5 National Park Adventures to Enjoy with the Family
The U.S. National Park System offers some of the best family-friendly vacation opportunities filled with an array of exciting outdoor adventures. Take a look at some of our favorite plans for reconnecting with nature while creating unforgettable memories with your loved ones!
With 63 National Parks scattered throughout the country, the U.S. boasts an impressively diverse offer of outdoor activities. From hiking up rugged cliffs to floating down peaceful rivers, nature lovers and adventure seekers will always find something exciting to do!
Have you ever had to plan a family vacation that includes young children and/or seniors? Have you been confronted by the challenge of filling out a travel itinerary with accessible but fun activities that fit each family member's wants and needs?
Keep on reading for some top-notch tips from our expert travel concierge! Here's a list of the best family-friendly activities that you can enjoy in our favorite American National Parks.
1. Hiking @ Zion
During summer and early fall, the Virgin River tends to be at its lowest level and the water at its warmest, the ideal conditions for hiking in the Narrows. Be aware that summer storms can cause flash flooding, so always check the weather forecast before planning your trip and follow the park rangers' recommendations while on site.
The Narrows is one of the most iconic hiking trails in the world: its easy access, spectacular scenery, and picturesque river trail make it a must-do while visiting Zion National Park.
The bottom-up hike from the Temple of Sinawava is the best option for families as it doesn't require a Wilderness Permit and has a pretty accessible difficulty level.
To reach the Narrows hike, you'll have to cross the 1-mile Riverside Walk that starts from shuttle stop 9 (Temple of Sinawava): this semi-paved, low-difficulty trail is accessible for kids, seniors, and disabled family members.
After reaching the rocky beach that marks The Narrow's entrance, the path merges with the Virgin River riverbed itself. From here onwards you'll start going upstream, so we recommend wearing appropriate waterproof gear and packing a change of clothes. This section of the trail is slightly more challenging but with proper preparation, it's a very enjoyable experience for nature-oriented kids.
Make sure to read up on our Top 9 Tips for Exploring the Narrows before heading out on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
2. Sandboarding @ Great Sand Dunes
During early summer (June and July) the beds of Colorado wildflowers that surround the dunes are in full bloom. May and June also mark the peak of the Medano Creek flow, making it a perfect time for water play with the young ones. Although the park's summer weather is tolerable (highs don't go over the upper 70s °F), sand temperatures can get quite high during the daytime: if you plan on going sandboarding we recommend doing it early in the morning or close to dusk.
With over 300,000 acres of wilderness, Great Sand Dunes National Park is an incredible natural site. Home to the most extensive and tallest dunes in North America, the park is a go-to destination for families to enjoy some high-quality sandboarding.
Due to the dryness of the sand, snow sleds and other winter equipment won't cut it at the dunes, so you'll need to either rent or bring specialized gear. There are no board rentals in the park itself, but many outdoor outfitters are located in the nearby towns of Mosca, Hooper, or Alamosa.
While stand-up sandboards are ideal for adults tackling the tallest dunes, sand sleds or toboggans are a better choice for kids descending the smaller slopes near the Visitor Center. Make sure to wear sunblock and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes.
3. Horseback Riding @ Bryce Canyon
From late spring to early fall (May to September), the park offers plenty of active ranger programs and nice warm weather. Due to the park's high elevation (7,665 ft), temperatures remain mild and tolerable throughout the summer.
One of Utah's Mighty Five, Bryce Canyon National Park occupies the 12th spot on the most visited parks list for 2021 with more than 2.5 million visitors.
Want to get a different and unique perspective of the park's iconic red rock spires and hoodoos? Interested in exploring the Peek-a-boo Loop Trail — one of America's most picturesque hiking trails — in a more laid-back fashion? Then slow down and travel back in time to the Wild West by hopping on the back of a horse.
Professional guides and a wide range of various-sized mules and friendly horses make this a fun and accessible activity for family members of any age and riding level. Our trip designing team can help you determine if a short and sweet 1-hour taste of riding is what your group is looking for or maybe an in-depth half-day tour is more up your alley.
4. Helicopter Tour @ Grand Canyon
While the North Rim closes during the winter season, its most popular area, the South Rim, is open for visitors all year round. Summer is the season most vacationers chose to visit the park, but be aware that it brings hot temperatures and high crowds. Family groups may prefer a time with cooler weather and thinner crowds, hence the periods from March to May and September through November are a better option.
With 4.5 million visitors in 2021, the Grand Canyon was the 4th most visited National Park in 2021. With a sheer size of roughly 277 miles long, 18 miles across, and one mile deep, the best way to fully take in its majestic beauty is from a bird's-eye view you get while aboard a helicopter cabin.
Our trusted tour operators offer family-friendly flights that fit parties of 4+ and depart either from the Las Vegas Strip Terminal or the Grand Canyon National Park Airport.
With state-of-the-art helicopters and highly experienced pilots, the comfort and safety of your group are ensured. You just need to kick back, relax, and enjoy an unforgettable 180-degree view of one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
5. Walking Among Giants @ Yosemite
The park receives 75% of its visitors between May and October when the weather is the warmest. Early June, late August, and the beginning of September are the calmest periods of the park's high season. No matter when you chose to visit, we recommend heading to the groves early in the morning (9 am or earlier) for a quieter, less crowded experience.
Northern California is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world: the giant sequoias. Yosemite National Park — the 8th most visited in 2021 with 4.5 million visitors — boasts three of the biggest sequoia groves in the country: Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove, and Merced Grove.
Close to the park's south entrance you'll find Mariposa Grove, home to more than 500 mature giant sequoias including the largest and most famous specimen, the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant, which can be reached by an easy and accessible 3/4-mile hike.
For family groups, we recommend hiking the 0.3-mile-long Big Trees Loop Trail (easy) or the 2-mile-long Grizzly Giant Loop Trail. These trails feature some of the most popular sights of the park: the Grizzly Giant, the California Tunnel Tree (cut in the late 1800s as a passage for stagecoaches), and the Fallen Monarch (hollowed out by fire before it fell more than 300 years ago).
These are just some national park adventures you can enjoy together with your family, but there are many more to discover! Our mission at Bukitt is to make it easy and hassle-free for you to explore the many natural gems of America. We are your concierge to the outdoors!