U.S. National Parks are great places to take kids. There are plenty of outdoor activities and opportunities to connect and learn about nature, enjoy camping, water sports and much more. If you’re looking for a fun family adventure, discover more about the U.S. National Parks around the country.
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There are a total of 61 U.S. National Parks across 29 states and 2 U.S. territories. California has the most with nine, followed by Alaska with eight, Utah with five, and Colorado with four.
Over 50 of the National Parks offer a variety of kids activities and programs geared for kids, such as ranger-led activities, recreational trails that small legs can handle, and other fun activities and events. The best bit is that many of these programs are free!
If you are planning on attending a guided program, check if there’s one that is specifically for kids.
This article by dad Frank, who is also a park ranger, has some super tips and insights into visiting U.S. National Parks with kids, and there are also some great tips and downloads on the National Parks website.
Remember when visiting a National Park to follow signs and instructions, stay safe and leave everything as you found it.
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Every Kid Outdoors
Every Kid Outdoors is a special programme for U.S. fourth graders and family members which gives them free access to over 2,000 places to discover wildlife, resources, and history.
To obtain a pass, fourth grade students can visit the bilingual Every Kid Outdoors website, participate in a short educational activity, and then download a paper voucher to print and bring with them to visit public lands and waters all across the country. Every Kid Outdoors begins each year on September 1st and goes through to August 31st.
U.S. National Parks in Alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Travelling along it you will see low-elevation forest give way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains, culminating in North America’s tallest peak, 20,310′ Denali. Wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages.
It’s also the only one of the U.S. National Parks with a kennel of working sled dogs! You can stop by and meet the dogs or attend a ranger-led mushing demonstration.
What’s at Denali National Park for Kids?
The Denali with Kids free travel guide is designed for parents and guardians who are traveling to Denali, covering everything from the best places to camp and hike to important safety and logistical information. This guide will help you plan your trip and you can download it for free or pick it up in visitor centers throughout the park.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site — one of the world’s largest international protected areas.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve lies west of Juneau, AK and can only be reached by plane or boat. The only road merely connects the small town of Gustavus and its airfield to park headquarters at Bartlett Cove (10 miles).
The majority of people visiting typically come by cruise ship but you can explore Bartlett Cove, the only developed area in Glacier Bay National Park. a few short trails, a public dock, campground, Glacier Bay Lodge with the Park Visitor Center on the second level, and the Visitor Information Station.
What’s at Glacier Bay National Park for Kids?
Kids visiting Glacier Bay National Park can
- Spend the night in Glacier Bay
- Become a Junior Ranger
- Join a ranger-led activity
- Explore Glacier Bay on the day boat
- Visit Snow, aka Whale 68
- Stop by the visitor center
- Take a hike
- Visit the Tribal House and discover the importance of Glacier Bay to the native Tlingit people
- Explore the beach at low tide
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Kenai Fjords is where “Mountains, Ice, and Ocean Meet”. It’s a land where the ice age lingers. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords’ crowning feature. Wildlife thrives in icy waters and lush forests around this vast expanse of ice.
- Explore the Fjords on a boat tour and experience Exit Glacier, the only part of the park accessible by road, offers short trails, viewpoints, and a nature center.
- Attend a ranger-led program where you can join a park ranger for a short walk, interpretive talk, or a day hike and learn more about your park.
- Go kayaking in Kenai Fjords. This is an exciting way to explore the fjords, see glaciers, and view wildlife.
- Stay in a public use cabin. There are two coastal public use cabins available in summer.
The park is open year-round; however, changing conditions can dictate what areas are accessible. Check the conditions before setting out.
What’s at Kenai Fjords National Park for Kids?
When you visit Kenai Fjords National Park you can check out an Art for Parks or a Discovery backpack. They are available at the Exit Glacier Nature Center. Kids and their families can use it to explore their artistic or scientific side while visiting the park. Ask a ranger or volunteer about earning the Junior Glacier Ranger patch.
Junior Fjord Ranger walks are available for visitors (ages 8-12) at the Kenai Fjords Visitor Center in the summer. All participants will have the opportunity to earn a Junior Fjord Ranger patch. Check the visitor center for current dates and times.
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U.S. National Parks in Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most famous sights and natural wonders of the world. A unique combination of geologic colour and eroded forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep. It’s fair to say that Grand Canyon really is grand!
As it’s one of the busiest parks particularly during summer season, you should plan your visit carefully. Consider staying over, but you can go for the day if you time your visit to avoid parking and traffic.
Most people go to the South Rim, which has the most facilities and is open all year while North Rim is open for the season usually from mid May through to September.
For an unusual route to the South Rim, you can take a train from Williams, AZ on the Grand Canyon Railway, you get there at 11.45am and leave at 3.30pm giving you a few hours to enjoy the Canyon. If staying overnight then enjoy sunset or sunrise (or both!) both magical experiences. Be warned accommodation books up quickly.
Bring a re-usable water bottle for each member of your family to keep hydrated.
What’s at the Grand Canyon National Park for Kids?
Kids can become a Junior Ranger and learn about Grand Canyon while they visit.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Petrified Forest is a surprising place, offering far more than the world renowned petrified logs. You can see so much just from your car and a few stops at overlooks. Walking one of the short maintained trails or even hiking into the backcountry along one of the ‘Off the Beaten Path’ routes gives you possible sightings of fossils, badlands, buttes and mesas, ancient petroglyphs, wildlife and wildflowers, and vast vistas for more than a hundred miles!
The Painted Desert is perfect for hiking and contemplation. Petrified Forest even starts with “pet”! They are one of the most animal friendly parks. Bring your leashed pet any place you are allowed to go except into the buildings. You can even take Fluffy on a trail or backpack overnight with Spot!
What’s at Petrified Forest National Park for Kids?
Check out these fun things to do while you are in the Petrified Forest National Park.
- Become a Junior Ranger – Earn a badge by completing activities.
- Go Sightseeing – There are lots of things to see up and down the park road.
- Walk Trails – Stretch your legs on one or all of the hiking trails.
- Hunt for Treasure – See if you can find all the geocaches hidden in the park.
- Hike in the Backcountry – Get off trail and wander through badlands, there are lots of hikes to take.
- Visit the Museums – Bones are spilling out of the ground at Petrified Forest. Become a mini paleontologist! Check out Triassic animal skeletons.
- Talk to a Ranger – You may catch a ranger in a visitor center, on trail, or during a Ranger Program.
- Meet an Artist – Artists-in-Residence give talks and walks while Cultural Demonstrators show you how they make traditional crafts.
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona is home to the nation’s largest cacti. The giant saguaro is the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of the modern city of Tucson. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.
What’s at Saguaro National Park for Kids?
Young people are encouraged to discover their environment by dissecting owl pellets, cooking a trail snack on a backpack stove, hiking in the desert, and drawing a favourite cactus. These are just some of the activities children can experience when participating in one of Saguaro National Park’s Junior Ranger programs.
Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up a workbook, which takes approximately 1-3 hours to complete, and can be completed at the child’s own pace. Junior Rangers and their families explore the parks using activity booklets designed especially for them. The booklets introduce park stories and point out things of interest that might otherwise go unnoticed.
And if you see the Roadrunner, don’t tell Wile E Coyote!
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U.S. National Parks in Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Nicknamed “The American Spa,” Hot Springs National Park today surrounds the north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. At this more unusual park you can:
- Tour the historic Fordyce Bathhouse and watch the park movie, Valley of Vapors, and the bathing video. Ask about guided tours.
- Visit the park store, Bathhouse Row Emporium, in the Lamar Bathhouse.
- Stroll through the Bathhouse Row National Historic Landmark District which includes the Grand Promenade.
- Experience the thermal water and take a traditional bath at the Buckstaff Bathhouse (first come, first serve) or a modern spa experience at the Quapaw Baths and Spa (reservation may be required).
- Hike to the 216 foot Mountain Tower which has great views of the surrounding mountains
- Drive the park’s scenic mountain roads
- Plan a picnic at one of the park picnic areas
- Take a hike
What’s at Hot Springs National Park for Kids?
The park has a Junior Trail Ranger program. Children may pick up a program guide at the visitor center and complete walking at least three designated trails and complete five activities. They will then return to the park visitor center to receive an award pin.
U.S. National Parks in California
Channel Islands National Park, California
The Channel Islands National Park encompasses five islands and their surrounding one mile of the ocean, ideal for quiet, uninterrupted time with family and friends. They are wonderful places to hike, camp, snorkel, take a boat trip, go whale watching, kayak, birdwatch, take photographs, sketch, or just relax to the soothing sounds of the natural world. Stop by one of the visitor centers in Ventura or Santa Barbara to plan your visit.
What’s at Channel Islands National Park for Kids?
- Tidepool Talks – throughout the year on weekends and holidays, rangers offer free tidepool talks at 11am and 3pm at the marine life exhibit in the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center in Ventura.
- Guided Hikes on the Islands – guided hikes may take place on days that the concessionaire boats and planes run to the islands
- Junior Ranger – helping children discover and protect the wonders of the islands.
Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
Death Valley National Park is definitely the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park in the U.S. In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Be mindful of the safety advice when visiting Death Valley National Park.
What’s at Death Valley National Park for Kids?
- Indoor Activities – Explore the visitor center, see the park film, or check out the nearby Borax Museum.
- Outdoor Activities – Death Valley is a 3.4 million acre playground. Drive it, hike it, bike it, see it!
- Take a Ranger-guided nature walk – Enhance your experience of Death Valley by joining a ranger-guided tour, nature walk, patio talk, or night program.
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Joshua Tree National Park, California
Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain.
Joshua Tree National Park is open year-round. There are few facilities within the park’s approximately 800,000 acres, making Joshua Tree a true desert wilderness just a few hours outside Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
About 2.8 million visitors come to the park each year to enjoy activities such as hiking, camping, photography, rock climbing, and simply enjoying the serene desert scenery. The busy season in Joshua Tree runs from October through May.
What’s at Joshua Tree National Park For Kids?
Kids can earn a Junior Ranger Badge at Joshua Tree National Park. When you visit the park, you can complete a Junior Ranger activity book at any park visitor center and earn a badge.
Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park, California
Both Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park can be said to be in the Land of Giants. Huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, and the world’s largest trees. These two parks lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada east of the San Joaquin Valley.
Explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks with the free, official National Park Service App. Download the app before you arrive to plan your visit and you can also download content to access offline even when there’s no wifi or phone coverage.
What’s at Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park For Kids?
Rangers present free interpretive programs for families throughout the year, and additional programs, such as Kids’ Campfire Talks, may be available in the summer months. Stop by a visitor center or check the weekly program flyer to find out about upcoming programs.
Kids ages 5 and up are also invited to participate in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon Junior Ranger program. Pick up a free Junior Ranger booklet at any visitor center. Turn completed booklets into a ranger at a visitor center or evening program to take the Junior Ranger pledge and receive the official Sequoia and Kings Canyon Junior Ranger badge.
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Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming features, meadows filled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past while hot water continues to shape the land.
The remarkable hydrothermal features in Lassen Volcanic National Park include roaring fumaroles (steam and volcanic-gas vents), thumping mud pots, boiling pools, and steaming ground. For your safety stay on established trails and boardwalks!
What’s at Lassen Volcanic National Park for Kids?
In the summer, there are ranger-led Junior Ranger programs for kids seven to 12 and ranger-led talks for the entire family at the Loomis Museum.
- Junior Ranger Program – Kids ages seven to 12 can participate. Just pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Loomis Museum, or the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. Complete the required activities and present them to a park ranger at the park.
- Chipmunk Club and Volcano Club – Kids of any age can participate in these programs – just pick up your booklet at the Loomis Museum, or the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. Follow the instructions and have fun!
Pinnacles National Park, California
Some 23 million years ago multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form what would become Pinnacles National Park, leaving a unique landscape teeming with life: prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the inspiring California condor.
Unlike many national parks, Pinnacles National Park is most popular in the cooler months. During the spring, when the grasses are green and a variety of wildflowers can be seen along any trail, hiking is at its best. Fall and winter are also excellent times to visit.
There are over 30 miles of hiking trails at Pinnacles National Park, ranging from easy, flat walks to more challenging, all-day hikes. Please remember to carry and drink plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months.
Ranger programs are a fun way to enhance your experience at Pinnacles National Park. Programs are offered on weekends through mid-December. All ranger programs are free, and when you arrive at the park you can either ask a park ranger or consult one of the Ranger Activity Boards located outside the Pinnacles Visitor Center, the Bear Gulch Nature Center, or the West Pinnacles Visitor Contact Station for the day’s opportunities.
What’s at Pinnacles National Park for Kids?
Kids can learn more about Pinnacles National Park as you hike and explore, just ask about their free Junior Ranger program at either visitor center.
Redwood National Park, California
Most people know Redwood as home to the tallest trees on Earth but did you know that Redwood National Park also protects vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild river-ways, and nearly 40 miles of rugged coastline?
From scenic drives, to exploring beaches, to watching gray whales migrate, there’s plenty to do at the Park. Trillium Falls Trail is a 2½ mile loop trail through ancestral forests and has one of the few waterfalls in the parks. This trail is many rangers’ favourite, and it has plenty of parking for all vehicle sizes, picnic tables and restrooms.
Programs and activities are available from mid-May to mid-September. Activity schedules are posted at information centers, and on campground bulletin boards.
What’s at Redwood National Park for Kids?
There’s plenty for kids at Redwood National Park:
- Junior Ranger Programs for ages 7-12 have fun while learning about the people, plants, animals, and life systems of the redwood region.
- Guided Kayak Tours – For a limited time in summer, Redwood National and State Parks conducts kayak tours of the Smith River—a crown jewel of the National Wild & Scenic River System and the largest free-flowing river system in California.
- Tidepool Walks – Get your hands (and feet!) wet while discovering delicate tidepool creatures accompanied by a park ranger-naturalist who leads this investigation into the hidden world beneath the waves.
- Campfire Programs – As darkness descends on the North Coast, the Jedediah Smith, Mill Creek, and Elk Prairie campgrounds are ideal settings for an informative and inspiring night cap. Programs may include narrated slide shows, storytelling, music, and/or games.
- Nature Walks – Immerse yourself in the forest, shore, or prairielands. Join a park ranger-naturalist for a down-to-earth exploration of the natural communities that contribute to one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is one of the most well known, and most visited of the U.S. National Parks. Millions of people visit Yosemite from April through October. Yosemite Valley is the main destination for most visitors, but there are many places to go in the park. A myriad of activities awaits from hiking to guided tours to water activities to picnicking.
Early birds avoid traffic! From spring through fall, arrive in the park before or after peak hours (before 9am and after 5pm) to avoid delays and traffic congestion. Also it pays to plan ahead: reservations are not required to enter Yosemite, but it’s strongly recommended that you make reservations for lodging, camping, and backpacking.
You can download the Yosemite National Park free app to help plan your visit.
What’s at Yosemite National Park For Kids?
- Be a Junior Ranger – Kids aged 7-13 can become a Yosemite Junior Ranger by purchasing a self-guided booklet at one of the visitor centers. In order to earn a Junior Ranger patch, the booklet must be completed, a bag of trash collected, and a guided program attended.
- Be a Little Cub – Yosemite also has a program for ages 3-6 with a self-guided booklet that encourages young visitors and their families to discover Yosemite ’s wonders and to earn a Little Cubs button.
U.S. National Parks in Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock, and craggiest spires in North America. With two million years to work, the Gunnison River, along with the forces of weathering, has sculpted this vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky. Things to do at Black Canyon include:
- Hiking Trails – Trails for all abilities are available on both South and North Rims.
- Scenic Drives – Gorgeous scenic routes are available along the rims and down to the river.
- Fishing – The Gunnison River within Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is well known for outstanding trout fishing.
- Kayaking – This stretch of the Gunnison River is only for the most experienced kayakers.
- Wildlife Watching – Black Canyon provides a unique vertical environment for wildlife.
- Explore the Night – Black Canyon offers night sky viewing opportunities throughout the year.
What’s at Black Canyon of the Gunnison For Kids?
Be a Junior Ranger! Become a Black Canyon of the Gunnison Junior Ranger during your next visit and learn how to protect the park. Pick up a Junior Ranger Activity Booklet at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison South Rim Visitor Center. Complete the requirements listed in the booklet for your age group. Requirements include writing your observations, drawing pictures, completing field activities, and attending a ranger-led program.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Open all day and night year round, at Great Sand Dunes National Park you’ll find the tallest dunes in North America. You’ll also discover grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra.
Download the free Great Sand Dunes Visitor Guide to plan your time and activities at Great Sand Dunes.
What’s at Great Sand Dunes National Park for Kids?
The Great Sand Dunes are super fun for kids and teens! You can:
- Play in the sand
- Sled or sandboard
- Splash in Medano Creek
- Hike in the mountains
- Earn a Junior Ranger badge, pick up the booklet and carry out the activities to earn a badge or patch. There are different age groups in the booklet: 3-6, 7-9, 10-12, and 13 and up
- Check out a Junior Ranger Backpack with compass, magnet, measuring tape, magnifying glass, binoculars, tracking guide, and more. On your clipboard, draw pictures and record your measurements and observations. Return the backpack to the visitor center and show the ranger your drawings, measurements and observations to earn a badge or patch. Just stop at the Junior Ranger Station in the visitor center when you arrive, pick up your booklet or backpack, and go explore!
- Go to a fun ranger program (ask at the Visitor Center for the best kid-friendly programs during your visit)
- Discover animals of Great Sand Dunes
And if you visit during August, then you can enjoy Junior Ranger Day when kids of all ages participate in a variety of fun activities and stations to earn little prizes, t-shirts and other items.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to preserve and interpret the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 CE.
Today, the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.
What’s at Mesa Verde National Park For Kids?
- Junior Ranger Program – Children from age 4 to 12 can become a Junior Ranger at Mesa Verde. Just pick up an activity booklet at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center or the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, explore the park, complete the activities, and take the booklet to any park information center for review. A special Mesa Verde Junior Ranger badge is awarded for a job well done.
- Junior Ranger Station – Visit the Mesa Verde Junior Ranger Station at the Chapin Mesa Museum for some extra Junior Ranger fun. Learn more about the Ancestral Pueblo people with kid-friendly hands-on activities. This is a great place to be sworn in as a Mesa Verde Junior Ranger and receive your badge. Open during summer months.
- Discovering Morefield Campground – Camping is a wonderful time to discover the natural side of Mesa Verde. For a fun, family-oriented way to explore your natural surroundings, pick up a Junior Naturalist Activity Booklet and check-out a Discovery Pack filled with kid-friendly field guides, binoculars, hand lens, Native American storybook, and a “My Mesa Verde Memories” logbook. Available for free check-out at the Junior Ranger Station at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and the Morefield Campground Ranger Station.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. Enjoy Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet including many overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, starry nights, and fun times.
What’s at Rocky Mountain National Park For Kids?
Rocky Mountain National Park is a natural playground for kids and families. Free programs geared for kids happen all around the park.
Junior Ranger Headquarters, located in the summer at Hidden Valley, on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park along Trail Ridge Road, is a great place to start. Join a ranger-led program or become a Junior Ranger. Pick up the free Junior Ranger activity booklet at any visitor contact station, discover the park, and become a ranger by earning your badge. There are 3 different activity books for ages 5 and under, 6-8, and 9 and up.
U.S. National Parks in Florida
Biscayne National Park, Florida
Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne National Park protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. The park offers a variety of ways to help you get to know and enjoy its rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands and vibrant coral reefs.
Recreational opportunities include fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling, paddling, hiking, camping, wildlife watching, cultural exploration and the rare opportunity to experience largely undeveloped Florida Keys. There are also boat tours, ranger programs, art exhibits, special events and more.
What’s at Biscayne National Park For Kids?
Kids may enjoy snorkelling in the bay or coral reefs, poking along the rocky shoreline near the park visitor center and canoeing through mangrove forests. There are great visitor center exhibits and a touch table to help kids learn about the park’s watery world. Kids can become a junior ranger as well.
Special events offer opportunities for families to learn about the park together. On the second Sunday of each month from December through April, the park hosts Family Fun Fest, three full hours of hands on activities for kids and kids-at-heart.
Come celebrate the National Park Service birthday on the last Sunday in August. Cleanups are a great way to spend a day in the park and help park resources at the same time.
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Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
This is one of the most unique U.S. National Parks as you can explore a 19th century fort and snorkel crystal clear water with incredible marine life. Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park, a 100-square mile park which is mostly open water with seven small islands.
Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequents the area.
The 100-square-mile park contains:
- A pristine subtropical ecosystem including the third largest coral reef in the world.
- Historic Fort Jefferson – one of the largest coastal forts built.
- Important populations of wildlife, including fish, sea turtles, birds, coral, lobsters, and many others.
- More than 300 historic shipwrecks.
- An important resting spot for migrating birds.
- Two historic lighthouses.
What’s at Dry Tortugas National Park For Kids?
Kids can enjoy many different aspects of this special park. From exploring a 19th century fort to snorkelling in coral reef, the Dry Tortugas has a lot to offer for children.
Kids can also participate in the Junior Ranger program. The NPS Junior Ranger program is an activity based program that offers young visitors the opportunity to join the National Park Service “family” as junior ranger.
Everglades National Park, Florida
The largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, Everglades National Park protects an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther.
The Everglades is an expansive area of land in south Florida, which consists of 1.5 million acres of wetland. Since the park covers such a large area of south Florida, planning is a must. There are three entrances to Everglades National Park and they are not connected, they are accessed through different areas of south Florida.
All these areas offer a wide range of activities:
- You can take a short walk on the Anhinga Trail to spot abundant wildlife including turtles, herons and alligators!
- Climb atop Shark Valley’s 65-foot observation tower for a bird’s eye view of the glades.
- Glide over Florida Bay by tour boat or kayak for a chance to glimpse a crocodile, manatee, or dolphin.
- Explore the pinelands by bike, paddle amongst the mangroves on Nine-Mile Pond, or tour the historic Nike Hercules missile base.
- Join a ranger on a slough slog deep into the heart of a cypress dome.
What’s at Everglades National Park For Kids?
Kids can have a great time exploring the Everglades with their families and friends. Take some time to look over some of the exhibits and films to be found at the different visitor centers. Participate in any one of regularly scheduled ranger programs. Take a stroll along one of the trails in the Park search of some amazing wildlife. And with a little work, kids can even become an Everglades National Park Junior Ranger!
U.S. National Parks in Hawaii
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Your visit to Haleakala National Park might include a glimpse of a rare native bird, a hands-on experience with Hawaiian culture, breezes through the bamboo forest, or warm sun on your back as you hike a volcanic landscape.
From hiking the Wilderness Experience to having an encounter with native Hawaii, a visit to the Summit Area may provide you with these experiences and many more. Each day in the Summit Area, park staff provide talks to help visitors grasp the wild, high-elevation world at the top of the mountain. Staff are always available during Visitor Center hours to help inquiring minds get the most out of their visit
You will find streams, waterfalls, rocky coastlines, and lush vegetation in the Kīpahulu Area of the park.
Please note: people with respiratory or other medical conditions should be aware that the summit of Haleakala is at 10,023 ft. And there is no food, beverages, or gasoline in the park.
What’s at Haleakala National Park for Kids?
Keiki (kids) have the opportunity to become a Haleakala Junior Ranger. Stop by any of the visitor centers to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet. A ranger will be happy to help guide you through the book’s instructions. When you have finished your activities, stop by the visitor center again to take your pledge and be officially sworn in!
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes in the world. Extending from sea level to the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet, the park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park is open 24 hours daily, year round.
Take the Crater Rim Drive Tour and the Chain of Craters Road, an exceptionally scenic and spectacular drive. Start your visit at the Kīlauea Visitor Center located just beyond the park’s entrance station on the right. Kīlauea Visitor Center is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Here, you will receive the latest information on trails, ranger-led activities, road conditions, and safety precautions, after all, it is a site with active volcanoes!
Exploration by walking and hiking in the Park can be a fascinating and enjoyable experience or attend one of the many special events led by rangers in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
What’s at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park for Kids?
Be a Junior Ranger – choose from several programs for families with children up to the age of 12 who can earn a collectible Junior Ranger Badge from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Download free resources on the Family Fun page before your visit.
U.S. National Parks in Idaho
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming
On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park for all to enjoy the unique hydrothermal wonders. From the dazzling eruptions of geysers, to the prismatic colours of thermophilic communities, to the natural sounds whispering or thundering through the landscape, Yellowstone is a feast for the senses.
Yellowstone National Park preserves the most extraordinary collection of hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles on Earth. More than 10,000 hydrothermal features are found here, of which more than 500 are geysers. There are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else on Earth.
As well as Old Faithful, the most famous geyser, there are numerous other geysers big and small, named and unnamed. Make sure to stay on the boardwalk, designated trails, or roads at all times.
What’s at Yellowstone National Park for Kids?
Kids can personalise their Yellowstone adventure by investigating the themes that interest them the most. As you explore, keep your eye out for the theme symbols and colours for similar topics. Themes include Geology, Hydrothermal, Wildlife, History and Preservation.
Before you go you can plan your adventure by exploring the interactive map to learn more about just what can be found within the park.
Two popular ways to enhance kids’ understanding of the park’s resources while exploring the park is to participate in the Junior Ranger and Young Scientist programs.
U.S. National Parks in Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park preserves the cave system and a part of the Green River valley and hilly country of south central Kentucky. This is the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 400 miles (643 km) explored. Tickets are required to enter Mammoth Cave. Reservations are not required, but are recommended as cave tours frequently sell out.
NB: the following items are not permitted on cave tours: Strollers, and all child backpack carriers.
What’s at Mammoth Cave National Park For Kids?
Mammoth Cave National Park brings out the kid in most people – that curious, wondering side that grown-ups sometimes forget. With kids, it comes naturally:
“Where does that hole go?”
“Eww, what is that thing? … Can I touch it?”
The park offers several activities for families, and for kids to do by themselves.
- Trog Tour (for children 8-12) – No Parents Allowed! Twelve children voyage overland and underground with two rangers for a kids’-eye view of the world’s longest known cave. This tour is offered seasonally.
- Introduction to Caving (for children 10 and up, and parents) – Families can join in the exploration together on Introduction to Caving, and hike, climb, and even crawl through parts of Mammoth Cave that most tours never visit.
- Nature Track for Kids – Ranger-led programs draw kids together for fun games with a little something extra – a sense of discovery about the place each of us holds in our environment. These are run seasonally.
- Junior Ranger Program – Kids (4-12yrs) can get a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor Center Information Desk, attend ranger-led activities, choose activities in the booklet to earn “bat points,” and receive their Junior Ranger badge at the Information Desk. But don’t think it’s going to be easy… You’ve got to use your eyes and ears to gather all the information you need to know.
- Junior Cave Scientist – Most guided tours teach guests about the history of that particular cave and the surrounding area, as well as its geology, the positive impacts of bats and the importance of cave conservation. There’s a lot more to learn about the scientific research that’s taking place in caves around the world.
U.S. National Parks in Illinois
Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri and Illinois
The Gateway Arch National Park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse. You can purchase advance tickets online.
Things to do at the National Park include:
- Tram Ride to the Top – The unique tram will lift you 630 feet up to the top of the tallest man-made monument in the United States.
- The Museum at the Gateway Arch – Trace the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and rebels who made America possible. Featuring six themed exhibit areas, this innovative and interactive museum celebrates America’s pioneering spirit.
- Old Courthouse – Stand in the footsteps of American heroes at this beautifully restored federal courthouse. The site of several pivotal cases, the Old Courthouse is where the enslaved Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom and Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote. The Old Courthouse hosts a variety of free activities such as daily ranger-led talks, exhibit galleries and restored courtrooms as well as a History Channel film about Dred and Harriet Scott’s quest for freedom.
- St. Louis Riverfront Cruise – a riverboat cruise is a fun and relaxing addition to your Gateway Arch experience.
- Events – From stargazing workshops and yoga under the Arch to concerts, cruises, and holiday celebrations, there’s always something new to learn and do at the Gateway Arch.
What’s at Gateway Arch National Park for Kids?
Young visitors aged 5-18 can earn a Junior Ranger badge at either the Arch or Old Courthouse. Junior Ranger activity sheets are available at the information desk at both sites. Complete the selected activities to receive your badge.
U.S. National Parks in Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Park hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and has much to offer. Whether you enjoy scouting for rare species of birds or flying kites on the sandy beach, the national park’s 15,000 acres will continually enchant you. Hikers will enjoy 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, mysterious wetlands, sunny prairies, meandering rivers and peaceful forests.
What’s at Indiana Dunes National Park for Kids?
At the Park kids can:
- Hike one of the many trails
- Visit Chellberg Farm and the Bailly Homestead
- Enjoy a picnic with friends and family
- Enjoy a program with family and friends
- Visit the beach
- Become a Junior Ranger
U.S. National Parks in Maine
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States, an abundance of habitats, and a rich cultural heritage. At 3.5 million visits a year, it’s one of the top 10 most visited National Parks in the United States.
Visitors enjoy 27 miles of historic motor roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads. At the Park activities include:
- Ranger-guided bicycle tours & boat cruises
- Ranger programs
- Bus and carriage tours
- Outdoor activities
What’s at Acadia National Park for Kids?
- Carroll Homestead Open House & Junior Ranger Station – explore an 1800s farm homestead, hear family stories, and play pioneer games suitable for all ages. Wheelchair accessible.
- Become a Junior Ranger – A junior ranger attends ranger programs, completes activities in a workbook, and promises to take care of Acadia. When you arrive in the park, stop by a visitor center, nature center, or one of the park campgrounds to obtain your booklet. Complete activities in the booklet and attend ranger programs.
- Take a Ranger-Guided Boat Cruise – Four different Cruises lasting 2-4.5 hours are offered during the season. Touch real sea life brought up from the ocean floor; search for seals, porpoises, and bird life; and explore island life and maritime history.
- Visit the Nature Center – What kinds of birds are found in the park? In which habitat can you find snakes or frogs? Enjoy hands-on exhibits to help you uncover the secrets behind how the park manages its plants and animals.
- Play in the Sand – Sand Beach is one of only two sandy ocean beaches on Mount Desert Island. If the water there is too cold for you, only 55 F (13 C) at best, try Echo Lake Beach on Route 102 north of Southwest Harbor.
- Go for a Hike or Bike Ride – Acadia has 125 miles (201 km) of Hiking Trails and 45 miles (72 km) of winding carriage roads for walking or Bicycling
- Acadia Quest – Acadia Quest is a series of youth- and family-oriented experiences in the park that encourage youth and families to explore, learn about, and protect national parks and other conserved lands. Families or friends create a team and complete activities in categories of Explore, Learn, and Protect.
U.S. National Parks in Michigan
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Explore a rugged, isolated island, far from the sights and sounds of civilization. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers stunning scenic beauty and outdoor adventures, away from the crowds. Isle Royale charges a daily $7 per person entrance fee. All Federal Recreation Passes waive this fee.
What’s at Isle Royale National Park for Kids?
Isle Royale is a great place to bring your family for the day or overnight. Hike, camp, fish, boat, join a ranger program, take a boat tour, visit old lighthouses and science research stations, or paddle the quiet water of Tobin Harbor.
- Junior Ranger Program – The Junior Ranger program is for kids ages 6-12 (or those at heart). Complete the Junior Ranger booklet and attend a ranger program. After sharing what you have learned with a ranger, you will receive a Junior Ranger badge! For day and overnight visitors, as well as those who cannot make it out to the island.
- Wilderness Ranger Program – The Wilderness Ranger program is for youth ages 12-17 (or those at heart). Complete the Wilderness Ranger booklet during an overnight backcountry stay. Upon completion, youth will receive a Wilderness Ranger badge.
U.S. National Parks in Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
With over 40% of the park water, Voyageurs National Park is a maze of interconnected water highways. Take a tour of the park, and enjoy other activities such as boating, camping, fishing, hiking, houseboating, tours and programs and winter activities.
What’s at Voyageurs National Park for Kids?
Here is kids’ choice of the top 10 things to do at Voyageurs:
- Let’s see some muscle – Meet real voyageurs; hear their stories, sing their songs, and test your skills by paddling a North Canoe. Do you have the muscle to be a voyageur?
- Be a Silent guardian, watchful protector, a Dark Jr. Ranger – Discover your dark senses, navigate the night, and learn the stories of the stars while protecting the park from light invaders. (Ages 5-12)
- The latest voyageur fashion – Model down the waterway, a Chemise d’homme (shirt) and a Ceinture flechee (sash). It’s the latest rage! Stop at any visitor center to view the latest voyageur fashion trends.
- Let your curiosity guide you – Seven different discovery packs are available for you to pick up and experience Voyageurs on your own or with your family! Explore the amazing world of plants and animals, learn old logging tricks, identify different scenery parts, and walk in the footsteps of those before you.
- To infinity and beyond! – Check out a pair of free binoculars from any visitor center. Go beyond what your eyes can see.
- Become a tracker – Check for clues of wildlife along the trails, in the dirt, or in the trees. In winter, make your own down the trails of Voyageurs on a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis.
- Accessorize – Design your own voyageur necklace or bracelet out of colourful beads while at any visitor center. Use them later to trade for goods with your friends..
- I spy… a Virtual Voyageur – As a voyageur, it is important to look for the signs of past travelers along the trail. Complete an online scavenger hunt to become a Virtual Voyageur!
- Campfires and S’mores – Graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate…OH MY! Bring along s’more ingredients on your next park outing and enjoy the night sky (or beautiful day!) with friends and family.
- Last but not least… become a Protector of the Park and earn your Jr. Ranger badge. Join their Bear Club (ages 9 & up), Night Explorer (ages 5-12), or Garden Explorer (ages 7 & up).
U.S. National Parks in Montana
Glacier National Park, Montana
At Glacier National Park you will find pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude. Relive the days of old through historic chalets, lodges, and the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Enjoy Ranger-led Programs from easy walks and evening talks, to all-day hikes and boat tours. There are lots of camping options, with 13 campgrounds and 1,009 sites to choose from. Other activities include biking, fishing, boating, cross-country skiing. Glacier also hosts special events throughout the year.
What’s at Glacier National Park for Kids?
- Join a Ranger-led activity – There are snowshoe hikes in the winter while summer programs begin in June and end Labor Day.
- Visit Apgar Nature Center (open the 3rd week in June until Labor Day)
- Check out one of their Family Packs (available mid-June to mid-September, first come, first served).
- Print out the Tree Key and use it to identify 13 different conifers in Glacier. This great tool highlights the differences in the park’s cone-bearing trees ;and can be carried anywhere, even the trail!
- Visit the Glacier Institute website to find out about their summer family programs and summer camps for children.
U.S. National Parks in Nevada
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
From the 13,063-foot summit of Wheeler Peak, to the sage-covered foothills, Great Basin National Park is a place to sample the stunning diversity of the larger Great Basin region. Enjoy the solitude of the wilderness, walk among ancient bristlecone pines, bask in the darkest of night skies, and explore mysterious subterranean passages. There are good camping options in the Park with five developed campgrounds with facilities.
Take a tour of the Lehman Caves and its limestone caverns, you’ll see fantastic examples of stalactites, columns, draperies, flowstone, helicities, and rare shield formations. You can book Cave tour tickets online.
NB: The trail can be slippery so wear shoes with good tread. Strollers and baby backpacks are not permitted in the cave. During the summer (March – October) children under 5 are only allowed on the Lodge Room tour, which is ideal for families with young children.
Great Basin has been designated an International Dark Sky Park, on a clear, moonless night, thousands of stars, five of our solar system’s eight planets, star clusters, meteors, man-made satellites, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye. Check the website for their Astronomy programs.
What’s at Great Basin National Park for Kids?
As well as enjoying a visit to Lehman Caves during the summer months, rangers present programs for all ages at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center almost daily.
U.S. National Parks in New Mexico
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
At Carlsbad Caverns National Park you will find high ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus, and desert wildlife – treasures above the ground in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves, formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes.
The entrance fee includes access to the enjoy, on your own, the majority of Carlsbad Cavern along the Big Room and Natural Entrance trails. Access is available by elevator or hiking. Each evening from late-May through October, enjoy a ranger program about the Brazilian free-tailed bats that live in Carlsbad Cavern and see them emerge.
What’s at Carlsbad Caverns National Park for Kids?
Become a Carlsbad Caverns National Park Junior Ranger! Learn about the natural wonders of the park and how you can help preserve them for the future. After completing the age appropriate requirements, a ranger will review your work and award you with an official junior ranger badge! To become a junior ranger, request a free “Junior Ranger Activity Book” at the visitor center.
U.S. National Parks in North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is always open. You can explore the park day and night, any time of year. Visitor center hours vary by season. In winter, there are occasional road closures for snow and ice. Campgrounds are open year-round.
NB: There are no restaurants or hotels in the park, but food and lodging can be found in nearby communities. Pets are welcome to visit but must remain on a leash and cannot go on trails.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park has abundant watchable wildlife. Binoculars are helpful, but not essential. From bison to deer, from horses to beavers, there are many species to spot. Check at the visitor centers for recent sightings and advice on where to potentially find the different species.
What’s at Theodore Roosevelt National Park for Kids?
“The preservation of the useful and beautiful animal and bird life of the country depends largely upon creating in the young an interest in the life of the woods and fields.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
There is a lot to see and do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park! Watch animals in their natural habitat, roast marshmallows over a campfire, hike a trail, or attend a ranger program.
Become a Junior Ranger! When you visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ask at a visitor center for your own Junior Ranger Field Journal. By completing activities and learning about the park, you will earn your own Junior Ranger badge!
U.S. National Parks in North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park.
Wildlife viewing, historic homes and churches, and beautiful mountain scenery make Cades Cove the most popular destination in the park.
Feel the cool spray of a waterfall. Camp under the stars. Explore a historic mill. There’s plenty to see and do in the park.
What is there at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for kids?
During spring, summer, and fall, ranger-led programs suitable for children are offered giving children an opportunity to explore and learn about the park.
Kids aged 5-12 can become a Junior Ranger. Just pick up a Junior Ranger booklet for $2.50 at any park visitor center or at the Cades Cove or Elkmont campground. Complete the activities in the booklet then stop by a visitor center to talk to a ranger and receive your Junior Ranger badge!
U.S. National Parks in Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Though a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal. Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers outdoor activities to suit every interest.
- All Aboard Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad! The National Park Scenic excursion is a unique way to experience all the natural wonder Cuyahoga Valley National Park has to offer. Sit back and relax as the train weaves through the Cuyahoga Valley and races along with the rushing Cuyahoga River. Passengers will spot eagles, deer, beavers and otters in their natural habitat.
- Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail Bike and Hike Aboard Bike or hike the Towpath Trail in one direction and hop on the train on your way back! The train can be flagged down at boarding stations by waving both arms over your head. Please arrive 10 minutes prior to the train’s scheduled arrival, you can pay your fare when you board.
What is there at Cuyahoga National Park for Kids?
A Junior Ranger is a young person between the ages of 7 and 12 who completes the Junior Ranger activities and promises to care for the park! Children 4 to 6 years old explore the park on their own level as a Junior Ranger, Jr. Join us on many ranger led hikes and learning experiences
Go Questing: Find more than 40 adventures-called quests-in the Ohio & Erie Canalway! Put on your sleuthing hat and follow rhyming clues and a curious map to each hidden quest box. Along the way, discover the area’s treasures—the natural and cultural gems of the Canalway.
U.S. National Parks in Oregon
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Visitors come to Crater Lake National Park to see Crater Lake, one of the world’s deepest, clearest, and bluest lakes. Whether day-tripping or spending a week, there are many ways to explore the park and enjoy the lake.
- Discover Crater Lake’s geology on a boat or trolley tour
- Join a ranger program for some fascinating aspective of this 183,224-acre national park.
- Ninety miles of trails meander through diverse forests, and rise to peaks with views of the lake.
- The historic 33-mile Rim Drive circles Crater Lake with views from 30 overlooks. Opportunities to photograph landscapes, the lake, and wildflowers are countless.
- Stargazing, camping, and with some advance planning fishing are also options for things to do.
What is there at Crater Lake for Kids?
There are two ways to become a Junior Ranger at Crater Lake.
- Kids ages 6-12 can earn a Junior Ranger badge by completing at least 7 pages of the park’s Junior Ranger activity book. The books are available free of charge at either visitor center, year-round.
- In the summer, kids ages 6-12 can earn a Junior Ranger patch by participating in a fun, ranger-led activity. The activities last about 20 minutes and take place several times each day behind the Rim Village Visitor Center.
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U.S. National Parks in South Carolina
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Whether you are coming out for a short stroll on the boardwalk or taking a canoe trip down Cedar Creek, there’s lots to enjoy during your visit to the park.
Experience the wonders of wilderness and explore the splendour of one of the oldest and tallest forests east of the Mississippi. Park Activities include hiking, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, ranger led programs and camping.
What is there at Congaree National Park for Kids?
Visitors of all ages are invited to participate in Congaree National Park’s Junior Ranger program. Stop by the Harry Hampton Visitor Center to pick up your Junior Ranger program book. Complete the activities and earn an official Congaree National Park Junior Ranger patch and badge!
U.S. National Parks in South Dakota
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
The rugged beauty of the Badlands National Park draws visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here.
The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today. The Badlands provide considerable opportunities for discovery and exploration. From camping and hiking to bird watching and auto-touring, visitors to Badlands National Park can enjoy countless outdoor adventures.
- Drive the Badlands Highway 240 Loop Road
- Stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center
- Visit the Fossil Prep Lab
- Hike a trail
- Complete the Badlands GPS Adventure
- Go camping & Explore the backcountry
What is there at Badlands National Park for Kids?
- Become a Junior Ranger and promise to help take care of national parks and all the plants and animals that live there.
- No trip to the Badlands is complete without a hiking adventure. Kids agree that the Fossil Exhibit Trail and the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail are two of their favorites.
- The Badlands’ environment changes constantly. Erosion carves the rocks into bizarre formations that look like landscapes from another planet. A heavy rain can uncover fossils that have been hidden for millions of years.
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
Bison, elk, and other wildlife roam the rolling prairie grasslands and forested hillsides of one of America’s oldest national parks, Wind Cave National Park. Below the remnant island of intact prairie sits Wind Cave, one of the longest and most complex caves in the world. Named for barometric winds at its entrance, this maze of passages is home to boxwork, a unique formation rarely found elsewhere.
The visitor center is open and ranger programs are offered daily.
At the time of writing the Wind Cave tours have been suspended until further notice due to major elevator repairs, check their website for any updates.
- All cave tours are ranger-guided and leave from the visitor center.
- Tour sizes are limited. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are available for large groups.
- Long waits are common during peak summer visitation. To avoid waits, tour the cave during the early hours of the day or on weekends. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest days.
What is there at Wind Cave National Park for Kids?
If you plan a Cave tour with your child note that kids 3 and under will likely need to be carried some or all of the way for all Cave Tours and backpack carriers are not allowed in the cave.
- The pace and distance of the Natural Entrance Tour works well even for young children.
- There are no age restrictions for the Garden of Eden, Natural Entrance, or Fairgrounds tours. Most older kids (6 and up) have no problem with the Fairgrounds Tour, the most strenuous of the three regular walking tours.
- The minimum age for the Candlelight Tour is 8 years old.
- The minimum age for the Wild Cave Tour is 16 years old and requires signed parental permission.
Adventures in Nature is a free program geared for children ages 3-12 on selected Tuesdays January into April. Children learn to explore the natural world with games, crafts, and a hike.
Kids can also become a Wind Cave Junior Ranger. The program is free and booklets are available in the bookstore at the visitor center.
U.S. National Parks in Texas
Big Bend National Park, Texas
With over 100 miles of paved roads, 150 miles of dirt roads, and about 200 miles of hiking trails Big Bend National Park offers nearly limitless opportunities for scenic driving, hiking, camping, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, wildlife observation, and stargazing. Additionally, the Rio Grande borders the park for 118 miles providing options for half-day floats to extended excursion by raft, canoe, or kayak.
What is there at Big Bend National Park for Kids?
Big Bend’s diverse habitats – the Rio Grande river corridor, the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains – are all rich with plants, animals, and stories of human history that offer a variety of learning opportunities for children of all ages.
- There are several easy hikes in the park that kids of all ages can go on, including the Window View and the Basin Loop trails in the Chisos Basin. For older children, the Lost Mine Trail provides a good challenge and is an excellent day hike. Other hikes children may enjoy include the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail at Dugout Wells, the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail (with a boardwalk across a beaver pond), and the Boquillas Canyon Trail (with a sand dune by the river).
- Kids may also enjoy viewing fossils and exhibits about dinosaurs at the Panther Junction Visitor Center and the Chisos Basin Visitor Center has an excellent mountain lion exhibit and information about bears.
- The park offers a variety of ranger-led programs. These include guided hikes, evening slide programs, bird walks, and guided explorations of various park features. Stop by one of the park’s visitor centers for a current program schedule.
- Become a Junior Ranger! To make the most of your visit, complete a Junior Ranger Activity Book to earn a badge or patch.
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Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Guadalupe Mountains National Park protects the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest peaks in Texas, an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna, and the stories of lives shaped through conflict, cooperation and survival. Come experience mountains and canyons, desert and dunes, night skies and spectacular vistas within a place unlike any other within the NPS.
At the park you will find more than 80 miles of trails that meander through woodland canyons and lush riparian springs, or zigzag up steep switchbacks directly into the park’s rugged wilderness. If hiking is not in your plans, here are some other activities.
- Camping, with 20 tent and RV sites each, you can make the Pine Springs Campground your base camp during your visit.
- Day Hiking. Here are 3 suggestions: the Smith Spring Trail (2.3 mi. round-trip), the Devil’s Hall Trail (4.3 mi. round-trip), or the McKittrick Canyon Trail (5-7 mi. round-trip).
- Birding & Wildlife Viewing: Download monthly bird and wildlife lists for your reference during your visit.
- Stop by the Pine Springs Visitor Center, walk through the museum, watch the visitor slide show, and walk the Pinery Nature Trail.
What is there at Guadalupe Mountains National Park for Kids?
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is not only an incredible outdoor playground, but also an outstanding natural classroom where kids of all ages can experience Mother Nature up close, in person. The rocky landscape is loaded with fossils, while canyons hide riparian oases teeming with water striders, and rimmed with delicate maidenhair fern.
Begin at the Pine Springs Visitor Center where there are numerous exhibits and a touch-screen “Electronic Ranger” that has fun facts and information about the geology, cultural history, and flora and fauna of the park.
Then enjoy a desert walk along a nature trail, or take a hike up a steep-walled canyon, or into the park’s rugged backcountry.
Evening programs are held at campground amphitheater during the summer season, and don’t forget, the park has a Junior Ranger program – always a hit with the kids!
U.S. National Parks in Utah
Arches National Park, Utah
Visit Arches National Park to discover a landscape of contrasting colours, land forms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This red-rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.
Whether you’re stopping by for an hour or a longer holiday, Arches National Park offers many ways to spend your time in the park from car touring, biking, camping, hiking and star gazing.
What is there at Arches National Park for kids?
Arches is a great family park. The rock formations delight kids as well as adults, and many short hiking trails provide opportunities for everyone to get out of the car and explore the park’s features.
Kids may also enjoy the ranger-led programs offered spring through fall. Stop at the visitor center to check current schedules, and take some time to view the exhibits and the park’s orientation video. It is also good to find out how to help care for the park before heading out on any trails.
The Junior Ranger Program is a cool way for kids to learn about the park while having fun during their visit
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) exist on every continent, but at Bryce Canyon National Park you’ll find the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth. Over two million visitors come to experience the otherworldly magic of Bryce Canyon National Park each year, most between March and early October.
Bryce Canyon is not a single canyon, but a series of natural amphitheaters or bowls, carved into the edge of a high plateau. The most famous of these is the Bryce Amphitheater, which is filled with irregularly eroded spires of rocks called hoodoos.
There are four main viewpoints, all found within the first few miles of the park: Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. Between April and October a shuttle service is operated in this area of the park to reduce congestion.
What is there at Bryce Canyon National Park for Kids?
Bryce Canyon is a wonderful place for kids of all ages! Here are a few things kids and parents can enjoy at Bryce Canyon National Park:
- There are Kids programs throughout the season so ask at the Visitor Center.
- Kids who are 3 years and older can become Junior Rangers. Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up your booklet.
- The soon-to-open Visitor Center Exhibit promises the chance to walk through tall models of canyon walls, boulders and fossils.
- At the Visitor Center Bookstore you’ll find books of all sorts, stuffed animals, CDs & DVDs, posters, hanging mobiles, magnets and hiking gear…and plenty of postcards.
- Most beautiful trails can be done in a day or less with trails as short as half a mile (less than a km) and some as long as 11 miles (over 17 km). Signs will help you find your way through the hoodoo mazes.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.
Whether you’re stopping by for an hour or planning a two-week vacation, Canyonlands offers many ways to spend your time in the park from car touring, biking, camping, hiking and stargazing.
What is there are at Canyonlands National Park for Kids?
Both Island in the Sky and the Needles have several short trails great for children. At the Island, kids enjoy peeking through Mesa Arch and climbing the back of the whale at Whale Rock. In the Needles, the Cave Spring Trail, featuring a cowboy camp and prehistoric pictographs, is always a hit.
Pothole Point is another popular hike, especially if the potholes are full of water and the creatures that live in these small ecosystems. Be attentive when hiking with kids in Canyonlands as there are unfenced overlooks throughout the park.
Junior Ranger Program Join the ranks of Canyonlands junior rangers; badges and certificates are awarded at all park visitor centers to children who complete the required activities and tasks.
Explorer Packs Both Island in the Sky and The Needles offer a unique tool for kids eager to explore and learn about the area: Explorer Packs. These packs contain binoculars, a hand lens, a naturalist guide, and more. Before you set out for the day, stop by the visitor center and check one out.
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.
What’s at Capitol Reef National Park for Kids?
Children and their families have a number of activities to choose from at Capitol Reef. Explore the Fruita Historic District, have a picnic, come to a ranger program and more.
The Junior Ranger program is for kids 3 and up and offers the whole family a way to learn more about the park.
The Ripple Rock Nature Center is open from mid to late May until the middle of August and is a great place to visit for hands on activities and kids focused programs.
There are a number of hikes that are great for families, there is the Fruita Area Map and Guide which gives distances, elevation change, and difficulty levels.
Zion National Park, Utah
At Zion National Park you can follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon.
Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.
What is at Zion National Park for Kids?
A trip to Zion offers many opportunities for families to explore, learn, and connect with the park. To help in your trip planning here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Trails – Several of the trails in Zion Canyon are rated as Easy and a good fit for families.
- Shuttles – During much of the year, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only accessible by shuttle bus. Eating is not permitted on the buses, but drinking water is allowed. Please remember to stay hydrated on your visit to the park.
- Food and Picnic Areas – Food is available for purchase in the park at Zion Lodge. The town of Springdale offers many opportunities for the purchase of food at restaurants or grocery stores. While in the park picnic areas with tables, benches, or lawns are available at the Nature Center, Zion Lodge and the Grotto. Please dispose of your recycling or trash properly and remember to never feed wildlife.
- Zion offers a guided and self-guided Junior Ranger experience for ages 4 and up. Self-guided activity booklets are available for free at park visitor centers, the Zion Human History Museum, and the Nature Center. As park of completing the booklet, all Zion Junior Rangers must choose a Ranger-led Program to attend.
- The Zion Nature Center, located north of South Campground, has a variety of exhibits, activities, books, and games for children and families to explore. Daily ranger-led youth programs are held in the Nature Center.
- Youth programs are designed specifically for families and children. Children must be accompanied by an adult while attending the programs. Youth programs are offered intermittently through March and April, as well as daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day Weekend. Programs take place throughout the park at the Zion Nature Center and at the Zion Lodge.
U.S. National Parks in Virginia
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—take a hike, meander along Skyline Drive, or picnic with the family. 200,000 acres of protected lands are haven to deer, songbirds, the night sky…and you.
Download the Official Park App to find detailed maps, information about visitor centers, important sites throughout the Park, and calendars of events during your visit.
What is at Shenandoah National Park for Kids?
Shenandoah National Park is an amazing place where you can discover talking birds, pole-vaulting insects, and rock-eating plants! How can you find out more about these things? The best way is to get out and explore!
- During the spring, summer, and fall there are many ranger-led programs including guided hikes, informative talks, and evening campfire programs. Check the Ranger Programs schedule for current program times, locations, and descriptions.
- There are more than 500 miles of hiking trails and plenty of wildlife to see in the park. You can also stop by one of the park’s visitor centers to watch a park film, stroll through the exhibits, browse in our bookstore, or ask a ranger any questions you may have.
- One great way to explore is to use the Junior Ranger Activity Book, a fun way to learn about the plants, animals, and history of the park. Kids ages 7 to 12 will have lots of fun becoming a Shenandoah National Park Junior Ranger.
- Is your family looking for a fun new way to explore the Park? The TRACK Trails at Fox Hollow Trailhead (mile 4.6), Limberlost Trailhead (mile 43 on Skyline Drive) and Blackrock Summit Trailhead (mile 84.4 on Skyline Drive). Find the TRACK Trails activity brochure at the trailheads and use them to discover the Park with new eyes!
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U.S. National Parks in Washington
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier, an active volcano, stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits.
Mount Rainier National Park has five developed areas: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon River & Mowich. Although the level of development in these areas ranges from basic (little more than a campground and picnic area) to extensive (hotel, restaurant, visitor center, campgrounds, and picnic areas), each can serve as a base for exploring the rest of the park.
If you are planning a summer trip to Mount Rainier, consider visiting mid-week, which is generally less crowded. Parking is limited in many areas of the park. Wait times at the Nisqually and White River Entrances can be over an hour on the very busiest summer weekends and holidays. Entering the park before 10:00 am or after 2:30 pm can help avoid delays when visitation is heavy.
What is at Mount Rainier National Park for Kids?
Mount Rainier is a beautiful, powerful, and ever-changing place. Hiking and wildflower viewing are big reasons people visit the park. You can also step back in time and walk in the footsteps of the pioneers by visiting historic buildings.
These hikes are recommended by rangers for families: Silver Falls, Bench and Snow Lakes, Naches Peak Loop, Twin Firs and Grove of the Patriarchs.
Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at any visitor center, complete the activities for your age group, have a ranger review your work and you will be sworn in and issued your official Mount Rainier Junior Ranger badge.
Winter Fun winter recreation activities at Mount Rainier, include
- Snowshoe walks – Ranger-led snowshoe walks on weekends and holidays are a great winter activity recommended for children ages eight and up with their families.
- Sledding and sliding – Kids have a great time sledding at the snow play area of Mount Rainier. Located at Paradise there are three runs, including one just for the five and under crowd.
- Winter Camping – Scouts and families test their camping skills in the winter at Paradise.
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North Cascades National Park, Washington
Less than three hours from Seattle, an alpine landscape beckons at North Cascades National Park. Explore jagged peaks crowned by more than 300 glaciers. Listen to cascading waters in forested valleys. Witness a landscape sensitive to the Earth’s changing climate.
At North Cascades National Park you’ll find plenty to do: outdoor activities, scenic vistas, and educational opportunities.
- Stop by a visitor center and enjoy an interpretive talk or a walk with a ranger.
- Discover the animals of the park with bird and wildlife viewing.
- Put your boots to the trail on the various miles of hiking.
- Visit the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and stretch your legs at one of the stops along the scenic North Cascades Highway via car or bicycle.
- Have a picnic, or go camping with the family.
- Ride the Lady of the Lake to the historic and unique town of Stehekin in the heart of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
What is at North Cascades National Park for Kids?
A dynamic Junior Ranger Program is available for kids and families visiting their national park. Four age-appropriate booklets introduce the unique natural and cultural history of the North Cascades through a series of fun activities and are organized around a specific theme to build connections and knowledge of this national park.
With the Scout Ranger Program you can explore the national parks; learn about the National Park Service mission; help protect the nation’s natural, cultural, and historic resources in the NPS Scout Ranger Program. Scout Rangers assist North Cascades National Park with a variety of long-term or short-term projects to improve and ensure protections of park resources and facilities.
Olympic National Park, Washington
With its incredible range of precipitation and elevation, diversity is the hallmark of Olympic National Park. Encompassing nearly a million acres, the park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline.
What is at Olympic National Park for Kids?
The Olympic National Park’s Discovery Room, located in the park’s main visitor center, has an interactive exhibit room where kids can enter a world of natural exploration and intrigue. Interactive displays provoke inquisitive minds of all ages. Search the murals for creatures that call Olympic home. Ask at the front desk for the key to unlock the fun-filled Discovery Drawers.
The kid-size Olympic Ranger Station is built of western red cedar, just like many of the park’s original ranger stations. Step inside and don a real ranger hat, or suit up in a park volunteer coat. Relax on oversized pillows while reading park brochures and books.
Complete the steps in the Junior Ranger Booklet to become an Olympic National Park Junior Ranger. Pick-up your copy of the Olympic National Park Junior Ranger Booklet at any visitor center in the park.
Olympic National Park Ocean Steward Junior Ranger program is a fun, hands-on program for children age 4 and up. Explore the coastal ecosystem of Olympic National Park, learn exciting new facts about this unique ecosystem and understand how you can help protect Olympic National Parks wilderness coast and ocean.
U.S. National Parks in Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Rising above a scene rich with extraordinary wildlife, pristine lakes, and alpine terrain, the Teton Range of mountains led to the creation of Grand Teton National Park with over two hundred miles of trails to enjoy.
There are many outdoor recreation activities to choose from at Grand Teton National Park. During the summer you can hike, walk, view wildlife, take photographs, backpack, camp, climb, fish, swim, boat, float, canoe and bike. In winter skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities.
NPS Grand Teton App is free and available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
Find useful information about visitor centers, places to stay and eat, shopping, and services throughout the park. Learn about historic places and natural features.
What is there at Grand Teton National Park for Kids?
The Kid’s Guide to Grand Teton National Park covers many things kids can do and see in the park. Part field guide and part travel guide to the park, kids love this colourful guide to having fun, viewing wildlife, and learning about the lively history in Grand Teton National Park.
Be a Junior Ranger in Grand Teton National Park. Complete The Grand Adventure, an activity booklet for children of all ages, in order to become a Junior Ranger! Participants earn a Junior Ranger badge by completing the activities for their age.
Celebrate National Junior Ranger Day in Grand Teton National Park in April at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose. This event includes activities for kids of all ages. Families can play park-themed games, explore rescue vehicles, learn from a ranger, and earn a Junior Ranger badge.
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Have you visited any of these US National Parks with your kids? What other tips can you share? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!