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Almost every family vacation includes one or more National Parks. Properties set aside by the US government started by Teddy Roosevelt for enjoyment and recreation of people from around the world. Preserved in their natural state, these Parks provide endless wonders to your family and adventures that include whitewater rafting, unbelievable hiking trails, camping, climbing, and even off-road driving.
The Jones Family generally vacations in a mostly spontaneous way. However, we always look for a National Park to visit during the trips. Today, we’re going to share our favorite National Parks with you!
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Top National Parks Video
Join us as we share the top National Parks for a family vacation. You can also scroll down to read the rest of the article.
Top 7 National Parks for Families
Let’s jump into our list of the top National Parks for a family vacation.
We just visited Acadia National Park in Maine during the summer of 2021. Often listed as the top US National Park, Acadia offers amazing hikes on the Eastern coast of Maine with mountains and seaside juxtaposed beside each other. You can smell the forest as you wander through it. You can drive into Bar Harbor, Maine and enjoy a fresh lobster lunch or dinner while visiting Acadia, too!
We put Acadia at the bottom of our list of top National Parks. Not because it’s “bad,” but rather because the others on our list are just that much better!
We did several hikes in Acadia and Cadillac Mountain – where you can see the sun rise where it’s first visible on the East coast of the US! Just be sure to make a reservation with the Park before you go – Cadillac Mountain limits the number of cars allowed up the mountain.
Grand Canyon National Park is, well, grand…and it’s a canyon. This park gets extremely busy during the summer months. It may be, at times, the busiest National Park in the US. Just something to keep in mind.
We’ve visited the Grand Canyon several times and each time experienced a new adventure. There’s so much to offer at the Grand Canyon and we hope to get back for a rim-to-rim hike, one day.
The Grand Canyon has a North Rim and a South Rim. The South Rim is the most popular and has the most lodging, restaurants, and facilities. The North Rim is less popular, but more rugged and adventurous. It’s about a four hour one-way trip to go from the South Rim to the North Rim, so be sure to factor that time into your vacation, if you plan to visit both Rims.
Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah has become my favorite National Park. Most of it is so remote and it’s HUGE! You can easily get lost in the Needles section of the Park and many people have done just that. It’s a rugged and challenging park in the Southern Utah desert. Hikers love Canyonlands, but so do off-road enthusiasts. Canyonlands offers multiple off-road trails you can explore, if you have a capable vehicle.
Be sure you visit Mesa Arch in Canyonlands for a morning sunrise. There will be lots of photographers trying to capture the sun rising right under the arch. It’s a spectacular experience.
Just down the road from Canyonlands, you’ll find another of my favorites – Arches National Park. One of the great things about Arches for families is that you can see almost all the iconic parts of the park from your car or a short hike.
The one thing you must do at Arches is the Delicate Arch hike. The Delicate Arch used to be on the Utah license plate. It’s the iconic arch at a park full of arches. It’s about a 3 mile hike to the Delicate Arch and it’s situated in a bowl-like area that has an amazing energy. Even when filled with people, you feel like you’re all alone in a natural, tranquil setting. I could sit there for hours just taking it all in.
A few hours away from Arches, you’ll find Zion National Park. Before I visited Canyonlands, this was my favorite National Park. Unbelievable, iconic hikes like Angel’s Landing, The Narrows, and The Subway all reside at Zion. Angel’s Landing recently implemented a permit system for the last part of the hike to avoid dangerous crowds on the ridge to the landing, The Subway requires a reservation and a guide, and The Narrows requires some special equipment (you’re basically hiking in a river).
Zion offers some of the most spectacular views of any National Park. You’ll find yourself awestruck by the raw beauty in this park, even if you don’t do one of the iconic hikes. Be sure you drive all the way through the park, so you can experience the tunnel through a giant mountain.
Yosemite in Northern California was the first National Park we visited as a family. The Yosemite Valley features some of the most well-known mountain landscapes in the world with El Capitan and Half Dome.
You can hike from the valley to the top of Half Dome, but a permit is required for the last part of the hike to the top of Half Dome. It’s also a strenuous hike that takes about 12-14 hours and includes 4,600 feet of elevation gain.
Yosemite does get very crowded in the summer and they do have significant bear problems, so be sure to come prepared.
Yellowstone was the first US National Park and it’s our top National Park. You could spend a week here and still have large parts of the Park to visit. You’ll see a greater diversity of wildlife in this Park than any other US National Park. Bison, grizzly bears, elk, wolves, and much, much more.
Of course, you can’t forget about the iconic geysers and springs at Yellowstone. Old Faithful is a must see, as is the Grand Prismatic Spring. Yellowstone also has it’s own version of the Grand Canyon….called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There’s so much to see, you’ll need several trips to see it all, so pick some “must-dos” and spend the time to really enjoy those during your visit. Hopefully, you’ll be back to explore more of this Park.
What is your favorite National Park?