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The 12 best US national parks for kids

The US has many national parks that are perfect for a family vacation, whether you wish to experience the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon or go wildlife spotting in Yellowstone. Each national park has tons of activities for kids of all ages, including hiking, horseback riding and rock climbing. With 63 to choose from, it can be hard to know which are the best national parks to visit with kids. 


Explore Worldwide offers an array of immersive small-group tours to national parks across the US for adults and teens aged 16 and over.


Here are the 12 best national parks for your next family trip


1. Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, one of Utah's famous Big Five national parks, offers plenty of short, kid-friendly hiking trails that take you past incredible rock formations, such as Balanced Rock, the Windows, the iconic Delicate Arch. A great way for older kids, and adults, to enjoy all Arches National Park has to offer is on our Best of the American West tour.


2. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

For kids of all ages fascinated by outer space, hiking through the otherworldly hoodoo rock formations and red-rock amphitheater of Bryce Canyon National Park, also in Utah, will make them feel like they're on an alien planet. This is one of several incredible national parks families with older teens can explore on our Walking the Western US National Parks tour.

3. Death Valley National Park, California 

Mining ghost towns, trails through multi-colored rock canyons and huge dunes you can sandboard on are just some of the exciting attractions for kids in Death Valley National Park, California. It’s North America's hottest and driest destination.

4. Everglades National Park, Florida

For maximum fun for kids of all ages, hop on an airboat to see crocodiles, alligators, manatees, leatherback turtles and the elusive Florida panther in the wetlands and forests of Florida's vast Everglades National Park.

5. Glacier National Park, Montana

With its valleys, mountains and namesake glaciers, Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the best national parks to visit with kids. Fun family adventures include crossing the Continental Divide on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, hiking the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, and seeing Avalanche Lake.

6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Located in Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park offers a wealth of activities for the whole family to enjoy. There are plenty of kid-friendly like hiking along the South Rim to see the canyon's colorful banded walls, rafting on the Colorado River and learning how the Grand Canyon was formed at the visitor center. Adults and older teens can experience all this and more on our Western USA National Parks Explorer Tour.

7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Visit one of the world's most active volcanoes and see how the Hawaiian islands were made in real-time at the Big Island's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It’s home to actively-erupting volcanoes, glowing lava flows and stark alien landscapes, and is perfect for kids who love exploring.

8. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Descend into the longest-known cave system in the world in Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park, one of the best national parks for kids who love adventures. See massive caverns full of stalactites and stalagmites, and learn about the incredible natural and human history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

From hiking to alpine lakes to looking for moose and elk, the mountains, forests and tundras of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park are a playground for adventurous kids.

10. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, primarily located in Wyoming, is an outdoor paradise for kids and adults. You’ll find erupting geysers, colorful hot springs and wildlife like grizzly bears, mountain goats, and moose roaming free in the country’s most famous national park. Families with older teens will have the opportunity to see it all on our Discover Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons tour.


11. Yosemite National Park, California

See thousand-foot waterfalls, Yosemite Valley's granite domes and sequoia forests full of mule deer in Yosemite National Park, one of California's best national parks for kids and adults alike. Don't forget to grab a family photo at Tunnel View vista near the park entrance.


12. Zion National Park, Utah

From winding slot canyons for the young ones to more extreme hikes for older kids, like Angel's Landing, Zion National Park's soaring mountains and deep canyons have something for every member of the family.


Tips for traveling to national parks with kids

Here are some important tips to remember when visiting national parks with kids:
  • Visit the national parks early to avoid the crowds and the heat of the day.
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and snacks.
  • Use exploring the national parks to teach kids about "Leave No Trace" environmental principles.
  • Have your kids join the Junior Ranger program! Offered through the National Park Service, your kids can complete activities to earn their Junior Park Ranger badge and certificate.
  • Bring a national parks passport and get it stamped at each park you visit on your national parks trip for a fun souvenir.

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