Affordable and adventurous, what’s not to love about a family trip to one of America’s greatest parks? Whether you are looking for a laidback island escape or an active excursion, there is a national park that is perfect for your family. Let’s run down the best national parks for a family vacation, and take a closer look at those parks that are perfect for year-round visits.
While it’s easy to find gorgeous parks during the summer, people often forget how many incredible parks are at their best outside of summer.
Here’s a look at the top picks for your family.
Best National Parks for a Family Vacation: Arches National Park
Location: Outside of Moab, Utah
Best Time to Visit: Anytime BUT summer! It gets up to 100 degrees in July. Late fall and spring offer comfortable afternoons in the 70s.
The red rocks shining underneath the blue skies of the Arches National Park will captivate your family. Iconic for its 2,000 natural sandstone arches, this is easily one of the best national parks in the United States.
It is a dream destination for hikers of all sizes. The Delicate Arch trail is an unforgettable hike that older kids will love. You can easily get to some gorgeous sites with younger children too! The most kid-friendly hikes in Arches National Park will take you to the Balanced Rock, Sand Dune Arch, and Skyline Arch. Any given path is less than a half a mile long before you reach your photo op.
For older kids, I’d recommend checking out the rafting trips around the town of Moab. There are great options out there that will make for an exciting day out.
Best National Parks for a Family Vacation: Haleakala National Park
Location: Island of Maui, Hawaii
Best Time to Visit: This place is gorgeous 365 days per year (just bundle up if you’re going to hike to the top. You can expect temps to be 35 degrees lower at the peak than at sea level).
Haleakalā Crater, a 10,000-foot tall inactive volcano, is Maui’s highest point and it’s a major tourist draw. You can drive up to the top so it’s doable even with very young kids. In fact, Maui is an ultra kid-friendly destination that has something for everyone. Whether you want to lounge on picture-perfect beaches or going on adventure hikes up the volcano, this is a once in a lifetime destination.
Best National Parks for a Family Vacation: Everglades National Park
Location: Counties of Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Collier in Florida
Best Time to Visit: November to March (mosquitos plus the ultra-hot humidity make summers far too uncomfortable).
Kids will love exploring the subtropical wilderness and getting up close and personal with alligators and manatees. There is a range of different options like guided hikes, bird-watching excursions, airboats ride, bike rentals, canoe trips, or tours around the entire bike.
Tip- Renting a bike is a great way to see as much of the Everglades National Park as you like and do it at your own pace. Rental is under 10 dollars per hour per bike. Just note they can sell out quickly on weekends!
Best National Parks for a Family Vacation: Death Valley National Park
Location: Covering Southeastern California and Nevada.
Best Time to Visit: Mid-October to mid-May (summer is HOT. I mean seriously hot. We are talking about afternoons over 120 degrees F regularly from May to September)
Death Valley National Park has an otherworldly beauty. It’s like stepping onto a set of a science fiction movie. In fact, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is actually where Star Wars was filmed!
Take a road trip down Artist’s Drive then relax at Zabriskie Point. The landscapes are like nothing you have ever seen before. Not only is this a bucket list destination for photographers but it’s a blast for kids.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is full of lush sand where kids can run around, roll, slide, and make sand angels. The Badwater Basin is a salt flat that happens to be the lowest spot in North America. Kids of all ages will love playing with the massive chunks of salt and hearing their names echo in the vast space. It is also a prime opportunity to get kids interested in the natural sciences and the world around them.
Tips on Planning for a National Park Visit
If this is your first time going off the grid with your family, spend some extra energy planning. Traveling to parks, especially remote ones like Death Valley, often means getting into areas without amenities. We are talking no gas stations, fast food, or bathrooms for long periods. It’s crucial to know where you are going and come prepared.
Planning to drive? Here is everything you need to know about simple and stress-free family road trips!