National Parks: Hit the Trails!
As we approach spring break and some COVID restrictions continue, what better treat for your family than to load up a vehicle of explorers and supplies and hit the road for some open-air discovery? Utah, we’re impressed…but wait, there’s more!
Here are some great national parks for family fun:
Yosemite (California) Expect diverse natural scenery with granite cliffs, colorful wildflowers, and the rushing Merced River. Sky-high sequoias will impress the kids, and there are even Junior Rangers (ages 7-13) and Little Cub (ages 3-6) programs to add to the fun.
The Grand Canyon (Arizona) Cavernous spaces painted in steely blues, cool violet, and warm oranges and reds await you at the Grand Canyon. But don’t just gaze down at the majesty of the mile-deep canyon, be sure to hike at the bottom and look up in awe. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can always take a mule ride, but be sure to book in advance. Before you go, queue up a series of videos about the park that were created by the team at Sesame Street—let Elmo tell you what to do and where to go!
Bryce Canyon (Utah) Spectacular hoodoos, pillars of orange, peach, and red stand at attention at the bottom of lovely Bryce Canyon. One might even imagine the surface of Mars to mimic this beautiful sight. Like the Grand Canyon, you can also explore on the ground level by hiking the Queen’s Garden Route to get a closer look at those marvelous rock formations from a different vantage point. If you choose to go in the spring or fall—dress for cooler weather as the elevation is 8,000-9,000 feet.
Arches and Canyonlands National Park (Utah) Imagine a canopy of stone that frames the impressive geological formations at one of the smallest national parks. There are 2,000 stone arches in all to discover. Best of all, you will find a gigantic natural sandbox for play at Sand Dune Arch! For a quick hike, (a 1.6-mile round trip) try lacing up for a walk along an arch called Landscape. Nearby, Canyonlands offers a kid-sized canyon experience that provides hiking trails “just their size.”
Zion National Park (Utah) What list would be complete without Zion? Be sure to enjoy the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (open off-peak to travelers due to lower traffic levels) to see the incredible beauty of the park and to explore a few swimming holes if you could use a refreshing dip to cool down.
Yellow Stone (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) Grab a front-row seat to watch the geyser “Old Faithful” then take in the majestic view of buffalo, moose, and elk roaming the plains as if untouched by time. For even more wildlife, take in Hayden Valley where shy animals like to gather. Kids 5 and up can snag an interactive activity booklet at the visitor’s center and become a “Young Scientist at Yellowstone.” If your kiddos complete the booklet, they get a park souvenir.
Glacier National Park (Montana) A trip to Glacier National Park is a fun-filled adventure. Have the family vote on guided rafting experiences with Montana Raft, horseback trail rides with Swan Mountain Outfitters, or hiking fun with the folks at Glacier Guides. And don’t miss Polebridge, MT, which offers a rustic step back in time—compete with the Bakery & Merc general store and the Northern Lights Saloon, both providing a decidedly true taste of the wild west. Polebridge Outfitters have bikes, kayaks, and other sports equipment for rental. Charming, rough-hewn cabins are also available if you want to plan a sleepover before or after your Glacier Park exploration.
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia) Located just 75 miles from our nation’s capital, Shenandoah is a wonderful place to experience stunning waterfalls, vistas, fields of wildflowers, and woods filled with wildlife. The park features 200,000 acres of natural beauty to explore. The park is also a great stop for both avid and amateur hikers with over 500 miles of trails to navigate on foot. Best of all, many of the park trails are pet-friendly, as long as your pup is on a leash and well supervised. Shenandoah also offers a Junior Ranger program that provides ranger-led tours and nature experiences for children ages 7-12. Another great perk for kids is a special offer for 4th graders called the “Every Kid in a Park” program which offers a free downloadable pass for the park from their website. Given the park’s proximity to DC, a stop to see the White House, Smithsonian, and other famous monuments would be great to add to your vacation itinerary.
Enjoy your exploration and please share a photo if you make any one of these parks your destination!