Family Vacations in Our National Parks

Most Americans live within 100 miles of a National Park, with at least one in every state, so you don’t have to travel far to explore them. And many parks have programs geared especially for kids.

These tremendous American treasures all started with the Yosemite Grant signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Yellowstone is the oldest National Park created in 1872. There are 63 national parks across the U.S., including the latest edition, West Virginia’s New River Gorge National Park.

Mention National Parks and most people think of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, or – the most visited park – the Great Smoky Mountains. However, there’s so much more to explore!

  • You can see not one but two active volcanoes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
  • Gaze up at the tallest living tree in the world, General Sherman, in California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Taller than a 31-story skyscraper, it’s between 2,300 and 2,700 years old.
  • Explore Florida’s Biscayne National Park by sea. 95% of this 270 square mile national park sits underwater.
  • Discover the longest known cave system on Earth in Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky.
  • Soak in thermal waters from 47 springs in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.
  • Visit a rainforest in Washington’s Olympic National Park.
  • In Alaska, Denali National Park has North America’s highest mountain AND a working kennel for the dogsledding dogs.
  • Sled the powdery dunes of White Sands National Park in New Mexico.
  • Marvel at the world’s most extensive collection of arch formations with over 2,000 in Arches National Park, Utah.

With so many options, where do you start?

Like most vacations, it’s good to think about the time of year you want to go, how long you have, how far you want to travel, and what kinds of sites and activities everyone wants.

You can then plan the specifics to travel independently, experience a guided vacation, travel by train, or combine all three.

If you’re planning and traveling on your own, the National Park Service’s new app is a great resource to help you with what to see, things to do, where to stay, suggestions, amenities, hiking trails, and more.

Taking a guided vacation is a great way to have the whole trip taken care of for you and your family. For example, Trafalgar Tours’ Five Epic National Parks vacation will take you from the peaks of the Grand Tetons, the bubbling mud pots of Yellowstone, the arches of Zion National Park, to the eerie hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

Traveling by train can also be a fun way to explore the parks. Amtrak offers multiple routes that allow you to explore parks across the west.

Your travel AAA Travel advisor can be a great partner to help you plan and book your National Park vacation.

And did you know…

Each year, the National Park Services makes entrance fees-free. (About one-third of their sites charge an entrance fee.) In 2022, they are January 17, April 16 (first day of National Park Week), August 4, September 24, and November 11.

Fourth graders and their families get free admission to all National Parks.

National Park Adventure Awaits! Click here to see popular tours with AAA Travel