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Looking for the best U.S. national parks for families? There are breathtaking national parks all over the United States filled with hot springs, waterfalls, mountains, incredible wildlife, and some of the best views you could possibly imagine. With family-friendly activities like hiking, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, and zip-lining, your next trip to one of the best national parks in the U.S. is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
[This post on the Best U.S. National Parks for families was originally published in April 2021 and updated in July 2022.]
PRO TIP: If you’re planning to visit two or more National Parks in a year, it’s worth it to invest in an America the Beautiful pass. This pass is valid in all National Parks and 2,000 federal recreation sites across the United States for one year from the date of purchase.
Best U.S. National Parks for Families
In no particular order, here are the 15 best U.S. national parks for families:
1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
Update: Although Yellowstone has had serious issues with flooding and damage recently the area’s tourism board have posted an interactive map of the areas of the park that are still accessible.
Yellowstone National Park covers nearly 3,500 square miles and is filled with incredible sights and exciting things to do. Families can go hiking, biking, camping, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and wildlife spotting. You won’t want to miss Upper Geyser Basin, the location of incredible thermal features like Old Faithful. This is generally an easy activity for kids of all ages, as the majority of the basin is accessible by flat boardwalks.
TIP: If visiting in the summer, book your Yellowstone National Park accommodations well in advance.
2. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
With some of the most incredible alpine scenery on the planet, Grand Teton National Park is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors. Breathtaking mountains, abundant wildlife, powerful waterfalls, and awe-inspiring alpine lakes make for fantastic photo ops everywhere you turn. There are tons of exciting activities for families like rafting down Snake River, horseback riding around Jackson Lake, and hiking short treks to beautiful spots like Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.
TIP: Book your lodging in advance, since a lot of hotels book up quickly during peak travel periods. Here you can find the best deals for accommodations near Grand Teton NP.
3. Denali National Park, Alaska
Home to the tallest mountain in North America, Denali National Park boasts a staggering six million acres of the untamed Alaskan wilderness. Since it’s more difficult for most people to get to than national parks in the contiguous U.S., Denali National Park doesn’t see as many visitors—therefore, you’re less likely to be faced with huge crowds. With jaw-dropping scenery, unique wildlife, and tons of incredible hiking trails, Denali National Park makes for a family vacation your crew will never forget.
TIP: Book your stay in advance in the nearby McKinley Park area.
4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Known for its abundance of wildlife, colorful wildflowers, and stunning landscapes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the country’s most popular national parks for families. There are plenty of exciting activities to do with kids, like hiking, swimming, horseback riding, camping, and exploring old buildings. Additionally, you don’t want to miss Cades Cove for wildlife spotting and Clingmans Dome for incredible views.
5. Acadia National Park, Maine
Located on the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is best known for its breathtaking fall foliage. From sunrise hikes up the tallest mountain on the East coast to family bike rides on charming carriage paths, this beautiful park is guaranteed to provide a family vacation that is both relaxing and fun. If you visit during the summer, make sure to spend some time at the picturesque Sand Beach.
TIP: You can find the best Acadia NP accommodations here.
6. Glacier National Park, Montana
With one million acres of lush greenery, pristine alpine lakes, and glacier-carved valleys, Glacier National Park is an absolute dream. Montana is known for its incredible sunsets, but Glacier National Park boasts some of the best ones in the state. Take your family out for an exciting day of rafting followed by a sunset hike on one of the many incredible hiking trails, you won’t regret it!
TIP: Book your accommodations in advance. Here you can find the best accommodation deals for Glacier NP.
7. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Because this park straddles the Mojave and Colorado Deserts, far away from any major cities, Joshua Tree National Park boasts some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world. From amazing natural rock formations to magical palm oases, the park makes you feel like you might just be on another planet. Joshua Tree is the perfect spot for the family camping trip of your dreams, with over 300 campsites to choose from.
TIP: Here you can find our selection of the best hotels near Joshua Tree NP.
8. Yosemite National Park, California
Best known for its towering sequoias, glistening waterfalls, and stunning valleys, Yosemite National Park is one of California’s top travel destinations for families. This astonishing park is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts, with popular family-friendly activities like hiking, rafting, horseback riding, skiing, and kayaking.
9. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Home to Virginia’s famous Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is made up of 200,000 acres of stunning natural beauty. This primarily forested park features waterfalls, wetlands, and abundant wildlife. It makes for a fantastic family trip filled with activities like hiking, fishing, biking, and driving along the jaw-dropping Skyline Drive.
TIP: If you’re planning to visit Shenandoah NP to see the fall foliage, make sure to book your accommodations in advance.
10. Arches National Park, Utah
With over 2,000 sandstone arches, Arches National Park holds the record for the place with the most sandstone formations in the world. These incredible natural rock formations are well worth the visit, but the stunning views don’t hurt either. Popular family-friendly activities at this Utah hot spot include rock climbing, biking, hiking, and camping.
TIP: Stay in Moab close to the park’s entrance.
11. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
A stroll through the beautiful Mount Rainier National Park will have you feeling like you’ve traveled to Scandinavia. From the subalpine wildflower meadows and cascading waterfalls to the snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier, the sights will take your breath away. Just outside the park, you can find Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, where you can take a relaxing tram ride to spot wildlife and enjoy a nature-themed playground.
TIP: Here you will find the best deals for accommodations near Mount Rainier NP.
12. Grand Canyon National Park
As one of the world’s most captivating natural wonders, the Grand Canyon brings in millions of visitors every year. Just how ‘grand’ is it, exactly? It stretches out over 277 miles and averages at 4,000 feet deep throughout. Grand Canyon National Park is a huge hit with families for exciting family-friendly activities like river rafting, hiking, swimming, and horseback riding. If you’re looking for a real thrill, you can even take a helicopter ride over the canyon.
TIP: There are a number of hotel options near the South Rim of Grand Canyon NP. If you’re interested in learning about Native American culture, check out the Grand Canyon West. This portion of the Grand Canyon is located on the Hualapai Reservation. We visited this section of the park to support the Hualapai Nation and so that we could walk on the wild side with the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
13. Olympic National Park, Washington
Located in Washington, this Pacific coast gem is one of the most geographically diverse national parks in the United States. From snow-capped mountains and lush forests to sparkling lakes and waterfalls, Olympic National Park is packed with jaw-dropping natural beauty. Some top family-friendly activities include wildlife spotting, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, and skiing.
TIP: Here’s a selection of hotels in the Port Angeles region which is located at the base of the Olympic Mountains.
14. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Finally, with elevations that reach over 14,000 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the highest national parks in the country. The wildlife is diverse and plentiful, with incredible animals like elk, mountain goats, moose, and bears. There are 112 trails in the park ranging from easy to complex, all of which boast views that will take your breath away. From hiking to horseback riding, there are tons of options for fun, family-friendly activities in neighboring Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
TIP: There is a number of family-friendly hotel options in Estes Park. If you have time, you can take a day trip to Brickenridge where there’s an abundance of fun things to do, especially during the winter months.
15. Zion National Park, Utah
With stunning features like natural rock arches, slot canyons, sandstone cathedrals, and rushing rivers, Utah’s Zion National Park looks like something straight out of a travel magazine. This ultra-popular park is a favorite among families, with a wide range of family-friendly activities like hiking, camping, swimming, horseback riding, and kayaking.
TIP: Book your lodgings in advance. You can find the best deals for accommodations near the Zion NP.
What’s your family’s favorite national park? Please comment below, we’d love to hear about it.
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