The next time you and your family want to have a group getaway to the great outdoors, consider visiting a National Park. Spending time in nature is great for relaxation and slowing down the pace of life, while creating new memories with you and your loved ones. From massive trees and active volcanoes to grandiose canyons and awe-inspiring caves, here are the eight most popular national parks in the U.S. for families to visit.
Enjoy A Family Trip To These 8 Popular National Parks
With more than half a thousand geysers, about four dozen waterfalls, and tons of exploding muds pots and hissing steam vents to see, kids and adults will have the time of their lives at the world’s very first national park, which to this day remains the showpiece of the National Park Service and is visited by over four million people each year.
Covering almost 2.2 million acres in the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, Yellowstone is full of breathtaking sights. From craggy peaks, alpine lakes, and deep forests, to a wealth of wild animals such as bears, bison, moose, and wolves, it’s the perfect place to visit for a few days with the entire family while making stops at trails and campgrounds. We also made a list of the ten best family activities to enjoy in Yellowstone, just in case.
In 2015 alone, a record-breaking 307.2 million people visited this Tennessee wonder—that’s about twice the number of the second most popular park! The “Most Visited Park in America” spans over four counties across two states while running through parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains and has many excellent options for family activities.
Accessible from both Gatlinburg and Cherokee, North Carolina, you’ll find 1,660 different kinds of flowering plants (more than any other national park in the country!), over more than 800 miles of hiking trails, as well as a fifty-foot observation deck that’ll allow you and the kids to soak in spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding beauty. Be sure to climb all the way up to Clingman’s Dome to see the view, and take in the vistas from the mountain-skimming scenic highway nearby.
Ocean and mountains meet at the oldest national park east of the Mississippi and the largest tourist attraction in Maine. Acadia National Park is by far one of the most picturesque spots in Maine, providing spectacular panoramic views of Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands, Somes Sound, and Bar Harbor from the top of Cadillac Mountain.
Located on Mount Desert Island, the family-favorite has beaches, campgrounds, and over 120 miles of hiking trails. The hiking at Acadia is some of the best in the eastern U.S., with the 4.4-mile round trip trek to the top of the Cadillac Mountain on the North Ridge Trail as the crown jewel. This popular Atlantic park offers a classic New England coastal experience with lighthouses, seaside villages, rounded granite mountains, and carriage roads that pass through the nearby woods. The park even has a center for sailing, sea kayaking, and whale-watching that’s perfect for adventurous spirits, as well as plenty of family-oriented accommodations in the surrounding vicinity.
With broad, sweeping vistas, 150 lakes, over 350 hiking trails, and just about 500 miles of streams, this Colorado park contains ecosystems ranging from wetlands to pine forests to alpine tundra. The park encompasses a 415-square-mile section of the Colorado Front Range and is split by the Continental Divide, making it almost two parks in one: you can find a green paradise of vegetation on the western side and more arid, mountainous regions on the eastern end.
Don’t miss out on a drive up Trail Ridge Road, which peaks at 12,183 feet. You and your family will experience life at the highest of elevations with fresh cool air and ample views of glaciers, moraines, and wildflower meadows.
It’s no doubt the most recognizable national park—an incredible canyon that runs through northern Arizona created by the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon protects one of the world's most famous and admired natural wonders. But it’s so much more than just a huge hole in the ground, as it is a mythical place, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and sees over five million visitors annually. They all flock over to the edge to look into the deep gorge, arriving by car at the visitor village on the South Rim or the higher, less visited North Rim.
Hiking enthusiasts can choose to get down further into the canyon as well, while water lovers can experience some of the best whitewater rafting in the world.
Spanning over a million acres in Montana and attracting over two million people each year, the pristine alpine lakes, massive mountain peaks, and of course, spectacular glaciers are hard to beat for any fun-filled family outing. Explore the waterways with the kids, take a nice long drive through Going-to-the-Sun Road, and take a boat tour starting at Swiftcurrent Lake. You might even want to brave the waters by renting a kayak, canoe, rowboat, or a small motorboat.
And make sure to keep up with the theme by booking a lake view balcony room at Many Glacier Hotel, a simple, rustic, but widely recognized national park lodge located right on the shores of the lake.
Located east of San Francisco in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it’s best known for Yosemite Valley, a canyon where waterfalls drop thousands of feet from massive granite walls. There’s also tons of hiking options via spectacular high-country areas and within never-at-all-crowded mountainside forests, as well as half a thousand mature giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove: some among the world's tallest and oldest trees. Little ones will easily be able to spot these mighty wonders right from the parking lot, and they'll love the 3/4-mile hike to check out the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree, which they can actually walk through (it was cut as a passage for stagecoaches in the late 1800s).
Be sure not to miss out on the best close up view of El Capitan from El Capitan Meadow, which is located along Northside Drive, and the extraordinary sights of the 2,425 foot-tall Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
The nearly one million acres of raw, pristine wilderness of this Washington State park is visited by more than three million people a year. Find everything from Pacific Coastline sights to the glacier-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains, as well as tons of old growth forests in between. No roads cross through the park, which has three distinct ecosystems: a subalpine forest, a temperate rain forest, a wildflower meadow, and the rugged Pacific shore. It’s no wonder that the park serves as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, as over 95% of the land is designated as wilderness.
Make sure to go watch the newly freed Elwha River flowing within a 200-foot deep canyon, the thousands of native plants in the area, as well the infamous Hoh River Rain Forest, which remains one of the last remaining examples of a temperate rainforest in the United States.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.