While it’s never a bad idea to go to a National Park, there are those that are easier to access and have more things to do and see for families. During the 2015-2016 school year, the parks are sharing the Whitehouse program called Every Kid in a Park, where all fourth-grade students can enter any National Park for free. There are 406 parks in the United States to choose from, and they are all fun, interesting and contain a bit of fascinating history, wildlife and vegetation to learn about. Which park are you most interested in? All the parks also have a Junior Ranger program for kids ages 5 to 13, where they can complete their assignment and earn a badge. These parks were established to protect some of the nation’s most beautiful areas, so come out and see one of the best National Parks for families.
Yosemite is the third most visited park in the U.S. and for a good reason. Its massive granite cliffs, rivers and waterfalls have been splashed across countless magazines and social media sites. It is just a beautiful place to visit. Families are catered to at the park, where they can participate in the Great Yosemite Family Adventure for a fee, where families navigate three miles of trails within the park using a GPS, finding secret treasures along the way and learning stories from the past. The kids will love the adventure, and the parents can enjoy the gorgeous valleys and views of one of the most popular parks in the U.S.
The Grand Canyon is a park everyone should see at some point in their life. Located in northern Arizona, the park has all sorts of tours, excursions, and transportation to help you get around and see the canyon. Many of the leading viewing points have railings so that parents can feel safer with their kids in tow. Try the “Meet the Canyon” kid-friendly hike along the south rim with a guide. The IMAX film called the Grand Canyon – The Movie is the longest running IMAX film of all time, and everyone will love it! The Grand Canyon Apache Stables offer a one-hour ride in a horse-drawn wagon and ends with a family campfire. Take a helicopter ride, a mule train ride, earn your Junior Ranger Badge and see and hear about the history and beauty of this huge but Grand Canyon.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the number one most visited park in the U.S. Over 10 million people stopped by to the rolling mountains covered in green trees. The park has swimming holes, waterfalls, and horseback ride that families all love, not to mention some fantastic scenic drives for when the kids get tired. The famous Blue Ridge Parkway drive covers over 400 miles of some of the best scenery, and there are stopping points for scenic overlooks and places to have picnics. Deep Creek is a favorite spot for water-seekers, where they can rent or bring their tubes to float and swim. The famous towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are located close by and have dining, lodging, mini golf, go-karts, the Dollywood amusement park and lots of other things to do and see.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Everyone has seen a tree, but have you ever seen a giant tree? Kids and parents love to look at the massive trees as well as underground caves with neat rock formations found in this park. The park has a newspaper for kids called Sequoia Seeds where kids can read about trees, caves, animals, the park and more. There are over 200 caves with the most popular being the Crystal Cave where families can take a guided tour and explore the underground. The Wuksachi Sequoia Lodge has campfires under the stars for a great evening activity, and there are evening (as well as daytime) ranger-led programs and talks held for everyone.
Yellowstone is a 3500 square mile park found in Wyoming and is another popular family favorite. Driving the scenic drives there is a good chance to see Buffalo and other wildlife along the way. The famous geyser known as Old Faithful erupts every 90 minutes and is one of the major attractions of the park. Kids will love to walk on the constructed boardwalk that leads to the Grand Prismatic Spring or enjoy almost 900 miles of trails in the park. Bike rides, as well as horseback rides, are offered to have fun and see some of the parks too. Kids can participate in the Young Scientist program and receive their booklet and instructions. The Old Faithful Inn has family-friendly accommodations for groups wishing to stay a night or two for their vacation in Yellowstone.
Zion is another park at the top of the family-friendly list. Located in Utah, the 100-year-old park has gorgeous scenery, tons of trails many of which kids can accomplish quickly. The Narrows can be somewhat challenging to get to, but the trail is fantastic! Towering rock cliffs frame the path, and some of the trails are through the water. Kids love splashing alongside their parents as they experience a track unlike any other. Take a free shuttle from the summer months through October 26th to do the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Emerald Pools Trail is one of the main hikes at the park and is very easy and kid-friendly. The walk continues to escalate, and several pools can be seen the further you go.
These are the best national parks to visit with your family in 2016. Do you also love the wonders and beauty of nature and are you planning a visit to one of these fantastic parks? Or did you have some great experiences in one of these parks? Let us know and share them with us!