The Best National Park for Kids

Looking for the best National Park for kids? Well, you’re in luck. Because there’s actually not just one!

National parks are kid-friendly by nature and have become some of our favorite family travel destinations in the US for that reason! Both parents and kids will love the breathtaking views and adventurous activities our USA national parks offer. Plus, each US national park with kids so unique, you’ll never run out of excitement as you travel from one to the next!

If you’re ready to find the best national park for your little explorers, read on and get these top kid-friendly national parks on your bucket list asap!

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What to Pack for a National Park with Kids

Packing for a National Park visit with kids doesn’t necessarily require a whole lot of special gear, but if you want to make the most of your trip and plan to do any hiking (even kid-friendly trails), there’s a few essentials you’ll want to consider packing:

  • Sturdy Walking or Hiking Shoes | You can certainly get buy with a good pair of sneakers, but for more support on uneven terrain, I love my Columbia Newton Ridge hiking boots. (PS. Mishansha makes the cutest hiking boots for kids.)
  • Hiking Pack Carrier | We have and love the Deuter Kid Comfort, but for babies and toddlers, our simple lightweight MiaMily carrier does the trick.
  • Extra Layers of Clothing | Always dress in layers. Even in warm climates, temperatures can vary greatly from sunrise to mid-day. Opt for moisture-wicking clothing and an insulated packable jacket for the most versatility.
  • Hat & Gloves | Whether protecting you from the hot sun or cold weather, include one or both on your packing list.
  • Water, and More Water | Even if you plan to do minimal hiking, always bring more water than you think you need! A large insulated water bottle is best for keeping things cool.
  • Lots of Healthy Snacks | We typically opt for easy snacking options like fruit, granola bars, nuts and crackers. For packing perishables like meat and cheese, we love this folding freezable lunch bag.
  • Sunscreen | I love a sunscreen stick that makes applying on wiggly children super easy.
  • Insect Repellent | Keep bugs away with this DEET-free travel-size alternative safe for all ages.
  • Trail Maps | Pick up an extra map when you arrive at the national aprk (kids love to have their own), but also consider subscribing to AllTrails for a wi-fi free alternative with lots of helpful tips for fellow hikers.
  • Baby Wipes & Hand Sanitizer | For cleaning up little hands after snacks and picnics lunches.
  • Plastic Storage Bags | Great for packing out trash (or diapers 🙃) while on the trail.
  • Safety Items | Depending on which part of the country you’re visiting and how much exploring you plan to do, you may want to add some of these safety and emergency items to your day pack: First Aid Kit, Bear Spray, Multi-Tool Pocket Knife, Headlamp, Emergency Whistle, Thermal Blanket, Water Purification Tablets, and Waterproof Matches.

MUST-HAVE

family hiking gear

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National Park Junior Ranger Program

Almost every US National Park offers a Junior Ranger Program: guided activities for little explorers, usually ages 4 to 13 (though, there’s no hard and fast rule as to who can participate). Whenever you visit a National Park with kids, the first thing you should do is head straight to the visitor center to pick up your Junior Ranger booklet.

Not only is it free, but the Junior Ranger program is an engaging way for your kids to learn about the park they’re visiting through kid-friendly imagery and activities. This makes the whole national park experience fun and educational for kids: a win-win for everyone!

You can see an example of a typical Junior Ranger booklet here. Kids will be asked to complete a certain number of activities based on their age and sometimes attend a ranger-led program.

Once the Junior Ranger booklet is complete, bring it back to the ranger station and your child will receive their very own junior park ranger badge, super fun for collecting!

What’s the Best National Park for Kids?

There are 63 National Parks in the USA, which makes selecting which is the best national park for kids a tricky subject!

There’s no way we could pick just one, so instead we’ve rounded up 14 of the very best US National Parks for kids in the country. Each of these parks are large and established, with their own unique geological features, ecosystems and wildlife. Even better, they all have a Junior Ranger Program to get your kids excited and engaged about their new explorations!

As you read through this list, pick which park calls to you and go with it! Because after visiting one national park with kids, you’re bound to be hooked and planning your next one in no time.

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Everglades National Park with Kids

As the 3rd largest National Park in the lower 48 states, Everglades National Park covers 2400 square miles of swamp and marshland, making it ripe for exploring this untouched beauty. Just 50 miles from Miami, this park is a great addition to a trip to the south Florida sun with kids.

Things to do in Everglades National Park with Kids

  • Airboat Tour | Experience the thrill of gliding over the water while spotting alligators and vibrant bird species.
  • Anhinga Trail | Take a family-friendly stroll along this trail, perfect for spotting wildlife, especially alligators and wading birds.
  • Shark Valley Tram Tour | Hop on a tram for a guided tour, offering a chance to see alligators, turtles, and a variety of birds.
  • Canoeing or Kayaking | Paddle through the park’s waterways, immersing your family in the unique Everglades ecosystem.

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everglades national park

Where to Stay near the Everglades with Kids

Nearby Homestead offers family-friendly accommodations just outside the entrance of Everglades National Park. Consider staying here for a couple of nights so you don’t feel rushed while visiting the park.

Best Western Gateway to the Keys ($) | Located just outside Everglades National Park, Best Western Gateway to the Keys offers an affordable place to stay while exploring the park.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Fairfield Inn & Suites Homestead ($$) | An updated interior, outdoor pool and fitness center are all perks of the mid-range hotel in Homestead.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Zion National Park

When we first drove through Zion National Park, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This, I thought, is exactly the type of jaw-dropping beauty you expect from a national park. And it’s surely one of the best places in the country to experience as a family.

Things to Do in Zion National Park with Kids

  • Riverside Walk | Zion is known for it’s really epic hiking trails, and if you do just one hike in Zion, make it this one. This easy trail travels along the Virgin River leading to start of the famous hike, The Narrows. Deep in the canyon, it’s a great place for spotting wildlife.
  • Canyon Overlook Trail | Another popular Zion hike, this one is outside the canyon but offers the best views. There are some steep dropoffs and cliffsides, so I’d recommend keeping littles in a carrier or hiking pack. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded greatly!
  • Emerald Pools Trail | For more active families, this moderate uphill hike leads you to not one but two mountainside pools. Venture as little or far as you’d like depending on your desired activity level.
  • Pa’Rus Trail | An easy, paved stroll along the Virgin River, this trail starts near the Visitor Center and leads all the way to the Canyon Junction Birdge. Make a detour and stop off at the Zion Human History Museum where you can board the shuttle and continue into the park.
  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive | Zion Canyon is only accessible via the park’s shuttle bus system. So what better way to enjoy the view than a free ride? Enjoy the views and stop as you please for an easy way to see the whole park.

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Where to Stay near Zion National Park with Kids

For the most convenient location, stay in Springdale, just outside of Zion. There are tons of family lodging options to choose from, plus a plethora of tasty restaurants, gear shops, and even a city shuttle to the park entrance.

Best Western Plus Zion Canyon ($$) | One of the highest rated hotels in Zion is the modern Best Western Plus. With clean, modern rooms and a convenient location near the town’s shuttle stop, it’s easy to see why this budget option is a winner.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Desert Pearl Inn ($$$) | Also just outside shuttle stop #4 is Desert Pearl Inn: a boutique hotel with larger than average rooms (some with kitchenettes!) and a large outdoor pool with mountain views.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda

Cliffrose Springdale ($$$$) | Just an 8 minute walk from the Zion National Park entrance, you couldn’t ask for a better location than the Cliffrose Springdale. Indulge at this upscale property offering both standard rooms and spacious suites.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

READ MORE: One Day in Zion National Park: A Beginners Guide

Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Kids

On the border of Tennesse and North Carolina, you may be surprised to learn that Great Smoky Mountains is America’s most visited National Park! With close proximity to family-friendly towns like Gatlinburg or Asheville, there’s lots to see and do for families at this special national park.

Things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains with Kids

  • Tour Cades Cove | An 11-mile valley loop that is rich with history and wildlife, this trail is quite popular. It does get rather congested in the summer months, so for a different experience during busy season, considering biking the loop. Whichever you choose, be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife like deer and black bears.
  • Laurel Falls Trail | This family-friendly hike leads to a stunning waterfall, perfect for little legs. You can find other kid-friendly hikes at Kephart Prong Trail or Porters Creek.
  • Go on a Wildflower Walk | If visiting in the spring, head out on one of the many easy, kid-friendly trails great for wildflower viewing. (Wildflowers in the Smokies book?)
  • Drive Blue Ridge Parkway / Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail? | Given the park’s massive size, auto touring is a popular way to see the park. Take a scenic drive with opportunities for short hikes and waterfall views.
  • Elkmont Fireflies | Experience the magical synchronous fireflies during their mating season in June. Firefly viewing is available by lottery only, so be sure to visit the National Park Service’s website for more info on this enchanting activity.

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great smoky mountains national park

Where to Stay near the Great Smoky Mountains with Kids

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is the most popular base for a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and the sheer number of family-friendly cabins and lodges is mind-blowing. A few favorite picks include:

Fairfield Inn & Suites Gatlinburg Downtown ($$) | Located in downtown Gatlinburg, take advantage of The Fairfield Inn’s free breakfast, fitness center and outdoor pool and spa in between visiting the park.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg ($$$) | With plenty of family-friendly restaurants and activities nearby, the Hilton Garden Inn offers comfortable mountain lodging with an indoor pool.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Arches National Park with Kids

Just outside of Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is wonderful for inquisitive minds who will marvel at the park’s unique rock formations.

Things to do in the Arches National Park with Kids

  • Hike to Delicate Arch | The most iconic location in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch may not be the easiest hike, but it certainly is the most rewarding! For those with older kids who can can handle an uphill trek, this is definitely one to include in your itinerary. For an easier alternative, head out on Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail, an easy hike for families with young kids still offering a rewarding view of the iconic Delicate Arch.
  • Sand Dune Arch | Let the kids play in the sandy area surrounded by stunning red rock formations.
  • Double Arch | It’s a short walk to this unique formation, making it perfect for a family-friendly photo op.
  • Explore The Windows | The largest concentration of arches in the park.
  • Balanced Rock at Sunset | Stop by Balanced Rock at sunset, when a deep orange glow is cast upon this marvelous rock formation.

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arches national park

Where to Stay near Arches National Park with Kids

Stay in Moab for easy access to the park and its surrounding adventures.

Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn ($) | Moab’s highest rated budget friendly option is the Best Western Plus, offering guets clean, comfortable rooms and a seasonal outdoor pool.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Booking.com

Element Moab ($$) | Modern funishings, free breakfast and a convenient location in the center of town are all reasons to stay at the Element Moab, just a 10-minute drive from Arches National Park.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Hoodoo Moab ($$$$) | For luxury accommodations just outside the park entrance, you can’t go wrong with Hoodoo Moab. This upscale property offers a full-service spa, large outdoor pool, and on-site restaurant for enjoying after a long day in the park.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Rocky Mountain National Park with Kids

Looking for that classic, out in the wilderness feel? The look no further than Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated on 265,000 acres in northern Colorado, towering mountain peaks and glistening alpine lakes abound in this national park that’s a must-visit with kids.

Things to do in the Rocky Mountains with Kids

  • Trail Ridge Road | Drive this high-altitutude road for breathtaking views and easy wildlife spotting (important note: Trail Ridge Road is closed to travel in the winter)
  • Hike Around a Lake | For a family-friendly hike with beautiful mountain scenery, head out on Bear Lake Loop Trail or Cub Lake Trail. (read up on all of Rocky National Park’s best trails here)
  • Hike to a Waterfall | Alberta Falls is a short, easy walk to a spectacular waterfall that is one of the park’s more popular hiking destinations.
  • Moraine Park Discovery Center | While you’re exploring, stop by the Moraine Park Discovery Center for loads of interactive exhibits and activities for kids.
  • Horseback Riding | With 260 miles of trail throughout the park, horseback riding from Glacier Creek Stables is a popular way to see the park between May and October.

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rocky mountain national park

Where to Stay near Rocky Mountain National Park with Kids

The charming town of Estes Park is a popular gateway to the park. With an adorable downtown area, it’s a no-brainer choice for your visit to the Rocky Mountains. You’ll find mostly small inns and cabin rentals nearest the park, but families also those these hotels:

WorldMark Estes Park ($) | Kids will love the amenties at Worldmark Estes Park, like a seasonal outdoor pool, 3 spas, game room, and outdoor playground. Choose from regular studio rooms or larger suites with kitchens.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Inn on Fall River & Fall River Cabins ($$) | 6 minutes from Rocky’s Fall River park entrance, the Inn on Fall River offers rooms, suites, and standalone cabins, giving families several flexible options to fit their needs and budget.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Grand Canyon National Park with Kids

One of America’s most well-known national parks, the Grand Canyon perfectly embodies the unique wonders of the US National Parks. With incredible geologic formations and jaw-dropping views, kids are sure to love it.

Things to do at the Grand Canyon with Kids

  • Canyon Rim Trail | For a nice introduction to the park, head out on Canyon Rim Trail, stopping at the many scenic viewpoints along the way. Starting from the visitor center, this trail is fairly flat and mostly paved, making it perfect for all ages and abilities.
  • Desert View Drive | Enter on the east end of the park and travel along Desert View Drive for scenic views of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. Stop at the Desert View Watchtower and climb steps for a birds eye view from above.
  • Yavapai Geology Museum | This museum features interactive exhibits where kids (and adults!) will learn how the Grand Canyon was formed. It’s also a starting point for the Trail of Time, a flat paved walk that takes you through the geologic timeline of the canyon spanning 1 million years!
  • Mule Ride into the Canyon | For those with older kids wanting to venture down into the canyon, a mule ride is an especially unique way to experience the geological wonders of this area. Riders must be at least 9 years old and 47″ tall for this activity. Learn more about how to to book a mule ride here.

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grand canyon national park

Where to Stay near the Grand Canyon with Kids

For those wanting to stay close to the South Rim, Grand Canyon Village and the surrounding area offers several family-friendly hotels:

Yavapai Lodge ($$$) | For in-park lodging, Yavapai is a natural top choice. The hotel features updated rooms, 2 on-site restaurants, and a market for groceries and essentials all within 10 minutes of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda

The Grand Hotel at Grand Canyon ($$$) | For a more upscale experience just outside of Grand Canyon Village, the Grand Hotel adds perks like an indoor pool and spa, on-site restaurant and bar, gift shop and fitness center to its amenities for family travelers.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

And if those options are unavailable (they do book up well in advance), look to the town of Williams, AZ, about a 1 hour drive from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.

Best Western Plus Inn Williams ($$) | With clean room and a friendly staff, The Best Western Plus Williams is a great option for families on a budget. Parents will appreciate the free breakfast, on-site restaurant and seasonal outdoor pool.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Hampton Inn Williams ($$) | Another excellent choice in Williams, take advantage of the Hampton Inn’s indoor heated pool and spa, free hot breakfast, and fitness center.

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Glacier National Park with Kids

A not-so-hidden gem among America’s National Parks, Glacier National Park is a top choice for visiting with kids. While we haven’t visited yet, it’s at the top of our bucket list!

Things to do in Glacier National Park with Kids

  • Hike to a Glacier | Glacier has over 700 miles of hiking trails, and it’s no surprise that Grinnell Glacier Trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes. Just be sure to check the Trail Status Report before heading out: snow and other hazards keep these high elevation trails closed until mid-July. 
  • Tour Lake McDonald by Boat | Take a scenic boat tour on Lake McDonald, Glacier’s largest lake, for beautiful mountain views. Glacier Park Boat Company offers both guided boat tours or personal boat rentals to create your own experience.
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road | This family-friendly drive is Glacier’s most iconic activity. The road is open year-round near the West Entrance, but due to heavy winter now, the full road doesn’t open until late June at earliest. For a guided experience, consider booking the famous Red Bus Tour.
  • Horseback Riding | Swan Mountain Outfitters offers family-friendly 1-3 hour rides at three corrals throughout the park: Apgar, Lake McDonald and Many Glacier. Children must be at least 7 years old and 48 inches tall to ride the beginner trails.

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Where to Stay near Glacier National Park with Kids

For the quintessential park experience, stay at the Swiss chalet-inspired Lake McDonald Lodge or Many Glacier Hotel. Both are open seasonally from mid-May to mid-September and do book up well in advance. If you aren’t able to snag one of these hotels, don’t fret, you’ll find plenty more family-friendly accommodations in the nearby towns of Whitefish and Kalipspell, including:

Beargrass Lodging and RV Resort ($) | Conveniently located only 15 minutes outside the park, Beargrass Lodging offers a stylish motel experience with accommodations ranging from modernized rooms (some with kitchenettes) to full 2 bedroom condos.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Good Medicine Lodge Bed & Breakfast ($$$) | Relax at the charming and rustic Good Medicine Lodge in Whitefish. This property features spacious common areas and free daily breakfast.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Bryce Canyon National Park

One of the most unique National Parks we’ve visited, Bryce Canyon National Park is a spectacular choice for families looking for a unique experience. Plus, being just 2 hours from Zion National Park makes it possible to see both in one trip!

Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park with Kids

  • Walk from Sunrise to Sunset Point: The flat paved Rim Trail is the perfect way to start your visit and admire the stunning hoodoos, or tall spire formations, that Bryce Canyon is known for.
  • Navajo Loop & Queens Garden Trail | Another must for adventurous families, venture down into Bryce Canyon with kids via the iconic switchbacks of Navajo Loop. Once at the bottom, carry on along Queen’s Garden and back up out of the canyon as you admire the famous hoodoos up close.
  • Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive | After exploring the hoodoos up close, admire the expansive Bryce Amphitheater from the many different viewpoints along the 19-mile stretch of Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. Inspiration Point, Rainbow Point, and Yovimpa Point are all worth a stop.
  • Ranger-Led Night Sky Program: Due to Bryce’s high elevation, clean air, and remote location, these dark sky conditions lead to excellent stargazing opportunities. Experience the wonders of Bryce Canyon at night with a ranger-led full moon hike or night sky telescope program.

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bryce canyon national park

Where to Stay near Bryce Canyon with Kids

Families can opt to stay inside the park at Bryce Canyon Lodge, or find additional options in nearby Bryce Canyon City.

Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn ($) | A free daily breakfast buffet, indoor pool, and pet-friendly rooms are all reasons to choose the iconic Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand ($$) | Yes, Bryce Canyon hosts not one, but two Best Western Plus hotels, and both are at the top of the list amongst travelers. For a slightly upgraded experience, opt for the Bryce Canyon Grand. Visitors at this hotel are treated to both an indoor and outdoor pool (seasonal), free airport shuttle, hot breakfast, and snack shop.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

READ MORE: Bryce Canyon’s Best Hikes in One Day

Badlands National Park

Welcome to my home state of South Dakota! As a kid in the 90’s, the Badlands was the first national park I ever visited. And while it’s perhaps not the most well-known national park, it certainly is one of the most unique!

Being just 90 minutes from Mount Rushmore, it’s a popular add-on for a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Things to Do in Badlands National Park with Kids

  • Fossil Preparation Lab | The Badlands striking landscape is home to one of the world’s richest fossil beds. At Ben Reifel Visitor Center, families can learn about the dinosaurs that once inabited the area, as well as chat with a park paleotologist while they work!
  • Drive Sage Creek Rim Road | Travel this rough dirt road off the main Badlands Loop for access to several scenic overlooks and some of the best wildlife viewing in the park, including bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and a wide variety of birds. While there, be sure to stop at one of the several prairie dog towns in the park to view these cute little creatures from afar.
  • Hike the Trails | Door Trail, Window Trail and Fossil Exhibit Trail are all easy hikes for kids. If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, Saddle Pass Trail is a short uphill climb with rewarding panoramic views..
  • Night Sky Viewings | From Memorial Day to Labor Day, head to the Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater for dazzling an evening park ranger program. Telescopes are provided as rangers help point out constellations, stars, and planets to even the youngest budding astronomers.

Where to Stay near Badlands National Park with Kids

Accommodations in and around Badlands National Park are a modest collection of campgrounds and budget hotels. You’ll find the most options in nearby Wall where you can also check a visit to the “world famous” Wall Drug off your bucket list.

Best Western Plains Motel ($) | If you find yourself wanting to stay in the area, the Best Western Plains Motel offers an economical choice with free breakfast, indoor spa, and outdoor pool.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Badlands Frontier Cabins ($$) | Dive into the wild west with a stay at Badlands Frontier Cabins. Families will appreciate the quiet setting, free breakfast, and playground with grills and a picnic area.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Denali National Park

Covering a whopping 6 million acres in Alaska, you might be surprised to learn Denali is actually America’s third largest national park (only Wrangell-St. Elias and Gates of the Artic, also in Alaska, are larger).

Centered around the highest mountain in North America, freely roaming wildlife and an untouched landscape draws over 600,000 visitors from far and wide to Denali National Park each year.

Things to Do in Denali National Park with Kids

  • Hop a Bus Tour | There’s only one 86-mile road in and out of Denali National Park and a bus tour is the easiest, most stress-free way to explore it with kids. For those short on time, hop the Savage River Shuttle for a 2-hour round-trip ride, accessing hiking trails and picnic areas along the way. Wanting to extend your experience? Consider booking a longer guided tour of Denali. The farther into the park you travel, the better opportunities for wildlife spotting.
  • Rock Creek Trail | By nature of the park’s ruggedness, Denali doesn’t have many marked hiking trails. For an easy, kid-friendly hike with ample opportunities for wildlife spotting, try the 2.4 mile Rock Creek Trail.
  • Sled Dog Demonstration | From mid-May to mid-September, take advantage of this unique (and free!) opportunity to see Alaska’s most traditional form of travel in action.
  • Flightseeing Tour | With Denali being so vast, it can be hard to see it all. Companies like Fly Denali offer flightseeing tours for this very reason, with several based in nearby Talkeetna, Denali Park, Healy, and Kantishna.

Laura’s Tip: Download the free Denali for Families Visitor’s Guide to help you plan your trip with kids.

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Where to Stay near Denali National Park with Kids

Lodging options near Denali National Park are varied and sparse, with most being small, privately-owned cabins or B&Bs. For families wanting the convenience of a hotel, two popular options include:

Aurora Denali Lodge ($$) | Located in the town of Healy, 11 miles north of the park, the quiet and clean rooms at Aurora Denali Lodge are a great option for families on a budget.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge ($$$$) | The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is arguably the closest and nicest place to stay when visiting Denali. Splurge for these luxury accommodations and enjoy the hotel’s 6 on-site eateries, expansive decks with firepits, park shuttle and a guest concierge for help booking all of your adventure activities.

BOOK DIRECTLY WITH: PRINCESS LODGES

White Sands National Park

America’s newest national park, White Sands was officially elevated from national monument to national park status in 2019. Covering 145,762 acres, this gypsum dunefield is the largest of its kind in the world.

Things to Do in White Sands National Park with Kids

  • Sled the Dunes | No visit to White Sands would be complete without taking part in the park’s most quintessential activity: dune sledding. Bring your own or purchase one at the park’s gift shop for an unforgettable ride down the fluffy gypsum dunes.
  • Dunes Drive | A 16-mile round-trip drive, Dunes Drive cuts through the mesmerizing heart of the White Sands’ dunefield. While the first five miles are paved, the remaining section is simply hardpacked gypsum sand.
  • Dune Life Nature Trail | White Sands have 5 established trails along Dunes Drive, with Dune Life Nature Trail being the most popular. This family-friendly 1-mile loop is a must for experiencing the park’s unique plant and animal life. For another short, easy hike, visit the Playa Trail or Interdune Boardwalk.
  • Lake Lucero Tour | Explore the birthplace of White Sands with a ranger-led tour of Lake Lucero. This dry lake bed only fills with water after a large amount of rain or snow, but the real delight comes from the thousands of selenite crystals, some up to two feet long, you’ll pass as your make your way down the steep channel to the lake bed.

Where to Stay near White Sands National Park with Kids

Stay in Alamogordo for easy access to the park with plenty of family-friendly hotel options.

Holiday Inn Express Alamogordo ($) | Budget travelers love the Holiday Inn in Alamagordo for it’s spacious rooms and indoor pool in the center of town.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Home2 Suites Alamagordo White Sands ($$) | Offering modern furnishings, an outdoor pool and an indoor-outdoor lobby for relaxing, the pet-friendly Home2 Suites is great for families needing a little more space. Rooms range from typical studio rooms to 1 bedroom suites.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Yosemite National Park

Perhaps one of America’s most well-known national parks, Yosemite National Park is a breathtaking sight to behold. It also just so happens to be one of the best national parks for kids.

Things to Do in Yosemite National Park with Kids

  • Lower Yosemite Falls Loop | This easy, paved trail is perfect for families of all ages, with a loop that leads you past one of Yosemite’s most famous waterfalls.
  • Mirror Lake Trail | A family-friendly hike leading to a picturesque lake by spring or dry sandy lake bed by fall. No matter what season you visit, kids will love exploring the landscape.
  • Bike Rentals | While you can get around Yosemite Valley’s 9-mile loop by bus, on foot or by car, bikes are popular way to avoid the traffic while also taking in the impressive sights from the valley floor.
  • Mariposa Grove | Just a bit outside Yosemite Valley, Mariposa Grove is a must see for it’s gigantic sequoias you can literally walk through!

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Where to Stay near Yosemite National Park with Kids

For easy access to Yosemite’s most famous landmarks, we recommend a stay in Yosemite Valley. The park offers two lodging options to suit your families needs:

Yosemite Valley Lodge ($$) | For affordable accommodation in the heart of Yosemite Valley, the Yosemite Valley Lodge is a great option. The property does book up well in advance (in some cases, up to a year!), so be sure to play accordingly.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

The Ahwahnee ($$$$) | A National Historic Landmark, this upscale lodge in Yosemite Valley is swoonworthy to say the least, drawing from its surroundings with waterfall and cliffside views. An on-site bar and restaurant along with a year-round heated outdoor pool adds to the draw for families.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

And for a more resort-style stay outside of the park, we recommend:

Tenaya Lodge ($$$) | You’ll find stylish, modern digs at The Tenaya Lodge, about 30 miles southwest of the Yosemite Valley. The lodge offers an on-site spa, restaurant, and a wide variety of guided activities year-round.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

READ MORE: Yosemite In Winter: 6 Things to Know Before You Go

Acadia National Park

A natural beauty on the Atlantic coast, this New England national park is one of America’s top ten most visited, seeing 4 million visitors per year. The rocky headlands mixed with coastal charm make this park a must-see with kids.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park with Kids

  • Great Head Trail | Hiking is one of Acadia’s most popular activities, and Great Head Trail offers the perfect mix of spectacular ocean views, trekking through wooded forests and stumbling upon historic sites.
  • Bike the Carriage Roads: Acadia’s paths consist of 45 miles of winding carriage roads. From 1913 to 1940, John D. Rockefeller gifted the creation of these roads for use by horse and buggy, keeping the park free from motor vehicles. Today the carriage roads create the perfect bike paths through Acadia’s wilderness. Families can rent bikes from a number of park outposts, like Island Bike Rental or Southwest Cycle.
  • Sand Beach | A must-see in Acadia, frolic in the frigid water or relax on the sand of Acadia’s only sandy beach.
  • Go Tidepooling | Explore rocky tidepools at the end of Wonderland Trail, an easy hike through a coastal forest. Marine snails, crabs and green sponges are all common inhabits at the tidepools of Mount Desert Island.

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acadia national park

Where to Stay near Acadia National Park with Kids

Stay in the charming town of Bar Harbor for a classic coastal experience. There are plenty of family-friendly hotels in the area, but some top-rated picks include:

The Inn on Mount Desert ($$) | Bar Harbor is a pricey town, but The Inn on Mount Desert offers an affordable stay with charming coastal furnishings, beautiful gardens surrounding the property, and free continental breakfast.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

Bar Harbor Inn ($$$$) | Situated on the Maine’s rocky coastline, Bar Harbor Inn is an iconic luxury property featuring an on-site restaurant overlooking the water, outdoor pool with fire pits, full-service spa, and rooms with ocean views terraces.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree holds a special place in our hearts, and not just because it was the first national park we visited as a family. The otherwordly rock-formations and Whoville-like Joshua trees make it a natural playground for kids.

Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park with Kids

  • Hidden Valley | Don’t miss this family-friendly hike through massive boulders, sandy trails and a diverse collection of desert plant-life.
  • Skull Rock | This iconic rock formation is just steps from the main road and is sure to spark curiosity in even the youngest explorers.
  • Cholla Cactus Garden | Meander the boardwalk through this unique field of cacti, best visited just before sunset when the golden light hits the cholla just right.
  • Arch Rock Nature Trail | This quick, half mile trail (which is largely unmarked) is worth the effort in order to find spot this famous rock, perfect for a family photo.

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joshua tree national park

Where to Stay near Joshua Tree National Park with Kids

For easy access to the park, stay in either Joshua Tree or Twentynine Palms.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Twentynine Palms ($$) | Find comfortable accommodations just outside the park at the Fairfield Inn Twentynine Palms. Families will love the outdoor pool and extra spacious rooms.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

AutoCamp Joshua Tree ($$$) | Joshua Tree is a quirky town, so embrace the uniqueness with a stay at one of the “airstream suites” at Autocamp. Stay in one of the sleek and modern luxury campers or experience glamping at its finest in one of the premium cabins with outdoor shower. The property features an expansive lobby, mini market and outdoor pool for guests as well.

Compare rates AT: Hotels.com | Agoda | Booking.com

READ MORE: One Day in Joshua Tree National Park

Whew! I hope this list of national treasures has sparked your adventrous spirit! Visiting a national park as a family is such a rewarding experience, both for kids and adults.

Whether hiking through otherworldly landscapes, marveling at colossal mountains, or stargazing under the night sky, there really is something for everyone within our US National Parks.

So go ahead and plan that family adventure and prepare to create memories that will last a lifetime!

Have a favorite National Park that didn’t make the list? Share it in the comments below!

xo laura

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