Last Updated on
National park vacations make for some of the best family vacations. Our national parks are great places to bond, be active, and enjoy some technology-free time in nature. One of our favorite things to do in national parks is hike. Hiking is a wonderful way to really become immersed in these special places. We asked Trekaroo team members and family travel experts to share their picks for the best national park hikes with kids. Here are some of our favorites.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Photo by: Sharlene Earnshaw
Towering skyscrapers of sandstone.
My family loved hiking down into Bryce Canyon and walking among the towering hoodoos. Our favorite hike was the 2.9-mile loop we created by combining the Navajo Trail with the Queens Garden Trail. This allowed us to walk down into the canyon and experience the famed sandstone walls of “Wall Street”, as well as a marvelous garden of handmade hoodoos created by fellow hikers. The hike is steep in spots but my 6-year-olds handled it like champs.
– Sharlene Earnshaw, Trekaroo Editor in Chief
Zion National Park
Photo by: Arika Bauer/Zion Adventure Photog
Red Sandstone Cliffs, kid-friendly hikes, and river fun!
With over ten kid-friendly trails, a beautiful river to play in, and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, Zion National Park is ideal for families. The last stop on the park’s free shuttle is the Riverside Walk. This paved, 2.5-mile round- trip trail parallels the Virgin River with little elevation gain and plenty of places to stop and play in the water. Other highlights include the 2 mile hike to the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools as well as the short, .25 mile trek to Weeping Rock.
– Arika Bauer a nugget contributor and founder of Zion Adventure Photog
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Photo by: Sara Wellensiek
Hike across a still-steaming, hardened lava lake.
Home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the most unique parks in the National Park system. With more than 10 day hiking trails, there is so much to see here! Our favorite hike is the Kiluaea Iki Trail. This almost 4-mile loop takes you from a lush rain forest environment to the floor of a now hardened (but still steaming) lava lake from a lava flow in 1959. The change in environment is incredible and walking across a lava lake is like nothing else we’ve ever experienced.
– Sara Wellensiek, Mom Endeavors
Acadia National Park
Photo by: Melissa Moore
Climb rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.
My 8-year-old little boy is happiest when he scrambling over rocks, hopping from one to the next. Acadia National Park is his hiking paradise. The 158 miles of hiking trails in Maine’s signature national park are notoriously rocky. However, these rocky cliffs afford some spectacular views of Maine’s pristine coastline and iconic lighthouses. Our family’s favorite hike in Acadia is the Great Head Trail overlooking Sand Beach. At only 1.7 miles round-trip, this hike is possible for anyone in the family who can strap on a good pair of hiking boots and climb moderately difficult terrain. After a good hike, cool off quickly with a dip in the Atlantic at Acadia’s only sandy beach.
-Melissa Moore, Trekaroo Destination Specialist
Grand Teton National Park
Photo by: Tamara Gruber
Majestic mountains and sparkling blue lakes offer jaw-dropping views.
Grand Teton National Park is the kind of park where you want to spend at least a week relaxing on one of its many lakes, climbing its majestic mountains, and finding the park’s prettiest view points. Jenny Lake and Inspiration Point trails are perfect for active families as they offer a mix of lake views, forest meanderings, and stunning views. Round trip, Jenny Lake trail is 7.5 miles, but you can always take a shortcut by taking a shuttle boat across the lake and then follow the 1.5-mile trail up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Families will also enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding on Jackson Lake, watching the bison on the Elk Ranch Flats, and taking endless pictures of the towering Tetons from the serene Schwabacher Landing.
– Tamara Gruber, We3Travel
North Cascades National Park
Photo by: Tara Schatz
A rugged, alpine adventure for families.
Not far from Seattle is an overlooked wilderness with more glaciers than any other park outside of Alaska. Rugged peaks, virgin forests, vast turquoise lakes, and sub-alpine meadows make North Cascades National Park the perfect destination for adventure-loving families. From out waterfront campsite at Colonial Creek Campground we explored several hiking trails. We especially enjoyed Thunder Knob, a 3.6-mile hike that is perfect for families. Total elevation gain is 425 feet, and the views of Diablo Lake and the mountains are breathtaking! Colonial Creek Campground is also great for water-based fun, including kayaking, swimming, and fishing
– Tara Schatz, Freelance Writer and Photographer at Backroadramblers.com
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Photo by: Lauren Breeze
Hardwood forests and panoramic mountain views.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, filled with spectacular views, natural beauty, and history, is the most visited national park in the United States. The Cove Hardwood Trail, accessed at mile 6.2 of the Newfound Gap Road from the Chimney Tops Picnic area parking lot, is a 0.9 mile hike through the Southern Appalachian hardwood forest. The loop trail climbs a total of 226 feet with several sets of gentle stairs which my 5-year-old daughter climbed with gusto. Depending on the time of the year, the trail is covered with a variety of wildflowers and wildlife. We have seen many species of birds, small mammals, and even a snake! If you have more time, don’t miss the small trails, quiet walkways, and adventure on the Roaring Fork Nature Trail.
– Lauren Breeze, Nashvillefunforfamilies.com
Glacier National Park
Photo by: Bryanna Royal
Waterfalls and Wildlife in an Alpine Wonderland
The hardest thing about hiking in Glacier National Park with kids is picking which trails to conquer! You can start with a simple 1-mile boardwalk hike on the Trail of Cedars which takes you to a beautiful, bright blue waterfall. Looking for a challenge? Head out on the 4.5 mile Avalanche Lake Trail which climbs 700 feet uphill to reach a gorgeous lake surrounded by alpine peaks. Be sure to make time for the the 2.7-mile Hidden Lake Trail in Logan Pass where you may just see a mountain goat and her babies, as well as patches of snow still on the ground late into the summer. Spending more time in Montana? Check out these 5 places to visit for superb hiking.
– Bryanna Royal, Crazyfamilyadventure.com
Denali National Park
Photo by: Karilyn Owen
Off-trail hiking where the wild animals roam.
Denali National Park is one of our favorite parks due to the spectacular scenery, abundance of wild animal sightings, and the encouraged off-trail hiking. Kids love the excitement of charting their own path and exploring the unknown. We love taking the green bus to Savage River- a walk along the river on the 2-mile Savage River Loop is a must for families– or venturing to Eielson searching for grizzly bears on mountainsides along the way. Another great trail for families is Horseshoe Lake, a relatively easy 3-mile loop where you will often see beavers hard at work.
– Karilyn Owen, Nobackhome.com
Mount Rainier National Park
Photo by Jen Dotson
Panoramic mountain views, waterfalls, and wildflowers.
Mount Rainier is an ideal national park to visit any time of year for families with its incredible mountain views of the snow-covered peak, cascading waterfalls, and wildflowers galore. The most popular area is the Paradise side to the south, where you’ll find trails for any age. Consider the Myrtle Falls Hike, an easy, stroller-accessible 1 mile trail to a 72 foot waterfall or continue on the 5+ mile Skyline trail loop with stunning views of the peak (14,411 feet high) & gorgeous summer wildflowers. The northern, Sunrise side of the mountain will provide more opportunities for wildlife viewing (marmots, mountain goats & more) and panoramic mountain views at every turn.
– Jen Dotson, Thrifty Northwest Mom
Yellowstone National Park
Photo by: Susan Pazera
Mother Nature in all her glory.
My family had the experience of a lifetime walking the Fountain Paint Pot Trail and hiking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on our trip to Yellowstone National Park. Fountain Paint Pot Trail is an easy half-mile trail loop around a boardwalk and is perfect for families with small children. Mother Nature’s wild side is on full display along the trail with fantastic views of the blue pools, pink mud pots, fumaroles (steam vents), and mini-geysers. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone hike along the North Rim Trail is a bit more arduous with its steep upward climb, but you are rewarded with a magnificent view of Yellowstone Falls and the gorgeous yellow cliffs that blanket the landscape.
– Susan Pazera, founder of Mom on the Map
Grand Canyon National Park
Photo by: Liling Pang
Hiking through geological space and time.
The Grand Canyon makes me gasp no matter how many times I set eyes upon it. The immensity of this mile-deep canyon of multicolored rock layers reveals the story of the earth. There are two hikes that are particularly suitable for kids. The Trail of Time is a flat walk along the South Rim which takes walkers back in geological time by getting up close to rock samples extracted from the canyon. Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trails descend into the walls of the canyon, offering a feeling of becoming enveloped by the canyon. It’s a strenuous hike back up, so hiking only .5-1 mile down may be best for families with children.
-Liling Pang, Trekaroo CEO
Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by: Diana Rowe
Spectacular waterfalls and 350 miles of trails
With its peaks cresting over 12,000 feet and 265,000 acres spread out over 415 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park tops our list of national parks for family vacations. A road-trip-worthy 48-mile drive take families through the park via Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous road in the United States. One of my favorite family-friendly hikes in this park is the wheelchair-accessible walk around Sprague Lake which offers fantastic views of the Continental Divide and possible glimpses of moose. Another is an easy hike to Adams Falls near the town of Grand Lake which even toddlers will enjoy
–Diana Rowe, TravelingInHeels.com
Yosemite National Park
Photo by: Shutterfly
Stunning vistas, thundering waterfalls, and beautiful trails
A hike in Yosemite reaps many scenic rewards. Hike the steep Mist Trail for 1 mile to stand atop the roaring Vernal Falls and watch the water cascade over a smooth granite cliff. Or, take a more gentle 1-mile trail from the shuttle stop to Mirror Lake to gaze at the reflection of Half Dome in the water below. Even the shortest hike, the 1/4 mile trail to the base of Bridalveil Fall is a treat for any hiker. Get rewarded by vistas of majestic waterfalls, towering granite cliffs, or ice cream in the general store on the return from any trail you take in Yosemite National Park.
-Michelle McCoy, Trekaroo Destination Specialist
Ready to explore all the Best National Parks for kids?
Lead image by Sharlene Earnshaw.