If your ideal summer travel plans involve breaking away from the lines, costly prices, and gimmicks of many tourist destinations, then a trip to one of the country’s 58 national parks may be just what the doctor ordered. The fresh air, beautiful scenery, and opportunity for adventure are what draw many families to visit the parks, and from east coast to west coast, there’s truly something for everyone.
Parks offer numerous opportunities to hike, camp, and explore wildlife together as a family. They also provide kids with the opportunity to participate in a kids program where they can interview Rangers as well as play games and test their knowledge about the park and its services. At the end of their experience, they are sworn in as Junior Rangers and receive a special certificate and an official Junior Ranger badge. Check out our favorite kid-friendly national parks across the country for an exciting and adventurous time for the whole family.
Grand Teton National Park
At Grand Teton National Park in Northwestern Wyoming, there are many outdoor recreation activities to choose from in the summertime, including hiking, walking, viewing wildlife, backpacking, camping, climbing, fishing, swimming, boating, biking and horseback riding. In winter, skiing and snowshoeing are also popular. Home to the majestic Teton Range, Grand Teton National Park is quite the site for sore eyes featuring mountains, glaciers, a river, and a diverse array of wildlife. With 310,000 total acres and 25 family-friendly trails, three of which are stroller-accessible, you will be sure to find a suitable path for your family to trek along together and snap some memorable photos. Don’t forget to check out the kid-specific park activities and visit one or all of the three major visitors’ centers, each with a kid’s activity area and bookstore.
Entrance Fee: $25/vehicle, which is good for both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks for seven days.
Yosemite National Park
Located in the Sierra Nevada of California, Yosemite National Park is known for its waterfalls, cliffs, valleys, meadows, sequoias, and vast wilderness, but you will also find much more. You and your family will appreciate the extraordinary opportunities available at Yosemite National Park such as camping, picnicking, rock-climbing, rafting, backpacking, fishing, and water activities. Encourage your kids to discover Yosemite’s wonders by visiting the Nature Center at Happy Ises or the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center for interactive exhibits and to become a Junior Ranger or Little Cub.
Entrance Fee: $20/vehicle. This is valid for unlimited entries to Yosemite for seven days, and includes all occupants of the car.
All four types of volcanoes found in the entire world are represented in Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California. Volcanoes found in the park include shield (Prospect Peak), plug dome (Lassen Peak), Cinder Cone (Cinder Cone), and Composite (Brokeoff Volcano) volcanoes. Since Lassen receives over 30 feet of snow on an average each winter with the season beginning around October and continuing through June or July, make sure to plan and dress accordingly before you visit. In the summer, you can enjoy activities such as auto-touring, boating, biking, horseback-riding or hiking on trails with awe-inspiring views of hardened lava flow, bubbling mud pots, and glacier-formed valleys. Check out Bumpass Hell and Sulphur Works hydrothermal areas with your children and encourage them to attend the Junior Ranger program or the entire family can join the Volcano Club. Visit here for more information on programs designed just for kids.
Entrance Fee: $10/vehicle passes valid for 7 days at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Denali National Park and Preserve
For unparalleled views of North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley, visit the six million acres of wild lands at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, where activities await the entire family. Guests can explore on foot, by bus, by car, by bike, on horseback, or even by aircraft. Most who visit seek glimpses of wildlife, breath-taking scenery, or peace and seclusion. Not only can your kids become Junior Rangers at Denali National Park and Preserve, but they can also see sled dog demonstrations, view real dinosaur tracks, and enjoy the exhibits and Kid’s Cabinet at the Murie Science and Learning Center. Click here for more information on children’s activities.
Entrance Fee: $10.00/person (youth age 15 years or younger are free). This fee provides the visitor a 7-day entrance permit.
Acadia National Park
When your summer travels bring you to the northeast, Acadia National Park in Maine offers plenty of family-friendly activities as well as awe-inspiring views of mountains, various bodies of water, rocky cliffs, and wildlife. There are many different types of guided tours to choose from to explore the park in its entirety, ranging in transportation from bus, trolley, horse-drawn carriage, or even various different boat cruises. With over 120 miles of hiking trails, there’s truly something for every age and ability level. You and the kids can enjoy geocaching, going on an Acadia Quest, or they can also become a Junior Ranger. For more information on kids programs, visit a visitor center, nature center, or park campground.
Entrance Fee: $20/vehicle valid for 7 days (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park covers almost 3,500 square miles in the northwest corner of Wyoming with 3% of the park scattering through Montana and 1% in Idaho. It is a paradise of preserved geysers including the infamous Old Faithful, which is the most predictable geyser, erupting every 60 to 110 minutes for 1.5 to 5 minutes with heights ranging from 106 to 184 feet. Geysers are the main reason the park was established in 1872 as America’s first national park. Yellowstone encompasses mountain wilderness and a natural ecosystem and is home to grizzly bears, wolves, eagles, and herds of bison and elk. You can spend days at Yellowstone hiking, fishing, boating, biking, camping, and wildlife-viewing amongst plenty other activities. Kids can become a Young Scientist or Junior Ranger and can participate in scavenger hunts and educational games.
Entrance Fee: $25/vehicle. This fee provides the visitor with a 7-day entrance permit for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
What’s your favorite national park to go to with the kids? Let us know in the comments below!