Summer is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning. Those long awaited vacation days are coming and soon kids will escape from their classrooms, parents will be released from their work projects, and everyone is given some free time to relax. One of the best ways to spend your vacation days is going on a family adventure to one of America’s incredible national parks.
Traversing through the rough terrain, hiking across scenic mountain trails, or even experiencing the beauty of the park from the comfortable seat of your car is a great bonding experience that helps create meaningful memories that last a lifetime.
With so many world-renowned parks in America to choose from, picking which one your family will enjoy the most can be challenging. Fear not fellow nature lovers; we have put together a list of some of the best national parks in America for families to enjoy this year.
Yosemite National Park – California
Yosemite is arguably the most famous national park in America and for good reason. Yosemite is nature at its finest, showcasing a landscape with fields of wildflowers, waves of idyllic meadows, and soaring granite cliffs.
Everyone from rough and tough mountain men to world-famous photographers rush to this park every year to partake in its boundless beauty. However, you don’t have to be Grizzly Adams to enjoy Yosemite. There are great options for both solo hikers and families as well.
Imagine how amazed your family will be as they try to tilt their heads back a full 90* to gaze the top of a gigantic 200 foot sequoia tree. This breathtaking experience is one of a kind, and whether you are walking the trails alone or on a guided nature tour, you cannot help but feel a deep emotional peace.
Your family can enjoy a wide smorgasbord of activities enveloped in a landscape filled with waterfalls, geysers, and gorges. Yosemite has it all and teaming up with the family on an epic trek or road trip through the park, promises to be a fantastic experience. One wonderful aspect about Yosemite is that you can immerse yourself in this unbelievably diverse landscape every season of the year. Plus, there are so many programs and tours to choose from to help you make the most of you time. For the little ones, the park even offers little ranger programs that they will love.
Shenandoah National Park – Virginia
For the family that would rather view the scenery of America from the back seat of a car instead of the backcountry, Shenandoah National Park is the perfect option for you. The park covers almost 200,000 acres in the scenic state of Virginia.
The famous Skyline Drive takes you through the massive and legendary Blue Ridge Mountains. While the drive is only a little over a hundred miles long, there are dozens of scenic outlooks to stop and enjoy. Let the fresh mountain air fill your lungs as you take in the unspoiled views of this expansive, tree-filled countryside. If you do not mind hiking for a bit, there are also many trails along the route, some of which lead to waterfalls that are only a quick jaunt from your car. The picturesque drive, which has been hailed as one of the top mountain drives in America, takes you across the entire length of the park. There are also many locations to take advantage of some of the park's programs as well as to listen to park rangers as they share about the various plant life and wildlife in the area. Another benefit of this drive is that it is in close proximity to the nation's capital and other historical sites, making it easy to enjoy Washington D.C, Fredericksburg, Harper's Ferry, and more. Enjoying a natural adventure while exploring a little of our nation’s history is always a good mix.
Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
Many people have the Grand Canyon on their bucket list of family vacations. Unfortunately, many simply drive up the windy road, jump out of the car, take a few quick stop photos, and then leave. What a shame! The Grand Canyon National Park offers so much for people looking for more than a photo op. Plus, it is a national park brimming with fun for the whole family. Rafting down the Colorado River, hiking the Kaibab Trail, or taking a mule ride down to the base for an unforgettable evening are just a few of the highlights. Even enjoying a helicopter tour or drive around this national landmark is spectacular. The Desert View Drive has over a half of dozen great viewpoints, which shows off the size and scope of Mother Nature's masterpiece.
For families who like to trek, the Grand Canyon has a range of campgrounds, hikes, and viewpoints. In fact, some of the most epic views in the park can only be seen when hiking down into the depths of this mammoth gorge.
This national park is a vast and stunning stretch of America. Spending a few days exploring the Grand Canyon is an exciting adventure for family members of all ages and will leave your family filled with a greater love for the outdoors.
Grand Tetons National Park – Wyoming
Located in northwest Wyoming, this national park encompasses tall mountain ranges, low valleys, and endless opportunities for family adventures. The Grand Tetons is a popular destination for hikers, mountaineers, and campers. The crowning jewel of the park is Grand Teton Peak that sits tall at 4,000 meters high. This park is only a ten-minute drive from Yellowstone, but if you think they are similar, then you are mistaken; the landscape varies wildly between the parks.
One trip the kids are sure to love is the boat/hike adventure to Inspiration Point. Hop on the Jenny Lake Shuttle for a relaxing and peaceful boat ride through the park. After disembarking, you will find that it is only a short half-mile hike to hidden falls. Sit down and enjoy the beauty before venturing another half-mile to Inspiration Point. The last leg of the journey is short; however, be warned, as it is a rather steep and challenging trek, but so well worth it. From the top of the point, you get an expansive view of surrounding forests, snowy mountains, and quiet lakes. It is a great family challenge with a wonderful reward to enjoy together at the end. Little kids will also love the Nature Explorer’s Backpack that they can borrow at the park's information center. Inside is all the tools a little explorer will need such as a journal, flash cards about the park's nature, and even plaster molds to make impressions of animal’s footprints.
Badlands National Park – South Dakota
Get ready for everyone in your family to have a blast in Badlands National Park. The park is full of dramatic rock formations, huge canyons, and odd layered rock walls lining ancient, mysterious passages.
The park also has a lot of unique wildlife such as prairie dogs and big horn sheep. However, the real charm of the Badlands is found in the fun and exciting activities having to do with one of the richest fossil deposits in the entire world.
What kid would not lose their mind going hunting for real fossils? I am in my thirties, and I would still go crazy for it. Make sure to start your adventure off at the Fossil Exhibit where the whole family will learn about the history of the Badlands as well as what type of fossils can be found there. Next, take a drive to the Otherworldly Wall, a geological masterpiece that stretches over 80 miles throughout the Badlands. The park also has an onsite paleontology lab where you can watch scientists work on the most recently discovered fossils.
America’s National Parks are expansive and cover a wide array of environments and ecosystems. Each one of these national parks will not only show your family the beauty and grandeur of untouched America, but also contain enough exciting adventures that will keep your family entertained. In fact, chances are they will learn a great deal about America, science, and history without even realizing they are actually learning. It is something that every family should do together once in their lifetimes.
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