Julie National Park, United States 15 Comments

If you are planning a family vacation in the United States, the national parks make an excellent destination. There are currently 63 national parks in the USA…that’s a lot to choose from. We have narrowed down the list to 12 great national parks to take the kids.

When you are traveling with kids, you want a place that’s easy to get to and offers attractions that will delight and amaze them. You also want a destination that gives them the opportunity to be active and adventurous, with hiking trails and adventures that are just long enough to challenge them without being overly difficult.

Here are 12 great national parks to take your kids…12 awesome ways to introduce young minds to the natural beauty and outdoor treasures in the United States.

12 Best National Parks with Kids

1. The Grand Canyon

Epic, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping…these are all words that describe the Grand Canyon. But in all honesty, words, and even photos, cannot quite capture what it is like to stand on the rim and gaze out across the canyon.

The Grand Canyon is an awesome place to bring the kids. Kids can hike and bike along the South Rim, take part in a ranger program, watch an IMAX movie, and of course, enjoy the amazing views.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon | Best National Parks with Kids


Grand Canyon with Kids

With lots of lodging and dining options on the south rim, it’s very easy to visit the Grand Canyon. For the best experience, I recommend spending several days in the park, so you can see it at sunrise and sunset, and so you have enough time to visit the viewpoints and spend at least a few hours on the hiking trails.

2. Everglades National Park

Alligators, manatees, and airboat rides…the Everglades is an easy park to visit with kids and it makes a great addition to your trip to Florida, whether you plan to relax on the beaches or road trip through the Florida Keys.

Everglades National Park is one of the largest parks in the lower 48 states. However, if you stick the east side of the park, one day is all you need to visit the highlights.

Anhinga Trail

Anhinga Trail | Best National Parks with Kids


Crocodile in Everglades

Drive to the Flamingo Visitor Center, stopping at the viewpoints and hiking the short trails along the way. From the Anhinga Trail, you have a good chance to spot alligators. The Flamingo Visitor Center is your best chance to spot American crocodiles and manatees.

In the afternoon, drive north to Shark Valley. Rent bikes or ride the tram and see if you can spot turtles, birds, and alligators. Finish the day with an airboat ride, which is sure to be the highlight of the day for your kids, as you race through the wetlands looking for more wildlife.

3. Arches National Park

Every time I visit Arches National Park, it never fails to amaze me. The first time I was here, I was 22 years old and it was my first trip out west. I was literally awestruck by the beauty here. When we brought Tyler and Kara a few years ago, they were just as enchanted with this park as I was on my first visit.

Arches National Park is easy to visit. One road runs right up the middle of the park. With short walks from the parking lots, you can get up close to several of the landmarks that make this place so famous…Balanced Rock, Windows Arch, and Double Arch.

With a little bit of hiking, go farther into the park. Get up close to Delicate Arch and explore part or all of the Devils Garden Trail.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch | Best National Parks with Kids


Park Avenue

Park Avenue | Best National Parks with Kids


Hike Arches with Kids

Devils Garden Trail | Best National Parks with Kids

Spend the night in Moab, a town that makes the perfect home base to explore more of this side of Utah. While you are here, don’t miss Canyonlands National Park and the amazing Dead Horse Point State Park.

4. Yellowstone National Park

Without a doubt, Yellowstone National Park is one of the best national parks to take your kids.

Yellowstone has the highest concentration of geothermal features of anywhere else on earth. The park literally sits atop a supervolcano. How cool is that?

Walk the short, easy boardwalk trails between geysers, technicolor hot springs and bubbling pits of mud. Of course, Old Faithful, the world’s most famous geyser, is not to be missed.

Yellowstone is also one of the best national parks for wildlife sightings. The largest free roaming bison herd is found here and the bison usually make roadside appearances. In fact, the bison are famous for stopping cars in their tracks, creating traffic jams in the park.

Lamar Valley is the best place to view wildlife in Yellowstone…keep an eye out for bison, elk, pronghorn, bear and coyotes.


Bison in Hayden Valley | Best National Parks with Kids



Old Faithful

You can visit Yellowstone on a day trip from Grand Teton, in two or three days on a USA road trip, or you can spend as long as a week here, exploring the nooks and crannies of this amazing place.

More and more US National Parks are requiring an advance reservation. For the full list, read our guide to the US National Parks that Require an Advance Reservation.

5. Joshua Tree National Park

Short but sweet hiking trails, lots of opportunities to go rock scrambling, and trees that look like they were plucked from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book…Joshua Tree National Park is a great place to take the kids.

What can you do in Joshua Tree National Park with kids? Hike the Arch Rock Trail and take a photo in front of Heart Rock, learn about the plants that thrive in the Mojave Desert on the Cap Rock Nature Trail, see Skull Rock, go hiking in Hidden Valley, and adventurous kids will love hiking through the Hall of Horrors slot canyon.

Joshua Tree is best visited from fall through spring, when temperatures are mild. If you are looking for a winter break destination, this is a good one, and it can be paired with Death Valley (mentioned later in this article), Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Palm Springs, and/or San Diego.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park | Best National Parks with Kids


Skull Rock

Skull Rock


Joshua Tree National Park

There are lots of cool landscapes to explore and places to go rock scrambling in Joshua Tree National Park.

6. Olympic National Park

With beaches to visit, mountains to climb, and rainforests to explore, there is plenty to do in Olympic to keep kids happy and busy for days.

Take your kids for a walk along Shi Shi and Rialto Beaches, where the coastal cliffs create a magical landscape. Then, journey into Olympic’s temperate rainforest, where moss drips from trees that are hundreds of years old. Finally, visit Hurricane Ridge and hike the easy Sunrise Point Trail for spectacular views of the park.


Hurricane Ridge | Best National Parks with Kids


Olympic NP national parks with kids

Temperate rainforest

It’s easy to get to Olympic National Park, since it is just a short drive from Seattle. But it is a massive park and can feel difficult to visit. However, since you can visit three landscapes in one park, I think this is a great place to bring the kids. With three days in Olympic, spend one day on the beaches, one day in the mountains, and one day in the rainforest.

US National Parks List

7. Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes is a much different experience than many other national parks in the United States. Sure, there is hiking and amazing sunsets and ranger programs, but this park has a much different feel to it.

Never have we heard so much laughter and delight from children than at this park. Playing in the sand is fun for the younger kiddos. Older kids, teenagers, and adults who are kids-at-heart will love sandboarding or sledding.

It’s a small park and the list of things to do is very short. A few hours are really all you need to experience it and hike out onto the dunes. But you might end up wishing you had more time. Sandboarding and sand sledding are a blast, the sunsets are gorgeous, and this park just feels all around fun.

If you are planning a trip to the national parks with kids, put Great Sand Dunes at the top of your list. 

Great Sand Dunes national parks with kids

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve | Best National Parks with Kids


Tyler Rivenbark

8. Bryce Canyon

Your kids will love this place! It’s almost like Bryce Canyon was designed with kids in mind.

This small, uniquely beautiful park is quick and easy to visit. With awesome viewpoints that will delight your kids (and you!), and a short, fun hiking trail through some of the park’s best scenery, this is one of the best national parks to bring the kids.

Hike Bryce Canyon

Queen’s Garden Loop Trail


Bryce Canyon national parks with kids

Bryce Canyon National Park | Best National Parks with Kids

Stay in the town of Bryce or in nearby Tropic. A half day is all you need to visit the viewpoints and hike the amazing Queen’s Garden Trail. Sunrise is amazing here, if your kids don’t mind an early, chilly start to the day.

A trip to Bryce Canyon can easily be combined with Zion (but this can be a tough park to visit with kids since most of the top hikes are challenging and/or dangerous) or a road trip through Utah’s Mighty 5. Just around the corner, take your kids on a hike through Willis Creek or camp/explore Kodachrome Basin State Park.

9. Carlsbad Caverns

Located in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico sits an underground fantasy land of limestone chambers, stalactites and stalagmites, and long, twisting tunnels.

Enter the cavern through the natural entrance and hike down into the mysterious underground cavern. Once in the Big Room, you are standing in the largest cave chamber in the United States by volume. Kids will ooh and ahh and the huge collection of stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, and dripstones.

To get back to daylight, no stair climbing required…simply ride the elevator to the surface.

In the evening, watch as bats emerge by the thousands from the natural entrance of the cave (May through October).

Carlsbad Caverns national parks with kids

Carlsbad Caverns | Best National Parks with Kids

Carlsbad Caverns can be explored independently or you can take a guided tour. With easy walking trails, the mysterious underground landscapes, and a chance to see bats, this is a great national park for kids.

10. Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is at the top of the list when it comes to sheer beauty. Massive mountains spill down into fields of wildflowers. Waterfalls and alpine lakes form the perfect hiking destinations. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep make regular appearances, as do black bears and grizzly bears.

This is a gorgeous park and it is a delight to explore, so it is a must-see, not only for kids, but for people of all ages.

Glacier national parks with kids

Hiking to Grinnell Glacier | Best National Parks with Kids


Hike in Glacier national parks with kids

Hiking to Avalanche Lake


Mountain Goat national parks with kids

With kids, there is lots to do here. Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the United States. Stretch your legs and hike the short, easy trails to Hidden Lake, Avalanche Lake, and Trail of the Cedars. Older kids can handle some of the longer trails in Many Glacier and Two Medicine. But you can also go kayaking on the lakes or take a scenic boat trip.

And what kid wouldn’t love to see the mountain goats from a hiking trail?

Due to the narrow window of time that Going-to-the-Sun Road is open, Glacier National Park is best visited from July through September.

11. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is a highly underrated park and a fantastic place to bring the kids. Just the name inspires a sense of wonder and mystery.

What can you do here with kids?

Climb the sand dunes, stand in Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the United States, enjoy the panoramic views at Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View, hike down into a caldera, explore the mudstone hills of the Badlands, see the mysterious sailing stones at Racetrack Playa, and gaze up at the stars at night.

Death Valley is amazing and it’s one of our favorite national parks.

Best National Parks with Kids

Mesquite Sand Dunes | Best National Parks with Kids


Kids in Death Valley national parks with kids

Badwater Basin


Hiking Death Valley with Kids

Mosaic Canyon

It makes a great winter and spring destination. Death Valley is just a short drive from Las Vegas…Las Vegas may sound like a strange place to take the kids, but it is a great home base for exploring part of the American Southwest. In one week, you can visit Las Vegas, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Red Rock Canyon. It’s a nice winter holiday vacation idea. 😉

12. White Sands National Park

Go sledding on sand as white as the snow…what kid would not love that? 😊

White Sands National Park is home to the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. These pure white dunes create a fun place to explore, not only for kids, but also for adults.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park | Best National Parks with Kids


Dune Life Nature Trail

Dune Life Nature Trail


White Sands Sledding

Sledding spot at White Sands National Park

This national park is small and easy to visit. That means no long car rides through the park and no super long trails to hike. Just one road (Dunes Drive) runs through White Sands and it only takes 20 minutes to drive the entire length of it.

Off of Dunes Drive are trailheads to short nature trails, longer walks through the dunes, and countless numbers of places to go sledding.

So, stop by the visitor center, buy a sled, and spend the day sledding on the dunes and exploring the white gypsum dunefields.

Hiking the National Parks with Kids

Many of the national parks have short, sweet hiking trails that are perfect for kids. This is a great way to expose your kids to new landscapes and places that may look very different from where you call home. 

If you like the idea of hiking the trails with your kids, check out our post 20 Short, Fun Hikes in the US National Parks for some great ideas. 

We LOVE the US National Parks and we are on a mission to visit each and everyone of them. For more travel ideas and inspiration, visit our US National Parks page, where you can get more information on the parks, learn when to visit by season, and get ideas for your next big road trip. 

If you are planning a visit to the national parks with kids and have any questions, let us know in the comment section below. We would also love to hear which national parks you think are perfect to visit with kids.

Read More About the National Parks:


Best National Parks with Kids


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Comments 15

  1. Avatar for Jennifer

    Hi! This site has alot of great information. Do you have any recommendations for a family of 5 with kids that are 3.5, 15 and 18. The 3 year old is a trooper but we know there are limitations. The 15 year old likes to do adventurous stuff, while the rest of us are ok with taking in scenary. Ideally we are looking to go out West (we are from the East Coast) to explore the beauty, do some cool activities that we can either take the 3.5 year old on or trade on and off. We’ve been looking at Yellowstone, Moab and even Grand Canyon, would also be open to exploring the beauty of fun in Colorado. We have 7 days and would also like some R&R :). I realize this is a tall order. Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Jennifer. I’m happy to help. 😊 My first suggestion is a Utah Mighty 5 road trip, but you said that you have already been to Moab. I think those 5 parks are great for kids with your age ranges, since the there is a wide variety of hiking trails and the scenery is awesome.
      A Las Vegas to San Diego/Los Angeles trip is nice, depending on the time of year you will be traveling. In the summer, I wouldn’t recommend this. But Tim and I just visited Joshua Tree National Park and it is a great park for kids of all ages (I haven’t had time to add it to this post yet). You could fly into Las Vegas, and from Las Vegas, spend 2 days day tripping to the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. Then, drive to Joshua Tree, spend about 2 days here. You could spend one day at a resort in Palm Springs or spend a day or two in San Diego. But this is not an itinerary I recommend from the end of May through September because of the heat.
      Colorado is great. We have a 10-day itinerary that can be modified. This itinerary is best in the summer. Definitely go to RMNP and Great Sand Dunes. You could skip the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verde, since those won’t be that interesting to your kids. But just parking at RMNP for a few days is very nice. We spent a week here and loved every minute of it.
      Finally, another good summer road trip would be Olympic + Mount Rainier from Seattle. You could spend 3 days in each park.
      And just to throw one more thing at you, we also have a USA road trip post that has more ideas. Most of these are 10 days, however.
      If you have any other questions, feel free to write in again. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Chuck

    Thank you for your great website – it has been our family’s go-to planning tool for the last several years! We’ve done Seattle to SF one year and then Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion the next – all with your recommendations, even down to the perfect ‘family-friendly’ hotel for one night in Vegas. Your site is invaluable!

    Like many folks, we got a late start on planning this summer and so now we’re scrambling and are hoping for some advice. We are a family of 5 with 3 girls – 20, 18, and 13 – and we like great hikes and great views. I like to combine a little city with nature but I often get overruled. We’re thinking national parks like Yellowstone or Glacier but are worried about the crowds and accommodations this late in the game (we’re looking to go in early August). Any ideas? Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I’d skip Yellowstone and Glacier this summer if you don’t have it planned out yet. I have been getting reports from people that they can’t get rental cars in this area right now. The national parks are going to be mobbed this summer, especially Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier. Last summer, we had a great time in Washington (Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades) and Colorado (Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Gunnison, Mesa Verde). I think these make great destinations this summer and I think that they will be less crowded than Yellowstone and Glacier. Another option is to visit the less popular national parks. In California, visit Pinnacles and Lassen Volcanic and maybe even Redwood National Park (we haven’t been to these yet so unfortunately there won’t be any info on our website). Skip Hawaii…we planned our trip this spring but summer and fall hotel prices have doubled. We will be in Alaska in July…it is probably too late to plan a trip for August but we will have some great info if you haven’t been yet and are looking for a US destination for 2022. One more option…you could do a New England/NYC trip where you visit Acadia NP, Boston and NYC. So, lots of options. Once you narrow things down, feel free to write in again if you have more questions. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Chuck

        Thanks – good advice… we’ve had trouble with rental cars lately. Makes sense there’d be issues in the popular spots. This is tough – we’re thinking we missed out on so much of Utah, so we’re considering as an option to fly into Salt Lake, see Arches and Canyonlands and then the decisions get tougher: y’all sell other spots in Utah so well (Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase, Little Wild Horse), that we’re thinking we could just stay in Utah.

        Or… we could head from Moab into Colorado and hit some of the spots you recommend – and then leave from Denver. A third option: our folks seemed more interested in something different so we thought to maybe go to NM and do Carlsbad and White Sands. I did those as a kid and know they’d be interesting to my crowd but aren’t long visits.

        We really appreciate your expertise! Thank you.

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Everything you list are great travel destinations. It will be HOT in Utah and NM. If you don’t do well in the heat, visit Moab and then go to Colorado because it is cooler in the mountains). And if you plan to go to Colorado, you will drive right past Colorado National Monument, which looks wonderful.

          If you don’t mind the heat, Utah gets my vote, just because there is so much to do. However, I think that Utah will be busier than NM this summer. But if you like hiking, Utah is an awesome area to explore. You could easily spend 2 weeks here.

          Our time in NM so far has been limited to Carlsbad Caverns (we ended our NM trip early in March 2020 because of COVID). Nearby, you can also visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park. From what I know, both White Sands and Carlsbad only need a day each, and 2 days is probably enough for Guadalupe. From this area, you could go east and visit Austin and San Antonio, go west to Arizona, or explore more of New Mexico.

          Lots to choose from!

          Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Lexi

    Thanks so much for this post! I’d like to visit Everglades with the kids: mature 4 and infant. But I wonder if it’s dangerous to have them walking the trails with the predators there or if you’d recommend the can swim before bringing them? What activities would you avoid there for this age group?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You’re welcome! With your kids, you can do everything that we list in our One Day in the Everglades post. In the southern part of the park (Flamingo and Ernest F Coe), the trails are boardwalk trails and your 4 year old will be safe from the alligators. 😊 At Shark Valley, do the tram ride rather than renting bicycles or biking along the road. When we did the airboat ride, there was a 2 year old on board and she loved it. In advance, just confirm that you can take along an infant. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Remus A
    Remus A

    I love all of your information about the national parks. I just spent hours on your website planning our summer vacation. Thanks so much!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  5. Avatar for Robert Harris
    Robert Harris

    That’s a wonderful list! I feel Yosemite National Parks can also be a great place to visit with kids. You can hike, gaze at the stunning night sky, observe the wildlife and the giant sequoias. Plus, the kids can get sworn as a Jr. Ranger.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  6. Avatar for Noble Transfer
  7. Avatar for Howard Smith
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Awesome!! Death Valley is a great spot to visit between November and March, if you’re looking for a place to visit this winter. 😉 Cheers, Julie

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