also home to many glaciers, including the famous Exit Glacier. Families can take a guided hike to explore the glaciers, learn about their formations, and see the unique landscapes that they create.
Families will be especially comfortable at Sauerdough Lodging. Located just above the town bakery, this small apartment serves as the perfect launching spot to explore the quaint town of Seward and the beautiful Kenai Fjord National Park.
Recommended by Faith of 3 Tickets Please
National park vacations for families
The fun has just begun! This epic list of family friendly national parks in the USA continues below!
13. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Why it’s great for kids: Short hikes, waterfalls, & its proximity to Gatlinburg
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, and for good reason!
This park is easily accessible from multiple airports, within a few hours drive from multiple major cities, and has something for the entire family to enjoy. It’s one of the most family friendly national parks in the USA.
One of the top reasons it’s great for kids is its proximity to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is similar in feel to Myrtle Beach, SC and Branson, MO (read: very touristy).
So, families with mixed interests or multiple family trips can find amusement park rides for thrill seeking kids and then spend the afternoon splashing in waterfall creeks for the outdoorsy kids.
Another reason that it’s a great family vacation is how accessible most of the best sights are. There are several waterfalls with only a short hike and beautiful long-range views that can be reached roadside or with a short walk.
The KOA Gatlinburg is a popular family campground with fun activities to relax with after you’ve explored some of the many kid friendly hikes in Smoky Mountain National Park!
Recommended by Stephanie of Explore More Clean Less
14. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (super fun national park with kids)
Why it’s great for kids: “Hike the Hoodoos” program, Jr. Ranger puzzles, unique landscape, & easy hikes
With its majestic towering hoodoos, Bryce Canyon’s stunning trails wow visitors of all ages.
Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable stroller-friendly walk or an exciting adventure, Bryce has something for everyone in the family. It’s truly one of the best national parks for kids!
This park is a paradise for families, especially if you are traveling with kids that are too young for strenuous hikes. One of the best hikes in the park is the kid-friendly Queens Garden to Navajo Loop Trail. This is the best spot to experience Bryce’s iconic hoodoos up close.
Then, stroll back to where you started along the paved Rim Trail that connects Sunset Point with Sunrise Point for incredible views into the Amphitheater.
Visitors who complete the loop can participate in the “Hike the Hoodoos” program. Hike for at least three miles and document stops at designated markers for a reward at the Visitor Center.
Though many people start the day at the Visitor Center, consider ending there instead. Print your Jr. Ranger Book at home, and have the kids start looking through it before your visit.
They will then have a chance to get excited about the park and will be on alert for possible Jr. Ranger connections while exploring. This approach allows early birds to have the Amphitheater to themselves before the Visitor Center opens.
Finish Jr. Ranger puzzles during breaks and lunch, then end your day at the Center. Get your Jr. Ranger badge and Hike the Hoodoos reward, then pick up a souvenir that reminds you of the best parts of your day.
Wondering where to base your stay? Book a room at the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge for easy access to the best viewpoints in the park. This is a popular place. Book well in advance!
For more family-friendly Utah fun, check out Utah dinosaur sites the whole family will love.
Recommended by Kris of JJ & The Bug
15. Grand Teton National Park, WY (amazing scenery on this list of best national parks for kids)
Why it’s great for kids: Wildlife, clear lakes, boat rides & beautiful landscape
The Grand Tetons are an excellent national park for families because it offers easy access to the beautiful landscape and viewing of wildlife.
Jenny Lake is a great place to bring the kids as you can reach this beautiful lake with a short (stroller-friendly) walk from the parking lot. There’s even a boat ride that takes you across the lake to hike Inspiration Point Grand Teton.
The neighboring String Lake is also a great spot for a picnic and swim! If you are feeling adventurous, you can even bring your own kayak or paddleboard to explore the lake!
Grand Teton National Park does get very busy during the summer so it’s helpful to make reservations ahead of time and due your research about the current reservation system.
Be mindful of leaving any food out if you camp at Jenny Lake with kiddos because wildlife is very active here. Make sure kids stay close and that you have bear spray on you as you hike around.
Whether you are traveling to the Tetons for an anniversary, summer vacation, or just a fun getaway, you and the family are guaranteed to have an amazing time. It’s truly one of the very best national parks for kids!
As experienced by Lumalia of Celebrate Again
16. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
Why it’s great for kids: Lava, steam vents, lava tubes and petroglyphs
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a fantastic national park for families with kids. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, the park is home to not one but two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa!
If Kilauea is erupting, there is an easy 2-mile roundtrip, flat paved path (easy for strollers until the last couple hundred feet) that will take you to an overlook to see lava bubbling up and filling the caldera, creating a lava lake. If the lake is filled high enough, you can even drive to a lookout spot without hiking.
But lava isn’t the only thing that makes the park fascinating! There are other natural phenomena to be found!
Warm your hands over steam vents, hold your nose while walking by stinky Sulphur banks and discover volcanic craters of all sizes.
Thurston Lava Tube is sure to leave an impression on your child. It’s a quick 0.5-mile loop that brings you through a dimly lit cave. Kids will feel like an explorer wandering through the cave and enjoy splashing in the puddles made by the leaking rocks.
Another easy, 1.5-mile roundtrip hike will bring you to Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field. Here, you’ll see thousands of mysterious rock carvings made by ancient Hawaiians.
The Volcano House is a historic hotel inside the park that offers rooms with views overlooking Kilauea Crater. If the volcano is flowing, you’ll be able to see orange glowing clouds from the steam/smoke reflecting the lava glow from your room window!
There is plenty more to see at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, so be sure to mark this as a bucket list adventure for your family!
Recommended by Tabitha of Travel Compositions
17. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND (underrated spot on this best national parks for kids list)
Why it’s great for kids: Wildlife, easy hikes & not too busy
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an often overlooked park that is exceptionally easy to explore with kids. It’s underrated, but one of the very best national parks for kids to check out.
The United States’ 43rd national park boasts beautiful badlands and lots of prairie lands teeming with wildlife, including bison, prairie dogs, deer, and even wild horses. The only national park named after a person, Theodore Roosevelt is a true gem in western North Dakota.
There are numerous easy hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park that are perfect for families. In fact, many of the park’s most scenic trails are less than a mile in length and offer sweeping views without a lot of effort.
The park, which spans 70,000 acres, is split into two different units. While the south unit is the most popular portion of the park, to avoid the crowds, head to the north unit. To experience both sections of the park, give yourself at least 2 days, depending on how many hikes you plan to do.
A nice trail that you can do even with young children, Wind Canyon takes you along the ridge of a deep canyon overlooking the Missouri River. The in and out trail is only a half long and mostly flat. But if hiking with rambunctious little ones, you may want to hold hands as you walk along the canyon’s edge, as a safety measure.
Recommended by Melissa of Parenthood and Passports
18. Everglades National Park, FL
Why it’s great for kids: Wildlife, tram tours, boat rides & a plethora of ranger-led programs
Families visiting Florida don’t want to miss Everglades National Park. The park is full of diverse wildlife and so many kid-friendly adventures. It’s truly one of the best national parks for kids in the United States.
Covering 1.5 million acres, the park offers many ways to enjoy the Everglades with kids and you can plan your visit according to your interests.
Kids have fun at Everglades while learning about nature preservation, geology, and wildlife while hiking, canoeing, and camping.
Getting to the Everglades from central and southern Florida is easy with your own vehicle. With different entrances west and south of Miami, options are plentiful at this World Heritage site. On-demand ride services are also available to and from the park across the state.
Flamingo Campground, near the park’s southern entrance, has a full range of accommodations for families. Bring your tents or RV, and remember to book in advance. Hiking, fishing, canoeing and even ranger programs for further education are available right at the Flamingo.
Kids will keep busy and enjoy the range of activities at Everglades. You can book a 2-hour tram tour at Shark Valley where naturalists point out and share information about the local wildlife.
Alternatively, those with energy and an independent spirit can rent bicycles to see more of the park on your own. At Flamingo, rent canoes to explore the Everglades on water. This is your chance to slow down and get up close with Florida’s marine life, looking for manatees, crocodiles, turtles and more.
Recommended by Melinda of Mel On The Go
19. Sequoia National Park, CA (another favorite national park for kids)
Why it’s great for kids: interactive trails with options for climbing and playing in natural playground
Sequoia National Park in California is a true gem in the National Park System! It was the 2nd space to be declared a national park in the USA in 1890, largely protecting one of the world’s largest growing organisms: the giant Sequoia trees!
Kids will love exploring this park, right alongside adults! It’s one of the best national parks with kids because it has so many interactive elements within the park.
See the world’s largest tree by volume – the General Sherman Tree. It’s simply massive in size and your kids will love exploring the nearby trails. They’ll get to look at the rings of a Sequoia Tree that was cut down, and climb on giant Sequoia stumps.
Be sure to include a ‘hike’ up Moro Rock in your Sequoia National Park visit. The trail is about 350 steps to the top of a granite rock, providing 360-degree views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The top of the rock is a great spot for family photos, too.
One of the most unique attractions is the Crystal Cave. This lesser-known area of the park requires advance reservations, and recommended at least 3 weeks in advance. Be sure to wear layers and grippy hiking shoes during your visit to the cave as the floor is moist, slick and cool.
Many people make a visit of Sequoia with the other national parks. There’s so many things to do in Kings Canyon National Park that you’ll want to plan another day to this adjacent park. Then, drive the 2.5 hours over to Yosemite National Park and explore another fabulous park!
Recommended by me – Nikki of Inspired Routes
More family friendly national parks in the USA
Is your adventure bucket list growing? There are so many kid friendly national parks in the US! One of my kids’ favorite parks is up next!
20. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Why it’s great for kids: Stroller-friendly trails, wildlife & proximity to Denver
Rocky Mountain National Park is a great park for families. It’s one of the most popular of Colorado’s national parks due to its epic hikes and amazing views. Rocky Mountain NP is great on its own or as a adventurous day trip from Denver.
Note: from May through October, you’ll need a timed entry permit to visit this gorgeous park! Be sure to plan your trip in advance to get your pass.
Because the park is quite large, there are many different kinds of activities to enjoy. You’ll easily find something here for everyone.
There are stroller-accessible hikes, like the trail at Bear Lake and the trail to visit the Holzwarth Historic Site. There are also a multitude of other easy hikes for families who don’t need stroller. The hike to Adams Falls is a family favorite!
For families who enjoy scenic drives, Trail Ridge Road is one of the most beautiful roads in America, and one of the top scenic drives in Colorado. It’s even featured in many car commercials. You’ll also have opportunities to look for animals along the road, like the park’s famous elk and mountain goat populations.
If you want a serene setting to enjoy a meal together, there are picnic tables in scenic spots all over the park, including the tranquil and less crowded Lake Irene. Or if you’d prefer to buy lunch at the park, you can eat at the very top of Trail Ridge Road at the visitor’s center.
The nearby Estes Park is home to many quaint cabins and extravagant lodges. It’s a great place to rest after a day full of adventures! You and your family will have a great time at this kid friendly national park in the US!
Recommended by Stephanie of History Fangirl
21. Glacier National Park, MT (absolutely amazing national park with kids)
Why it’s great for kids: Beautiful scenery, Junior Ranger Program & fun lake activities
Glacier National Park is an incredible destination for families, especially those with kids. This breathtaking park is the ideal location for a family holiday because it provides a wide variety of kid-friendly activities. Read on to see why Glacier National Park is one of the best national parks for kids in the USA!
Glacier National Park is one of the largest national parks in the country, with over 1 million acres of untouched wilderness. This beautiful scenery provides an opportunity for kids to explore and get a close-up view of nature.
The park also provides educational programs for kids. The Glacier Junior Ranger Program is a popular option that allows kids to learn about the park and its wildlife. After all the place-based requirements and activities are completed, a park ranger will reward your child with a Junior Ranger Badge.
One of the must-visit spots within Glacier National Park for families is Two Medicine Lake. This scenic lake offers a range of activities that are perfect for kids, including fishing, boating and hiking. Families can also take a scenic boat tour around the lake to see the stunning views from the water.
The Two Medicine Campground is the closest accommodation site to the lake. It’s first come, first served and there are tents and RV sites available.
If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park with kids, you should make sure to pack plenty of snacks and water for your hikes and outdoor activities. It is also a good idea to bring sunscreen, bug spray and warm layers, because the weather can change quickly in the park.
If your kids are a little older and more adventurous, give them whistles in case they get lost, because there will likely not be cell service.
Recommended by Andy of Explore with Finesse
22. White Sands National Park, NM
Why it’s great for kids: Sliding the dunes, short trails & a kid-friendly museum
White Sands National Park in New Mexico is one of the most interesting and beautiful family friendly national parks in the USA.
The white desert consists of 275 square miles of gypsum sand. The white sand dunes do not only look spectacular but also offer fun adventures for young and old.
At the entrance of the park you’ll find the visitor’s center. The visitors center has a small museum attached where you can learn all you need to know about the history, flora and fauna of the National Park. It even does so in an entertaining and kid-friendly way!
Families will also have a chance to buy plastic sleds at the visitor center in White Sands National Park. A fun activity for young and old is to go sledding down the impressive white sand dunes. It is possible to return the sleds for a small refund back at the center when you are done with them.
In the park there are three marked hikes. Two of the hikes are very suitable for kids since they are only about 0.3 miles long. The Alkali Flat Tail is 4.3 miles and is the longest of the hikes. It’s likely more suitable for avid hikers and older kids.
The closest city to the White Sands National Park is Alamogordo. It is about 15 miles away from the national park.
Unless you want to stay at the on-site camping ground of the national park, the Hampton Inn Alamogordo is your best choice, since it has a great pool that kids will love.
Recommended by Sabrina of US Adventure
23. Arches National Park, UT (by far one of the best national parks for kids)
Why it’s great for kids: Epic natural arches, roadside views & easy hikes
Located in the state of Utah, Arches National Park is known for its otherworldly red landscape and distinct rock formations. With it’s unique landscape, easy hikes and proximity to other fun activities, it’s the best national park for kids!
With over 2000 natural arches, the park is filled with famous landmarks and a raw natural beauty that will take your breath away.
Aside from its incredible landscape, Arches National Park is also super accessible and family-friendly. Most of the main attractions visible from the road or only a short walk away.
In addition to the park’s easy access, there are a variety of amazing activities to do with kids.
Take the little ones out on one of the park’s many short and easy hikes or drive the 36-mile scenic route with lookout points along the way.
Arches National Park also features a wonderfully kid-friendly visitors center, equipped with interactive exhibits and youth explorer packs on loan. There’s even a junior ranger program where your child can earn a badge and certificate by completing different “adventures” in the park!
Arches National Park is also located only 5 miles from the nearest town of Moab. In town, you’ll find an array of fun activities to enjoy with the family, from river rafting and an aquatic center to guided ATV excursions.
The park is open all year round and can be visited at any time of the day. For visits between April 1 and October 31, you will need a timed entry reservation booked in advance.
If you’re planning to visit during the summer, then be sure to check out these important tips for managing the park’s intense heat.
Sun Outdoors Campground is a fantastic place to stay with the family. The campground offers comfortable amenities, a swimming pool, playgrounds, and air-conditioned cabins.
Recommended by Hailey from the Restless Adventurer
24. Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Why its great for kids: Plethora of free programs and Junior Ranger activities
Families can have an amazing time visiting Mount Rainier in the state of Washington. It is truly one of the most kid-friendly national parks in the US. Mount Rainier National Park offers a diverse and stunning natural environment with a variety of activities and experiences suitable for all ages.
With breathtaking mountain vistas, pristine forests, crystal-clear lakes, and abundant wildlife, the park provides endless opportunities for sightseeing, hiking and photography. Easy trails like the Silver Forest Trail, Box Canyon and Tipsoo Lake Trail are all kid-friendly, and there’s even more hikes in Mount Rainier National Park that your family will love.
Mount Rainier National Park offers visitors the chance to participate in a range of free programs that are presented by the park’s interpretive staff.
These programs range from informal talks at park visitor centers to Junior Ranger programs for kids and even evening campfire activities. The rangers are sure to cover a diverse range of topics, including geology, wildlife, ecology, mountaineering, and park history.
If weather permits, the Paradise Visitor Center also has a Night Skies Program. Most of these programs are available from late June until Labor Day, and schedules are posted throughout the park. Additionally, visitors can find brief descriptions of some evening programs in the park’s calendar of events.
Mount Rainier National Park is an ideal destination for families looking to reconnect with nature, learn about the natural world and enjoy quality time together.
Recommended by Tammi of Wander Healthy
25. Badlands National Park, SD
Why it’s great for kids: Fossil Exhibit Trail, climbing, overlooks & proximity to Mount Rushmore
Badlands National Park is a one of the best national parks for families who want to enjoy a day together. You won’t have to miss out on anything here while traveling with kids!
Badlands has hikes that are easy enough for kids of almost all ages to do. Parents traveling with very young kids can even go on the quarter-mile stroller-accessible Fossil Exhibit Trail.
Badlands Loop Road is a beautiful scenic road that runs through the park. As your family drives from overlook to overlook, the kids can enjoy alternating between taking in the views from the car and getting out to see how each new vista offers a unique geological wonder.
There are also two great animal experiences to be had here. Your family can see the herd of bison that live at Badlands as well as visit the prairie dog town. For families with kids who love to see animals, you’ll have multiple chances to enjoy these majestic creatures.
Many families choose to stay in Rapid City and explore the entire area, which includes Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
While you might find a road trip to South Dakota might not be the closest national park to you, depending on where you’re starting from, this cluster of national and state parks offer so much to do!
If you stay in Rapid City, the La Quinta by Wyndham is a great choice. It’s is connected to a small waterpark and is also pet-friendly.
Recommended by Stephanie of Oklahoma Wonders
26. Capitol Reef National Park, UT (such a fun spot on this list of best national parks for families)
Why it’s great for kids: Petroglyphs, orchards & short trails
Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is a family favorite not only for its unique landscape on the Waterpocket Fold, but also due to its cultural heritage. It’s one of the very best (and underrated) national park vacations for familes.
The park preserves a representation of the life of pioneers who settled there hundreds of years ago.
In the Fruita Rural Historic District, kids will enjoy peering into an old school house, picking fruit in the orchard, homemade pie at the Gifford’s Homestead, and spotting 1,000 year old petroglyphs.
The orchards were originally planted by pioneers in the late 1800s using irrigation from the nearby river. Today, they still produce fruits of many varieties. Depending on the timing of your visit, you may be able to pick apricots, apples, cherries, peaches, plums, or pears.
Many of the park’s trails accessible by car are only about 1-2 miles long round trip making most of them quite family friendly. Don’t miss the Petroglyph Trail, Panorama Point and the Hickman Bridge Trail.
Always check in at the visitor’s center for recommendations and to find out any trails that may be at risk for flash floods. Flash floods may occur suddenly on an otherwise sunny day and leave people (and cars) in trouble.
The visitor center is a great place to find reprieve during hot or rainy periods, which is one of the best tips for visiting Utah in the summer with kids.
While you’re at the Visitor’s Center ask for their Junior Ranger guide for ages 6+ or for other activities for children as young as three.
Because the park is so spread out, Rangers often entrust badges to the parents to award kids upon completion of the requirements so you do not have to return to a ranger station.
If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a day on which Ripple Rock Nature Center is staffed with additional programming.
Capitol Reef costs $20 per car to enter if you do not have an America the Beautiful pass.
Recommended by Catherine of Postcard Narrative
Best national park for kids
How do you even choose?! There are so many amazing national parks for kids to experience. In your opinion, which is the best national park for kids?
Let’s recap this list one more time (In a slightly quicker fashion…)
US best national parks kids
- Zion National Park, UT
- Dry Tortugas National Park, FL
- Olympic National Park, WA
- Shenandoah National Park, VA
- Acadia National Park, ME
- Yellowstone National Park, WY
- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
- Haleakala National Park, HI
- Yosemite National Park, CA
- Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO
- Joshua Tree National Park, CA
- Kenai Fjords National Park, AK
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
- Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
- Grand Teton National Park, WY
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
- Everglades National Park, FL
- Sequoia National Park, CA
- Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
- Glacier National Park, MT
- White Sands National Park, NM
- Arches National Park, UT
- Mount Rainier National Park, WA
- Badlands National Park, SD
- Capitol Reef National Park, UT
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