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Best National Parks for Kids in the USA

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Explore this list of the best national parks for kids to discover places of natural beauty that will entertain, educate, and fascinate your family. Recommended by travel experts, these 20 parks encompass the diverse beauty of the USA. Listed in chronological order, you’ll find erupting geysers, the world’s largest trees, an array of wild animals, island beauty, snowy mountains, and more among these amazing national parks.

This story is brought to you in partnership with Quarto Kids, which creates beautiful books, creative projects and useful information for curious and passionate minds of all ages.

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park (Photo credit: lorcel, Depositphotos.com)

1. Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Established in 1872, America’s first national park occupies nearly 3,500-square-miles of wilderness atop a volcanic hot spot. Most of Yellowstone resides in Wyoming but the park spreads into Montana and Idaho as well.

Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone
Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone (Photo credit: lorcel, Depositphotos.com)

Stephanie Woods of Explore More Clean Less says Yellowstone is one of America’s best national parks for children because “It has so many different offerings to engage and entertain visitors. This park is often called ‘the Serengeti of the West’ because so many North American animals can be seen in the same place, including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, and bison.”

A fill-in-the-blanks story about Yellowstone in the "National Parks of the USA Activity Book"
A fill-in-the-blanks story about Yellowstone in the “National Parks of the USA Activity Book” (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Things to Do in Yellowstone National Park with Kids

Woods says, “The whole family will marvel at stunning geothermal features like the Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful Geyser. There are several impressive waterfalls you can drive or hike to see, too. Best of all, the most exciting sights are easily accessible by car or paved path, making the park enjoyable for everyone regardless of fitness level or ability. Before hitting the trails, check out this list of Yellowstone hikes for families and explore off the main driving drags.”

Kid-Friendly Yellowstone Accommodations

When it comes to booking lodging, Woods says, “If budget and availability allow, staying in one of the official in-park properties will cut down on driving time and traffic to get into the most popular sites. Otherwise, Holiday Inn West Yellowstone is an excellent choice for families looking to stay outside the park. It has a heated indoor pool and a video game room to keep kids busy.” Read this Tenaya Lodge review before making your decision.

Tunnel Log in Sequoia National Park
Tunnel Log in Sequoia National Park (Photo credit: bloodua, Depositphotos.com)

2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks – California

Sequoia is the country’s second national park. Located in Central California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in Central California have been jointly managed since 1943. Glorious Sunrise‘s Priyadarshini Rajendran says, “These national parks are gems, full of natural wonders like the Giant Forest, and beautiful meadows and streams. They are best known for their huge, record-tall and very old sequoia trees like the Fallen Monarch, General Sherman, and General Grant. Because these parks are relatively lesser-known compared to Yosemite, they are less crowded too, a nice advantage to visitors.”

The General Grant Tree, the second largest tree in the world, in Kings Canyon National Park
The General Grant Tree, the second largest tree in the world, in Kings Canyon National Park (Photo credit: Tunatura, Depositphotos.com)

Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with Kids

Rajendran says, “Kids especially enjoy the Giant Forest full of mammoth sequoias. Families get a thrill from driving through a giant sequoia, the Tunnel Log. Playing in the Kings River by the Zumwalt Meadow is a wonderful experience for adults as well as kids. A majestic rock monolith backdrop against the serene river makes for an unforgettable memory.” 

Kid-Friendly Sequoia and Kings Canyon Accommodations

If you’d like to stay right in the middle of Sequoia National Park, Rajendran recommends the pet-friendly Wuksachi Lodge, which she describes as, “a serene stone-and-cedar building that also serves food.” Meanwhile, there are three lodge options in Kings Canyon National Park.

Yosemite, one of the best national parks for kids in the United States
Yosemite National Park Valley landscape from Tunnel View (Photo credit: haveseen, Depositphotos.com)

3. Yosemite National Park – California

Yosemite is one of the best national parks for kids, “thanks to a variety of easy trails with grand views of El Capitan and Half Dome, and educational exhibits where visitors can learn about flora and fauna of the park, among other things,” according to Daria Bachman, President and CEO of The Discovery Nut.

Things to Do in Yosemite with Kids

Bachman says, “If you are visiting Yosemite for the first time, the Valley Visitor Center Exhibit Hall in the heart of Yosemite Valley is an excellent place to start. The center boasts impressive interactive exhibits and panels that offer a glimpse into the history of Yosemite as well as its cultural and historic significance.

“On your way to Yosemite Valley, make sure not to skip a stop at the Tunnel View scenic overlook, a historic site adjacent to Wawona Road. Here you can enjoy the famous view of the Yosemite Valley, one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world.

Tenaya Lake in Yosemite
Tenaya Lake in Yosemite (Photo credit: peterwey, Depositphotos.com)

When visiting in summer, head toward Tioga Pass Road, the seasonal entrance to Yosemite located on the eastern side of the park. Here you can marvel at Tenaya Lake, the largest natural lake in the national park. You can also take in the sprawling granite views at Olmstead Point. Families will enjoy an easy and less crowded hike around Tuolomne Meadows, too.”

Kid-Friendly Yosemite Accommodations

Since this is a big national park, Bachman suggests staying for more than one day. She says, “Yosemite Valley Lodge is a handy option as it will allow you to skip driving outside the park. You can spend the night before continuing your adventures the next day.”

Ancient Ancestral Pueblo ruins at Mesa Verde National Park
Ancient Ancestral Pueblo ruins at Mesa Verde National Park (Photo credit: alexeys, Depositphotos.com)

4. Mesa Verde National Park – Colorado

Founder of the Parks Collecting blog, James Ian says, “Mesa Verde is the only national park in the U.S. that was created to ‘preserve the works of man’ rather than the natural environment. It is fascinating for children and their parents to explore.

“This park in southwest Colorado is home to more than 4,700 archaeological sites, but it is the 600 cliff dwellings that are the most fascinating. A ‘mesa’, which means ‘table’ in Spanish, is an area of land with a flat top and steep sides. ‘Verde’ is Spanish for green.

Between 700 and 1,400 years ago, the Ancestral Pueblo people (once known as the Anasazi) farmed on the green top of the two mesas that make up the national park. However, they had to climb down foot- and hand-holds cut into the side of sheer cliffs to get into their villages, which they built inside deep alcoves that existed in the sides of cliffs.” 

Introduction to Mesa Verde in "National Parks of the USA"
Introduction to Mesa Verde in “National Parks of the USA” (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Things to Do at Mesa Verde National Park with Kids

“Today, you can visit some of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings,” says Ian. He continues, “While the hand-holds have been replaced with steep ladders, you will still need to climb down to enter the villages. There, you will explore the remains of their homes, circular kivas (sacred places), and storage houses. In one, Balcony House, you even need to get down on your hands and knees and crawl through a narrow tunnel to exit. This was a useful way to keep the village secure from enemies trying to get in!

“In addition to the cliff dwellings, your family can go on several hikes, including a fantastic path to see petroglyphs. These are incredible pictures carved into the rock face more than 700 years ago.”

Kid-Friendly Mesa Verde Accommodations

According to Ian, “There are two places to stay inside the park: Far View Lodge, at the top of the mesa, or Morefield Campground, near the park entrance at the bottom of the mesa.” If you don’t mind staying outside the national park, take a look at additional accommodation options near Mesa Verde.

Glacier National Park, one of the best national parks for kids
Glacier National Park (Photo credit: Jessica Schmit, Uprooted Traveler)

5. Glacier National Park – Montana

Another one of the best national parks for kids has “glacier” in its name but it’s located in an entirely different state than Glacier Bay. Uprooted Traveler Jessica Schmit explains, “Glacier National Park, located in Northwestern Montana, is a fantastic place for visitors of all ages. With stunning mountain views, abundant wildlife, and even some delicious natural flora (like huckleberries!), the park keeps the whole family entertained.”

Things to Do in Glacier National Park with Kids

Schmit says, “Several of the park’s best attractions can be reached by driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This iconic road is carved into the sides of mountains. Visitors drive past alpine lakes, rolling valleys, and ancient glaciers.

“For some family-friendly stops, consider the Avalanche Lake Trail. This easy 4.5-mile out-and-back sends hikers to a stunning robin egg blue lake in the shadow of a waterfall-laden mountain. On a hot day, nothing beats splashing around in its cool waters.

A mountain goat in Glacier National Park
A mountain goat in Glacier National Park (Photo credit: brandilyon, Depositphotos.com)

“If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, try the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail. It has more elevation gain than Avalanche Lake but pays off with wildflowers and maybe even some mountain goat sightings!

“For a more relaxed day, bust out those innertubes or paddleboards and spend a day floating in Lake McDonald in the summer. If it’s too chilly to swim in, the lake is still a great place to laze about. Take in the views and try your hand at skipping the technicolored rocks littering the lake’s shores.”

Kid-Friendly Glacier Accommodations

Schmit advises, “When all the Glacier activities have tuckered the family out, head back to a myriad of accommodations located near the national park. Check out Meadow Lake Resort or the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, where the kids can recount all of the wildlife and epic landscapes they just experienced.”

Aerial view of the volcanic eruption of volcano Kilauea in May 2018
Aerial view of the volcanic eruption of volcano Kilauea (Photo credit: fthuerig, Depositphotos.com)

6. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Hawaii

National Parks of the USA says, “On the Big Island of Hawaii, Kilauea’s hot lava lake casts a fiery glow.” The book continues, “This park protects two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, and the bizarre landscapes they leave behind.” Animals you might see at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park include lava crickets, nénés (Hawaiian geese), scarlet honeycreeper birds, and honu’eas (hawksbill sea turtles).

Things to Do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with Kids

Parents and kids alike will get a thrill from seeing magma (safely, of course!) from the park’s observation deck. Once the largest lava lake on the planet, Halemaumau Crater at Kilauea’s Caldera has partially refilled following the island’s three-month-long lava flow in 2018. This also caused the crater to grow significantly in size. Halemaumau Crater at Kilauea’s Caldera is now about three times as big as it was before the collapse!

Although you are welcome to explore on your own, to get the most out of your visit, consider booking a Private Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Eco Tour. Using easy-to-follow graphics, your guide will explain how volcanoes form and why they erupt. Your family will learn volcanic science as well as a blend of Hawaiian history and culture. You’ll also take in views of Kilauea’s Caldera, walk past steaming vents, and learn about Hawaii’s most powerful god, Pele, the god of Mauna Loa and any volcanic activity on the island.

Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with kids
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If ever you were going to book a helicopter tour, then do it while visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with kids! You’ll fly over some of the newest land created on Planet Earth and you may even get a chance to peer straight into a volcanic cone, like Pu’u ‘O’o. Until April 2018, Pu’u ‘O’o had been erupting since January of 1983. This makes it the longest-lived rift-zone eruption in the world over the past 200 years. A helicopter ride above an active volcano is something you and your kids will always remember.

Kid-Friendly Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Accommodations

Although most visitors stay on the drier Kona side of the island, to make the most of your Hawaii Volcanoes National Park visit, plan to spend a few days on the Hilo side near the park. To stay the night within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you have two choices — At the Crater’s Edge or Volcano House.

Moose in Denali National Park
Moose in Denali National Park (Photo credit: Agnes Stabinska, The Van Escape)

7. Denali National Park – Alaska

One of the largest national parks in the U.S., Denali encompasses a colossal 6 million acres of Alaskan wilderness. Agnes Stabinska of The Van Escape says, “Denali National Park is on the list of must-visits during an Alaska trip. This huge park is a perfect place for kids and parents. It is also home to the highest peak in North America — the majestic Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), which rises over 20,300 feet.

“Something that makes Denali special for families is the bus tour system implemented by the National Parks Service. There is only one gravel road, 92 miles long, that runs through the park. The road is open from mid-May to mid-September. Personal vehicle access is only available to Mile 15. That is why, to visit the park, you must purchase a bus tour.”

Denali Mountain, formerly known at Mount McKinle
Denali Mountain, formerly known at Mount McKinley (Photo credit: lowthian, Depositphotos.com)

Things to Do in Denali National Park with Kids

Stabinska continues, “Thanks to the Denali bus system, the natural environment of wildlife is protected and the safety of tourists is ensured. There are many stops for photos, short walks, and viewing the mountains from vantage points. Moreover, the guides have great knowledge about nature and impart this to children in an understandable way. There is no chance of boredom during the trip.

“The wild animals have already gotten used to the green buses. So you can admire herds of caribou, moose, or deer right next to the road or on the slopes of the mountains. Bears are also very often on the panoramic road. 

“What’s more, Denali is the only national park with a kennel for sled dogs. Rangers offer daily demonstrations during the summer. It’s a fun and informative adventure for kids. During winter in Denali, dog sled trips, snowmobiles, and snowshoeing are possible.” If visiting in summer, your family can still embark on a dog sled trip during which the huskies pull a wagon.

Sled dogs make Denali one of the best national parks for kids
Summer dog sledding in Denali (Photo credit: Klitvinov, Depositphotos.com)

Kid-Friendly Denali Accommodations

If you want to stay the night within Denali National Park, then you’ll have to rough it. Stabinska explains, “There are six campgrounds along the road in the park. They have no running water or electricity. Permits are required as it is pure wilderness. Parents with young children might find it more convenient to stay at the park’s gate, at such places as Denali Grizzly Bear Resort or Denali Park Hotel.”

Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Native American Reservation in the Grand Canyon
Havasu Falls on the Havasupai Native American Reservation in the Grand Canyon (Photo credit: luckyphotographer, Depositphotos.com)

8. Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona

No list of the best national parks for kids would be complete without the Grand Canyon. In fact, Arizona is so proud to be home to this natural wonder that it adopted ‘The Grand Canyon State’ as its Official State Nickname. When you visit, you’ll see why. The stunning sunset-colored canyon is a whopping 6,000 feet deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long. Photos simply can’t do this national park justice. It’s just too vast to comprehend until you see it in person.

According to National Parks of the USA, animals you might spot at the Grand Canyon include ringtails, California condors, bighorn sheep, and little brown bats. The Grand Canyon is located in northern Arizona, making it easily accessible from Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Southern Utah.

Mule train at the Grand Canyon
Mule train at the Grand Canyon (Photo credit: rybarmarekk, Depositphotos.com)

Things to Do in Grand Canyon National Park with Kids

Activities abound in the Grand Canyon with kids, starting with hiking. Trails are more limited, however, at the Grand Canyon than at many other destinations listed in this list of the best national parks for kids. The Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most popular and easily accessed option. Serious hikers should schedule about four hours to descend to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and another six to eight to climb back up, or even longer when hiking with children. Otherwise, choose a set time for your hike, then turn around when you near your halfway point.

Most visitors to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix will visit only the Grand Canyon South. Other activities to enjoy here include scenic helicopter rides, watching Native American dance performances, descending the canyon via mule, and riding the Grand Canyon Railway from nearby Williams to the South Rim. Adventurous families may want to sign up for a Grand Canyon white water rafting tour along the Colorado River.

Havasupai Falls is one of the most breathtaking and remote areas of the Grand Canyon. Located on the Havasupai Native American Reservation, only a limited number of people are allowed to visit this stunning location each year. A full-day difficult hike, helicopter flight, horse or mule ride is required to reach the falls.

Separate from the national park and closer to Nevada, Grand Canyon West is where your family can brave the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This u-shaped, glass-bottom bridge is suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. It is independently owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe.

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon East
Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon East (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Near the Arizona/Utah border, you’ll find Horseshoe Bend. This famous photo op spot is also referred to as the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. The scenic overlook is 1,000 feet above the canyon floor.

Kid-Friendly Grand Canyon Accommodations

The Grand Canyon’s oldest and grandest resort is El Tovar, which was made of limestone and pine in 1905 to evoke a Swiss chalet. The only lodging at the bottom of Grand Canyon can be found at the extremely popular Phantom Ranch. For easier-to-book options at the South Rim a few miles outside the national park, consider hotels in Tusayan or Williams instead. Of course, there are camping options as well.

Bryce Amphitheater as seen from Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Bryce Canyon National Park – Utah

Extraordinary natural beauty and plentiful hiking trails make Bryce Canyon one of the best national parks for kids in the USA. This park in southern Utah is renowned for its splendid hoodoos. In fact, Bryce Canyon has more of these intriguing, tall rock spires than any other place on Earth.

Things to Do in Bryce Canyon with Kids

To appreciate the vastness and variety of Bryce’s beauty, a self-guided scenic driving tour is a must. The entire loop is 34 miles long and should take about two hours to complete, or longer if you stop for a hike. Not to be missed is Agua Canyon, which overlooks two grand, precarious-looking hoodoos. Natural Bridge is a stunner, too, with an impressive archway carved by nature. The absolute highlight is Sunset Point with a sweeping view of pink, orange, and white jagged hoodoos in the Bryce Amphitheater.

Hiking Queen's Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park with kids
Hiking Queen’s Garden Trail (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Hiking trails vary from very short stroller- and wheelchair-accessible routes to strenuous multi-day treks. Queen’s Garden Trail makes a good moderate choice for families with grade school children or teens. An easy loop trail at Rainbow Point takes about 45 minutes to complete and is a fun option for families with young children.

Be on the lookout for wildlife at Bryce Canyon. Many animals make their homes here including ravens, cottontail rabbits, coyotes, and mule deer.

Kid-Friendly Bryce Canyon Accommodations

If you can afford it and you book far enough in advance, then make a reservation at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon within the National Park. Choose from 114 rooms, including suites, motel rooms, and cabins. You’ll be in the heart of the park, just a short walk from the iconic Bryce Amphitheater.

For more sleeping options, take a look at the best-ranked hotels near Bryce National Park and the top 50 vacation rental homes in the area.

Crocodile in Everglades National Park
Crocodile in Everglades National Park (Photo credit: Debbie Fettback, World Adventurists)

10. Everglades National Park – Florida

“Everglades National Park in southern Florida is one of the great biological wonders of the world,” according to Debbie Fettback, owner of WorldAdventurists.com. She says, “Explore with childlike wonder within this World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, Wetland of International Importance, and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. All these designations make the Everglades one of the best national parks for families. At over 1.5 million acres, it is also the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states.”

Things to Do in Everglades National Park with Kids

Fettback continues, “With four unique visitor centers, you could plan several different adventures into Everglades National Park. Starting with hands-on history, each visitor center offers different things to see, learn and do. There are several activities kids will love: riding around in the open-air tram, Manatee Talk, Croc Talk, Car Caravan (where you can stay in your vehicle while making stops to learn about some of the sights and sounds), and guided nature walks. Everglades National Park also offers hiking and biking trails.

“The biggest highlight of visiting is racing through the sawgrass on an Everglades airboat ride in search of gators. It is also the only place in the world that crocodiles and alligators co-exist.

“Home to several threatened species, you might find a lot more than just modern-day dinosaurs. Keep your eyes open for Florida panthers, manatees, dolphins, snakes, turtles, and white-tailed deer.”

Fun facts about the Everglades according to "National Parks of the USA"
Fun facts about the Everglades according to “National Parks of the USA” (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kid-Friendly Everglades Accommodations

Accommodations within Everglades National Park are limited. Fettback says, “There are only two front-country, easily accessible campground options: Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground. Both accommodate tents as well as RV’s.” If hotels are more your family’s style, here is a list of nearby options.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Photo credit: sepavone, Depositphotos.com)

11. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina and Tennessee

Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide loves Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She says, “Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has everything a family could want from a national park adventure, and then some.”

Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids

Gabbett continues, “The Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, North Carolina is a good place to start. It offers excellent park information and a Mountain Farm Museum featuring 19th-century buildings.

“The 3-mile-long River Trail often offers sightings of the park’s massive elk herd. If animals are your thing, you won’t want to miss the Cataloochee Valley section of the park, where you might see elk, black bears, and birds of prey circling overhead, not to mention historical buildings from the valley’s past.

“The park is also home to waterfalls (including Grotto Falls), spectacular scenery at places like Clingman’s Dome and Chimney Tops, and popular hotspots such as Cades Cove.”

Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls (Photo credit: sprokop, Depositphotos.com)

Kid-Friendly Great Smoky Mountains Accommodations

Unless staying in a national park lodge is super important to your family, you may want to consider alternative accommodations. Gabbett says, “The only lodge in the park, Le Conte Lodge, requires a strenuous 5- to 8-mile hike up a 6,593-foot mountain. But there are tons of front-country and back-country campgrounds in the park, including those at Cades Cove and Cataloochee.”  

Olympic National Park with kids
Olympic National Park with kids (Photo credit: Keri Hedrick)

12. Olympic National Park – Washington

Keri Hedrick with Our Globetrotters recommends Olympic National Park in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula for families. She says, “Want to experience mountains, rainforest, and the ocean all in one day? Olympic National Park is one of the most biodiverse and unique national parks in the USA. In fact, it’s also an International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Things to do in Olympic National Park with Kids

Hedrick says, “Kids and parents alike will be utterly captivated by exploring the three distinctly different eco-systems. I recommend starting at Hurricane Ridge to the east. Experience dramatic glaciers and views of Mount Olympus while exploring the sub-alpine meadows. The trails here can be shrouded in snow even in summer and are home to an abundance of wildlife. Expect to spot deer, elk, voles, and squirrels.  

“Next, experience the lush old-growth forests varying from Sol Duc Valley to Hoh Rainforest. If you love waterfalls, then you’re in luck with three beautiful waterfall trails suitable for families. Alternatively, enjoy boating activities on the pristine blue sub-alpine Lake Crescent. 

Kayaks on the shore of Lake Crescent
Kayaks on the shore of Lake Crescent (Photo credit: MattLphotography, Depositphotos.com)

“To the west, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 70 miles of some of the country’s most stunning and rugged coastline. The Olympic beaches really aren’t made for kids to swim, however. Rather you’ll find both rocky and sandy beaches, incredible sea stacks, driftwoods, and tidal pools perfect for exploration. Pick your coastal trails carefully, though, based on your family’s fitness level and especially the tides!”

Kid-Friendly Olympic Accommodations

For accommodations, Hedrick says, “As there are no through roads, you are best tackling Olympic National Park as a circular loop, making a few overnight stops along the way. There are lodges and cabins that operate seasonally. Lake Crescent Lodge is a popular family choice that books out early. For coastal camping try Kalaloch Campground, ideally placed for experiencing the best of the coast and Hoh Rainforest.”

Isle Royale Light, a lighthouse in Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale Light, a lighthouse in Isle Royale National Park (Photo credit: Linda Malys Yore, Midwest Explored)

13. Isle Royale National Park – Michigan

Linda Malys Yore from Midwest Explored enthusiastically endorses Isle Royale for parents and kids. She says, “Families who love outdoor adventures will find lots to do at this stunning national park. It is located on an isolated island surrounded by Lake Superior off the coast of Michigan. To get there, you need to ride a ferry, private boat, or even a seaplane!”

Things to Do in Isle Royale National Park with Kids

Yore says, “Once you’ve arrived at the island, your family can take advantage of all there is to do at this rugged Michigan national park. There are many hikes to take, and the lengths vary so you can choose the best hike for your family. Go off on your own or hike with a knowledgeable park ranger. Choose from day hikes to longer backpacking excursions. If you plan a backpacking trip, then you will need to apply for a permit.

“Have your kids be on the lookout for foxes, toads, lizards, wolves, and even moose. If you visit the inland lakes you can search for clams.

“How about touring the island by boat? This is a cool way to learn about Isle Royale’s history and the steps being taken to keep it pristine for generations to come.”

If your family likes to fish, then you’re in luck. Yore says, “Make plans to take advantage of fishing Lake Superior or one of the inland lakes on the island. A Michigan fishing license is required for fishing in Lake Superior, but not for the inland lakes.”

Isle Royale postcards from "National Parks of the USA Postcards"
Isle Royale postcards from “National Parks of the USA Postcards” (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kid-Friendly Isle Royale Accommodations

When deciding where to stay the night, you can choose to camp or stay in more comfy digs. Yore explains, “There are plenty of camping options on Isle Royale. While somewhat primitive, all campgrounds offer campsites, outhouses, and most offer a reliable water source. You will need to apply for a permit to camp.” 

Not much into camping? Then Rock Harbor Lodge located on the northeast end of this national park may be more suitable for your family. Yore says, “You can choose a room with a view of Lake Superior or book a furnished cottage complete with kitchenette and private bath. Bring your own food or take advantage of delicious fresh meals in the dining room.”

Rio Grande river flowing through Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park
Rio Grande river, flowing through Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park (Photo credit: CCStockMedia, Depositphotos.com)

14. Big Bend National Park – Texas

Victoria Yore also recommends Big Bend. She says,”It is one of the best National Parks In Texas and the entire U.S. This gorgeous park offers lots of fun activities for kids and kids at heart. The park offers diverse landscapes so there is something for everyone.”

Things to Do in Big Bend National Park with Kids

She continues, “Big Bend is the 13th largest National Park in the country so you can rest assured there is plenty to do. If you’re traveling with little kids who cannot hike, or you just don’t want to, no worries! Santa Elena Canyon is one of the best activities for families because all you have to do is drive to see the view from the road and overlooks. Then you can picnic along the Rio Grande and hike beside it as long as your kids are willing.

“Something else kids love is the newly added Fossil Discovery Exhibit, because who doesn’t like exploring ancient life? It’s free and included with your park admission.”

Details about Big Bend in "National Parks of the USA" -- a book for kids
Details about Big Bend in “National Parks of the USA” (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Kid-Friendly Big Bend Accommodations

Looking for where to rest after a big day in Big Bend? Yore says, “If you want to camp, then you can stay at the Rio Grande Village Visitor Center and RV Park, which offers full hookup camping for RV’s and more. There are plenty of campgrounds in the park as well.” For those who prefer a hotel, take a look at additional accommodation options near Big Bend National Park.

Trunk Bay in Virgin Islands National Park
Trunk Bay in Virgin Islands National Park (Photo credit: sepavone, Depositphotos.com)

15. Virgin Islands National Park – U.S. Virgin Islands

This national park is situated on Saint John and Hassel Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. According to John Vo from Your Destination is Everywhere, “Virgin Islands National Park is home to gorgeous sandy beaches, scenic hiking trails, and an abundance of wildlife. This tropical island doesn’t have lots of booming resorts or hordes of tourists, but its natural landscapes are nothing short of beautiful.”

Things to Do in Virgin Islands National Park with Kids

Vo says, “Trunk Bay, Maho Bay, and Honeymoon Beach are excellent swimming spots for families with young children. They are all fairly developed with gentle waves and shallow water. If they are a bit older and more comfortable in the water, then you can even take kids snorkeling. This is a wonderful way to explore the coral reefs underwater, but you’ll also get the chance to swim along with sea turtles, eels, starfishes, and lots of other marine species.

Honeymoon Beach in Virgin Islands National Park with kids
Honeymoon Beach with kids (Photo credit: contact@vladispas.ro, Depositphotos.com)

“Hiking is another popular activity in Virgin Islands National Park with kids because most of the trails are easy and short. If you’re looking for a hike that is family-friendly, then Peace Hill Trail (0.2 miles) and Ram Head Trail (2.5 miles) are both excellent options.”

Kid-Friendly Virgin Islands Accommodations

As for where to spend the night, Vo says, “Coconut Coast Villas is a luxurious resort situated right on the coastline. It has a hot tub, a private beach, and beautiful ocean views from select rooms.”

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park (Photo credit: jankratochvila, Depositphotos.com)

16. Badlands National Park – South Dakota

In addition to the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota is home to one of the best national parks for kids in the USA, the Badlands. “No cross-country road trip is complete without a stop in the Badlands National Park,” according to Whisky N Sunshine Editor-in-Chief Jana Seitzer. She says, “With a little bit of something for all ages, Badlands National Park is an excellent choice for family travel. The Badlands offer stunning, dramatic landscapes with layered rock formations — one moment you’re staring at towering spires that remind you of the Star Wars planet of Batuu, and the next you’re peering down into a steep canyon that goes farther than the eye can see.”

Things to Do in Badlands National Park with Kids

Seitzer says, “The Badlands offer several trail options for hikers of all levels. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is an easy boardwalk-style trail that is fully accessible for wheelchair and stroller users. It offers fossil displays from the park, and it begins near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Every kid loves fossils and this hike is easy for all ages.

“Badlands National Park offers four other hiking trails 1.5 miles and under that are fun for kids, all offering a variety of views of the Badlands’ geological formations. For more experienced hikers, the 10-miles Castle Trail (the longest in the park) begins at the Door and Window parking area and travels five miles one way to the Fossil Exhibit Trail. The Castle Trail passes along some of the most stunning Badlands rock formations.

Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park at dusk (Photo credit: welcomia, Depositphotos.com)

“The Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240) is a better scenic option in summer when the Badlands can be extraordinarily hot and dry. The road takes between one and two hours to travel, depending on the traffic and how many scenic outlooks you stop to take in. The drive through the grasslands is excellent for visitors wanting to see animals such as Bighorn sheep, bison, and prairie dogs.”

Kid-Friendly Badlands Accommodations

Cedar Pass Lodge offers the only indoor lodging within the park. Meanwhile, there are two official campgrounds and back-country camping is allowed anywhere within Badlands National Park as long as you stay at least .5 miles from a road or trail, and your campsite is not visible from a trail or roadway. For more options, here’s a list of hotels near Badlands National Park in Kadoka, South Dakota.

Channel Islands National Park with kids
Channel Islands National Park with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

17. Channel Islands National Park – California

Five islands make up the Channel Islands National Park: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara. All of these land masses are undeveloped and protected preserves. Travel to these islands to get a glimpse of what California looked like before it became the Golden State. Further south, Santa Catalina Island (or Catalina Island, as it’s often called), is the only one of the Channel Islands where civilians live year-round but it is not part of the national park. 

National Parks of the USA tells us, “The Channel Islands are only 10 to 60 miles from Los Angeles. But since they have never been connected to the mainland, they harbor almost 150 species of plants and animals that live nowhere else in the world.” This includes the adorable island fox, which almost went extinct in the 1990s but has made a speedy recovery thanks to a breeding and vaccination program launched by scientists.

A family of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands National Park
A family of island foxes on Santa Cruz Island (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Things to Do in Channel Islands National Park with Kids

If you’re flush with cash and strapped for time, hop aboard an eight-person airplane to reach the islands. All planes land in Santa Rosa, a 25-minute flight from Camarillo.

Most tourists, however, take a boat to the islands. Island Packers provides the only motorized boat service to the Channel Islands National Park. Take your pick of the five islands to be your destination. Along the way, you might spot dolphins, sea lions, and a humpback whale or two. In winter, you just may spy the world’s largest animal – a blue whale! 

On Santa Cruz Island, you will find several hiking trails, a small visitors center/museum, picnic tables, bathrooms, and designated campgrounds. You can also sign up in advance for a sea-kayaking tour from this or Anacapa Island. (Minimum age is 5 years.)

Kid-Friendly Channel Islands Accommodations

You can join the foxes, lizards, mice, and birds for an overnight camping adventure on any of the five islands in Channel Islands National Park in designated National Park Service campgrounds. There are no other accommodation options in the national park, but you can book one of the hotels on Catalina Island or in nearby Ventura County if you choose.

Boca Chita Key in Biscayne National Park
Boca Chita Key in Biscayne National Park (Photo credit: NationalParked, Depositphotos.com)

18. Biscayne National Park – Florida

Located in the northern Florida Keys, Victoria J. Yore of Florida Trippers raves about Biscayne National Park. She says, “Biscayne is truly one of the best national parks to visit with kids in the USA. It is just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Miami and is one of the best national parks in Florida. Families will love that unlike many national parks, there is no daily entry fee to visit. That’s right; it is completely and 100 percent free to go to Biscayne National Park!”

Things to Do in Biscayne National Park with Kids

Snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking make fun ways for families with older kids and teens to explore Biscayne National Park. Yore says, “Another popular choice for exploring Biscayne with kids of all ages is to take a boat trip to Boca Chita Key. There are eco-friendly tours that are run by the Biscayne National Park Institute. The kids will love asking questions and seeing the lighthouse as well as going to an island.

Kayak near a red mangrove tree on turtle grass beds in Biscayne National Park
Kayak near a red mangrove tree on turtle grass beds in Biscayne National Park (Photo credit: fblanco7305, Depositphotos.com)

“Families can also walk the trail along Convoy Point, which starts right near the visitor center. The trail is very easy and shaded with mangroves so little legs can keep up. Kids of all ages love exploring the mangroves and nearby ocean and beaches and looking for shells and small animals among the rocks.”

Kid-Friendly Biscayne Accommodations

Camping in Biscayne National Park is super affordable but it isn’t your only option, according to Yore. She says, “You can camp on both Elliott Key or Boca Chita Key. Of course, you can always head back to Miami, which is less than an hour’s drive away if you want to make the big city your home base for exploration in comfort.”

Mountains in Glacier Bay National Park
Mountains in Glacier Bay National Park (Photo credit: herreid, Depositphotos.com)

19. Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska

“If you’re looking for an epic national park to explore with your family, Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is pretty difficult to beat,” says Bret Love of Green Global Travel. He continues, “It’s a designated wilderness area, a biosphere reserve, a marine park, and a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s an incredibly unique place that offers everything diehard nature lovers could possibly want.”

Things to Do in Glacier Bay National Park with Kids

Whether you’re looking for wildlife, active adventures, or learning about indigenous culture, Love attests that Glacier Bay has it all. He says, “Love wildlife? The cruise to reach the park will likely include sightings of harbor seals, sea otters, Atlantic puffins, black or brown bears, and myriad other animals along the way.

A family of brown bears in Glacier Bay National Park
A mama brown bear and her cubs in Glacier Bay National Park (Photo credit: snyfer, Depositphotos.com)

“Love active adventures? There’s kayaking among icebergs calved from massive glaciers, hiking to roaring waterfalls, and — if you dare — an opportunity to take the ‘Polar Plunge’ into water whose temperatures tend to hover around 50ºF.

“Love indigenous culture? Visit Xunaa Shukâ Hít (a.k.a. the Huna Tribal House) in Bartlett Cove, which offers a special opportunity to learn more about the native Tlingit art and culture via informative interpretive programs hosted by members of the Glacier Bay clans.”

Kid-Friendly Glacier Bay Accommodations

For a memorable experience, Love recommends booking the Glacier Bay Lodge. He says, “Whether you visit for the day as part of a Glacier Bay cruise or you spend a few days at the Glacier Bay Lodge, visiting this remote national park is an experience you’ll never forget.” This bayfront lodge is located within the national park.

Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley National Park
Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley National Park (Photo credit: MichalBalada, Depositphotos.com)

20. Death Valley National Park – California and Nevada

This unique national park is located mostly in eastern California but stretches into Nevada as well. It’s the largest national park in the continental U.S., occupying over 3.3 million acres of land. Also, it’s one of the newest national parks in the U.S., established in 1994. Ale Leon of Sea Salt & Fog says, “Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes. It’s home to the hottest temperatures in the country as well as the lowest point in all of North America.”

Things to Do in Death Valley National Park with Kids

Leon advises, “Many of the trails and attractions in the park are easily accessible, making them great for children and families. Badwater Basin, for example, is a short walk through flat, white salt flats. Kids can run around exploring (and even tasting) the salt. Bonus: the picturesque views make for gorgeous family portraits. Other easy trails in the park include Harmony Borax Works, where little ones can learn about the history of Death Valley. 

Death Valley National Park
Salt Creek in Death Valley National Park (Photo credit: Ale Leon, Sea Salt & Fog)

“To get off the beaten path, head over to the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. The short boardwalk will take you through a marshy area where you can look for pupfish. That’s right — there are fish in the desert!

“No trip to Death Valley is complete without a drive through Artists Palette. Here, you’ll see hills painted in vibrant hues, which will leave the whole family in awe.”

Artists Palette
Artists Palette (Photo credit: friday, Depositphotos.com)

Adventurous families will want to give sandboarding a try while in Death Valley National Park, too! Bring your own sled or sandboard since there are none for rent within the park. This heart-pumping activity is allowed only on the Mesquite Flat Dunes as to not disturb native plants and animals. 

Kid-Friendly Death Valley Accommodations

Leon says, “You’ll want to spend at least one day exploring Death Valley, and staying overnight in the park is your best option. Everything else is really far away. The Furnace Creek Campground is the most centrally located, and reservations aren’t too difficult to get.” 

Explore the best national parks for kids with National Parks of the USA and National Parks of the USA Activity Book by Quarto Books

Discover National Parks and Beyond with Quarto Kids

Get kids excited to embark on a national parks adventure with National Parks of the USA. This book covers all of the national parks included in this story and then some. Children will delight in learning about the animals, plants, and history of each park.

The playful National Parks of the USA Activity Book will engage kids with 15+ activities, a fold-out national parks poster, and 50 stickers. Activities include a word jumble, match game, word search, crossword puzzle, maze and more.

Explore the best national parks for kids with National Parks of the USA Postcards by Quarto Kids

Purchase a set of National Parks of the USA Postcards before setting out on your national parks explorations. Then your children can write memories from each park to mail to a loved one, send to themselves, or keep as a souvenir. The 52 cards come in a sturdy, handsome box.

Quarto Kids books celebrating the United States of America

Explore even more the USA with Quarto Kids. Celebrate the USA with their gorgeous book, The 50 States, which includes 50 fun-filled maps for exploring the country.

Kids will love The 50 States Activity Book featuring 20+ activities, a fold-out map, state flags poster, and 50 stickers.

Meanwhile, 50 Adventures in the 50 States will inspire families to plan future trips like digging for crystals in Oklahoma, soaking in wild hot springs in Idaho, or snowshoeing through forests and meadows in Connecticut.

Beautifully illustrated and made with quality materials, these are the kinds of books that feel good to hold in your hands and read.

Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon, one of the best national parks for kids in the USA
Bryce Canyon National Park’s Natural Bridge (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Learn More About Exploring National Parks in the USA

Explore the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks in this guide to planning the best road trip from Phoenix.

While you’re in Arizona, be sure to check out Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments.

To connect your family with nature, take a look at these tips for planning an outdoorsy vacation with kids.

Would you like to give camping in national parks with kids a shot? Discover what gear to buy and what to borrow for your first camping trip.

Best National Parks for Kids in the USA

Save this List of the Best National Parks for Kids

Dreaming of a national parks vacation? Be sure to save this list of the best national parks for kids! Simply save the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you agree that these are the best national parks for kids in the USA? How many of these parks have you visited? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from Travel Mamas: We will receive monetary compensation for this story from Quarto Books. Additionally, this story contains affiliate links for which we receive a small commission at no additional cost to consumers. Thank you for helping Travel Mamas remain a free resource for readers like you!

 
About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. jen schreiner says

    This is fantastic. We are finally (THANK the Lord) getting back to traveling. With the upcoming National park free entrance day, I was pondering which ones we could travel to with my kiddos. This is perfect. Thank you for breaking them down for us.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hooray for a return to travel! National parks are a great way to go because you can stay mostly outdoors and try to keep your distance from others as we move into this next phase. Enjoy!

  2. I have only been to three national parks on that list! I have been to Yosemite many times, Sequoia once, and the Grand Canyon. I actually live only 5 hours from the Grand Canyon. And I grew up 4 hours from Yosemite. I need to get out more and see those other parks!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      So great that you’ve enjoyed those three amazing parks! I hope you can experience the wonders of some more national parks someday!

  3. So my husband and I have a goal to visit every National Park in the country. We’ve gone to quite a few, and many of them with our kids (now ages 6 and 8) along with us. This summer we went to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, but did those along with all of the Utah parks a couple of years ago. Our next National Park trip will be to either the Texas ones since we are in Houston or to Hot Springs, Arkansas, since it is pretty close.

  4. Oh man, these parks are something else (in a good way). I’d love to get the kids to the one in Alaska.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      There are two great parks in Alaska on this list – Glacier Bay and Denali – you really can’t go wrong with either!

  5. I’m not from U.S but these places are all wonderful! I’ll visit them in the future!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Gervin – I hope you get the chance to explore some of these amazing national parks in the U.S. someday!

  6. Emman Damian says

    Everything looks great! I hope to visit all those places in the list. I would really like to see Channel Islands National Park when I visit California next year.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Emman – Channel Islands National Park would make a great addition to any California itinerary! You can go just for the day or choose to spend the night and camp!

  7. Brennan Balzi says

    As an adult, I would love to visit these destinations! As a kid, I wish I could have experienced traveling to different national parks. When I have kids of my own I will definitely show them the world from a young age.

  8. I would love to see these parks myself. This would definitely make for some fun road trips with the kids. These are all memorable parks!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Yes! So much variety among these wonderful national parks! I hope you can explore many of them with your kids!

  9. Such a great list of parks to cover with kids. As an adult, I want to wish all of these parks too, I have seen some of them already though. 🙂

  10. Wow! These parks look beautiful! I’d love to visit each one, and get lost in its beauty! Sequoia and Kings Canyon is the first on my list.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Wonderful choice! I went there once as a child and once as an adult and both parks are amazing! So cool to see the world’s largest living trees!

  11. Ivan M. Jose says

    This is a nice list of national parks for families to explore. I do dream of visiting Yellowstone National Park someday.

  12. The grand spring in Yellowstone looks so amazing. I couldn’t imagine ever seeing something so beautiful!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Nyxie – Yellowstone does look amazing, doesn’t it?! This one tops my list of national parks I hope to see!

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