Best National Parks for Kids

This collection of the best national parks for kids in the USA will inspire you to get out and explore the magnificent outdoors. Expect stunning vistas, family friendly hikes and an exciting array of wildlife.

The USA is renowned for its incredible selection of top national parks. They are famed for their amazing hiking and stunning landscapes, but just how family friendly are they?

The Best National Parks for Kids

I consulted with my fellow family travel bloggers to find out what they think are the best national parks for kids. Check out their selection below for your next national park vacation.

Grand Canyon

As one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon is not only one of the most famous, and most-visited attractions in the United States, but it is renowned as one of the best national parks in the world.

Located in the state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is a geological masterpiece that was formed 5-6 million years ago as the Colorado River eroded a 1-mile deep channel through hundreds of layers of banded red rock.

Grand Canyon

Appearing on many a bucket list, the Grand Canyon attracts more than 5 million visitors a year, who flock here to enjoy the stunning panoramic views, incredible hiking trails and the famous sunrises and sunsets.

Highlights for families include hiking the Bright Angel trail, walking the interpretive Trail of Time, learning about Native American crafts at the Hopi House and becoming a Grand Canyon Junior Ranger.

A great option for families is the free Hermit Road shuttle bus, which stops at lookouts along its 7-mile route. Also don’t miss the opportunity to do nighttime star gazing – super cool!

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Bryce Canyon

by Marta from Learning Escapes.

Our favourite US National Park and one of the easiest to visit with kids is Bryce Canyon in Utah.

Located in the South West of the State, it is small enough to be visited in a day but packs a punch in terms of beauty and the uniqueness of the landscape.

Bryce is a natural amphitheater filled with peculiar red rock formations (hoodoos) that are unique to this area and give the park a distinctly otherworldly experience!

View over Bryce Canyon

A fun way to visit Bryce with kids is to get hold of the Junior Programme booklet available at the ranger station at the park entrance and use it to guide your explorations.

It is filled with activities such as scavenger hunts and quizzes that are great to make the kids engage with what they are seeing and keep them entertained on the paths.

If you do them all, at the end of the day you can be sworn Junior Ranger and get a ranger badge from a real Bryce ranger! 

There are many family-friendly hikes in Bryce that can be tackled even with small kids and without special equipment. The Rim trail is the most scenic and it is also served by the park shuttle, which means you can hop on the bus anytime tiredness hits. 

Highlights for us were Bryce Point, Sunrise Point and Inspiration Point: the walk between these lookouts is easy and you get the most incredible views of the Hoodoos.

Joshua Tree

by Celine from Family Can Travel.

Joshua Tree National Park, in southern California, is a vast desert landscape dotted with large rock formations.

You’ll find the land area to be sparse aside from some desert scrub and of course, the infamous Joshua Tree. That may not sound all that appealing, but that is exactly what makes it the perfect national park to visit with kids.

While you’ll find very little shade, you’ll also find plenty of short, fun hikes that the whole family will enjoy.

Joshua Tree National Park

Kids (young and old) will love climbing the various rock formations throughout the park, especially along the Split Rock Trail or the Arch Rock Nature Trail. Exploring the areas around these huge boulders will be one of the things your kids enjoy most in Joshua Tree

For parents, there are also plenty of opportunities to get an incredible view. For an easy viewpoint, drive up to Keys View for sweeping views of the Coachella Valley.

For more of a challenge, hike up to the summit of the second tallest mountain in the National Park, Ryan Mountain, for an unobstructed view of the park below.

Whether you are spending one day or several days in Joshua Tree National Park with kids, you’ll have no trouble convincing your kids to go out and explore.

Grand Teton

by James from Travel Collecting.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is a great place for a family vacation.  There is so much to do for everyone. 

First up, there are great hikes that are easy enough even for young kids.  A highlight is the Cascade Canyon Trail, which starts with a shuttle boat ride across Jenny Lake. 

The hike starts with a somewhat steep section that you can take slowly, but it then flattens out as it enters the canyon. The scenery is spectacular, and the main part of the hike easy. It runs alongside a river and you may see moose or even river otters! 

Moose Pond Grand Teton

Another easy hike is to the aptly named Moose Pond, where moose often go to eat the pond grass. On the more northern Jackson Lake, there is fishing, boating and swimming, which the kids – and parents – will love. 

The views of the Grand Teton ranges are truly stunning, and you can break things up with scenic drives to key mountain viewpoints.  You may see herds of bison along the way! 

This is also a good place to teach the kids some American history when you visit Mormon Row and the famous historic barns there.  There is truly something for the whole family at Grand Teton National Park.

Yellowstone

by Astrid from The Wandering Daughter.

The oldest national park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park has plenty to offer families, from beautiful wildlife to unique geological wonders.

Located primarily in the state of Wyoming, the park spans an area of almost 3,500 square miles, and sees over 4 million visitors per year.

The park sits on a supervolcano, dormant for over 600,000 years, but still full of geothermal activity. Yellowstone’s most famous geological attraction is Old Faithful, a geyser known for its regularly timed eruptions.

Yellowstone National Park

Other geothermal points of interest include Excelsior Geyser, Grand Prismatic Springs, Mud Volcano, and Dragon Mouth’s Spring. Families will enjoy learning about the differences among geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and steam vents.

Besides the geological wonders of Yellowstone, the park also has an abundance of animal wonders. Bison, elk, bears, deer, and wolves all live at Yellowstone National Park.

Even during a day visit, families can see many of these animals, especially bison.

But it’s important to remember that the animals at the park are wild. Families should exercise caution and maintain a safe distance. Never approach animals for selfies or feed them food.

After over 190 years, the natural diversity of Yellowstone National Park still captures the interest of families from all over the world. A visit to this national park is not to be missed!

Rocky Mountain

by Stephanie from Explore More Clean Less.

Conveniently located about an hour from Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a fantastic park for families to visit!

RMNP has exciting things to see whether you are taking short hikes or mainly staying in your vehicle, making it great for little legs.

Wildlife and stunning views will compete for your whole family’s attention as you explore the many different terrains and habitats within this beautiful park.

Moose at Rocky Mountain National Park

Kids will learn firsthand how different altitudes feel and look as you drive up and explore the famous Trail Ridge Road and stop to explore the highest visitor’s center in the country (don’t forget to grab the junior ranger program booklet here!).

Ask the rangers for recent sightings and spend time trying to spot animals like bighorn sheep, black bears, and moose.

The Bear Lake hike is a top family pick because it’s short and flat with beautiful views. Bigger kids can extend out to Emerald Lake along the same trail and burn off more steam while seeing more of the park!

Before you go, read more about the area and some tips for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park with kids in order to get the most out of your trip. 

Acadia

by Margie from DQ Family Travel.

Acadia National Park is a wonderful national park to visit with your family. 

Located on the northeastern corner of Maine, it is one of the most remote national parks in the country, yet it is a picturesque location filled with natural beauty that everyone will appreciate. 

There are many kid-friendly hikes in Acadia that vary in difficulty and have scenic stops or a gorgeous finale. If you’re looking for a gentle, but scenic ocean stroll, the Ocean Path Trail is it. 

It is one of the most popular trails in the park for a reason. The paved trail takes you right along the water for some beautiful ocean views, granite cliffs, and rock scrambling opportunities if you choose to veer off the main path.

Acadia Ocean Path

Bubble Rock Trail is a nice and easy/moderate hike that takes you pretty high up for some spectacular scenery of Jordan Pond and forested area. The giant boulder hanging on the side of the cliff is also pretty cool!

If you have teenagers who are looking for something a little more challenging, you can attempt the Beehive Trail. This trail is an Acadia classic, although it is not for those with a fear of heights. Once you reach the summit, there are stunning views of the granite cliffs and the rugged coastline.

If your family is not too keen on hiking, then a bike ride down Acadia’s old carriage roads should be a fun activity, or even relaxing on Sand Beach is a nice way to enjoy a beautiful day.

A drive through the park can also be quite scenic, as visitors can stop and pull off for some nice picturesque views. 

There are many campgrounds within and just outside of Acadia National Park, which families may enjoy; however, I would recommend staying at the nearby town of Bar Harbor.

It is a charming seaside town and is perfect for those looking for a little more luxury and great restaurants. 

Zion

by Sally at Little Hiccups.

Utah is filled to the brim with stunning landscapes, much of which has been designated as National or State Parks.

When it comes to choosing a favorite park in Utah, picking just one is impossible, but Zion National Park is definitely in my top few.

Located in southern Utah, Zion National Park truly has something for everyone. With stunning red rock formations, snow covered peaks, dramatic waterfalls, river valleys, and slot canyons there is so much to explore.

There are plenty of hiking trails here of varying length and difficulty.

For families with young children, the Kayenta Trail to Lower Emerald Pools is a great option. This 3 mile long trail takes in stunning views over the North Fork Virgin River that runs through Zion Canyon.

At the top of the trail you’ll find yourself walking behind a waterfall. Prepare to be sprayed!

Zion national park

Other great hiking options for families include the Pa’rus Trail and Riverside Walk, both of which are fairly flat and wheelchair friendly.

For families with older children, a hike through the icy waters in The Narrows slot canyon is a popular choice. Make sure to check weather conditions before attempting this hike as flash floods can be treacherous.

Anywhere you hike in Zion there’s a good chance you’ll spot some of the native wildlife including mule deer, rock squirrels, bighorn sheep, hummingbirds, wild turkeys, lizards and even tarantulas.

Plan on spending at least a full day in Zion. With so much to see and do, staying the night in one of Zion’s three campgrounds is a popular choice.

There are also many hotels available in nearby Springdale. Temperatures plummet below freezing in the Winter and Summers tend to be scorching hot, so Spring and Fall are the most popular times for visitors.

Zion National Park is just a 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas and a 4 hour drive from Salt Lake City making it an easily accessible national park.

Yosemite

by Melissa at The Family Voyage.

Yosemite is the quintessential US national park to visit on your next family trip. It offers big mountain scenery, rushing waterfalls, lush meadows and towering trees.

The best part of visiting Yosemite is that there’s no “wrong” way to experience it, so even those visiting with the youngest kids can have a fantastic experience.

First and foremost, every visitor should stop to take in the iconic Tunnel View. No matter how many times you visit Yosemite in your life, it always elicits the same reaction: “WOW!”

Yosemite national Park

You’ll see the iconic El Capitan sheer rock face on the left side, mirrored by Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls on the right.

Another important stop you should make is at Yosemite Falls down in the Yosemite Valley. It’s a wonderful flat walk from the visitors center and a great taste of the forest scenery.

For those visiting with school age children, make sure to pick up the Junior Ranger program guide to complete during your stay. They even have different offerings for each age.

The park movies also offer an important introduction to the parks history and ecology, while daily ranger programs are a fun and interactive way to get more out of your Yosemite visit.

Indiana Dunes

by Kirsten from Kids are a Trip.

Located less than an hour from downtown Chicago, Indiana Dunes National Park feels like a world away.

With dunes, prairie lands, thick forests, and views of Lake Michigan, this park provides opportunities to explore a wide variety of habitats.

Trails range from short and easy to difficult day long hikes. Whatever your family prefers, there is sure to be a trail at Indiana Dunes for you.

Indiana Dunes National Park

Start at the Visitor Center outside the park, where you can pick up trail maps and even catch a shuttle to the park entrance.

This is one of the newest national parks, so it typically doesn’t have the crowds you might find in other parks. The park covers over 15,000 acres, so it’s important to have a plan before heading out. 

There’s a parking lot at the main gate, and from here, you can find several trail heads.

The Cowles Bog Loop Trail is a great hike for families. It goes up the dunes, through the forest, and ends in marshland. There are other trails that branch off from this one, so if one looks better, take it, as trails are well signed.

Consider renting a vacation home in nearby Michigan City, Indiana or head to downtown Chicago for a night in the city.

Whatever you choose, it will be the perfect ending to a day at Indiana Dunes National Park!

Glacier

by Gina from Travel Montana Now.

Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana and is a fabulous trip for families, who will enjoy its smaller size and close proximity to the gorgeous mountain lake towns you can spend time in when not at the park.

One of the best parts of visiting Glacier National Park for kids is the massive scale of the landscape, with huge jagged mountain peaks and lots of lakes and rivers to visit where you can toss in rocks or wade in the chilly water.

Kids and adults alike will be enthralled with the chance to see a glacier during a drive along Going-to-the-Sun road, which is a must-do attraction during a family road trip through Montana.

Kids can also become part of the junior rangers program while visiting Glacier National Park, which gives kids the chance to collect badges from various parts of the park.

There are a few lodges to stay at in the park, but those tend to fill up a year in advance. Whitefish and Kalispell are also great places to stay with family-friendly activities and are a short dive to the west entrance to the park. 

Olympic

by Rob from 2 Travel Dads.

About 2.5 hours from Seattle lies ​Olympic National Park​. Occupying nearly the entirety of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, it is a remarkable, diverse National Park.

The most picturesque beaches in the state are found here, as well as four different areas of temperate rainforest.

Kids in Olympic National Park

If you have less than a week to dedicate to Olympic National Park (because you could easily spend 10 days hiking and exploring), visiting ​Hurricane Ridge​, ​Sol Duc Falls​, the ​Hoh Rainforest and ​Ruby Beach​ will give you a well rounded experience.

You’ll have opportunities for easy to strenuous hikes, or just a relaxing walk on the beach.

There are a variety of rustic lodges around the park, as well as both reserved and first-come-first-served campgrounds. It’s an ideal summer destination.

Cuyahoga Valley 

by Noel from Travel Photo Discovery.

Not as well known as some of the other big national parks in the United States, Cuyahoga Valley National Park located in Central Ohio is a fantastic family destination.

It is easy to get to, has good and mostly flat hikes and enough variety of attractions to enjoy around the park.

Located on the Cuyahoga river and in between the large cities of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has over 100 beautiful waterfalls, including the iconic Brandywine falls which is stunning and an easy hike from the main parking lot.

Brandywine Falls Cuyahoga Valley

Designated as a national park in 2000, at Cuyahoga you can hike many beautiful trails with native flora and fauna, ride the popular Cuyahoga Valley Scenic railroad and check out the gorgeous landscape at the Virginia Kendall Ledges – natural rock formations that are really fun to explore.

Ohio’s only national park is easy to get to and explore most of the main attractions in an easy day trip.

The area around Cuyahoga is the start of the Cleveland metropark area with a string of gorgeous natural parks filled with trails, waterfalls and gorgeous rock formations and ledges.

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