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7 Family-Friendly National Parks For Your Vacation

These parks offer activities for kids of all ages.

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photo gif of 4 family-friendly national parks
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If you're looking for a way to connect with nature and experience the great outdoors with your family, nothing is better than exploring one of the 63 national parks in the U.S. Many of the parks offer activities that kids of all ages will enjoy, such as camping, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, climbing, stargazing and white-water rafting. Afar magazine states, "America's parks are the ultimate outdoor classroom for toddlers and teens alike."

I couldn't agree more after the numerous family trips I took as a child. Of course, we enjoyed beachside vacations and trips to Disney theme parks, but nothing rivaled the tranquility of nature and spending downtime with my family away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Here are seven national parks popular with families who enjoy having fun adventures together in the great outdoors:

Tourists photographing herd of elk (Cervus elaphus), rear view, summer
Tourists photographing herd of elk in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
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Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, parts of Montana and Idaho)

Yellowstone, the world's first national park (1872), is famous for its hydrothermal and geologic features. There's even white-water rafting in the Yellowstone River if you crave excitement and adventure. Campgrounds such as Canyon Village, Madison and Grant Village offer numerous activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, guided tours, impressive waterfalls, wildlife sightings and scenic drives. The Old Faithful Inn offers two restaurants.

Aligator crossing in front of family
American Alligator crossed the path in front of a family in Everglades National Park
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Everglades National Park (Florida)

On the southern tip of Florida is a 1.5 million-acre wetlands preserve known as the Everglades. The park comprises flooded grasslands, coastal mangroves and flat pinewoods. It is also home to a large wildlife population, including endangered species such as the Florida panther, the West Indian manatee and the leatherback turtle. There are plenty of activities to keep the family busy — biking, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking, guided nature walks, swamp tours, airboat rides and narrated tram tours. The Everglades are also near Big Cypress National Preserve, which offers similar activities and has eight campgrounds. If you're looking for unique accommodations, check out the Everglades Chickee Cottages in Ochopee, which has elevated cabins over a swampy campground.

Mother with son visit Yosemite national park in California

Yosemite National Park (California)

This incredibly scenic park is famous for its tremendous falls, giant sequoias and rustic geological formations. The popular Upper Pines Campground offers magnificent views of El Capitan and Half Dome, but if you prefer indoor accommodations, the rustic Yosemite Valley Lodge is the perfect place for family activities. The lodge has an outdoor pool, game room, golf, tennis, bike rentals, and horseback riding. Explore Yosemite Falls, the 5th most significant fall in the world, or take a scenic drive through Tioga Pass. Visit Mariposa Grove, home to the famous (and largest tree in the world) Sequoia General Sherman and hike the trails in Glacier Point to view its stunning, glacially carved landscape.

Child and mom explore Volcano Field, Volcano national park
Child and mom explore Volcano Field in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
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Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (Big Island)

If you're fascinated by volcanoes, you can watch frequent eruptions (from a safe distance and only where permitted) spilling lava into the Pacific Ocean at this unique national park in Hawaii. Book a helicopter tour for a birds-eye view of the volcanoes or a guided tour of the rugged volcanic coastline and lush, tropical vegetation. Take advantage of the scenic drive along Crater Rim Road to explore steam vents and the Sulphur Banks or hike the park's numerous trails. A must-see is the 500-year-old Thurston Lava Tube hike through a dense forest to an illuminated cavern below, the Mauna Loa Lookout, Kilauea Crater and the Pu'uloa Petroglyphs — an archeological site with over 23,000 petroglyphs that date from 1200-1450 CE. There are several restaurants and lodges in the park, including the historic Kilauea Lodge, but if you feel like roughing it, check out the tent camping at Kulanaokuaiki or some of the rustic cabins at Namakanipaio campground.

Family on top of the mountain enjoying beautiful view.
Family looking at beautiful summer view of the Great Smoky Mountains, Near Asheville, North Carolina
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Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee and North Carolina)

Biking, inner-tubing, horseback riding, fishing, and backpacking are just some of the activities the park has to offer. Check out the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Clingman's Dome, which has breathtaking views of the park from its tower. The park boasts magnificent waterfalls such as the Laurel, Rainbow and Grotto, but don't miss the smaller ones at Mouse Creek Falls or Lynn Camp Prong Cascades. There are also numerous campsites in the Great Smoky Mountains and one very unusual accommodation, the LeConte Lodge, which can only be reached by hikers! If you want to stay at a place with all the amenities of home (plus a swimming pool and hot tub!), try the beautiful Stony Brook Cabins. Luckily, Gatlinburg and Dollywood are at the park's northern edge if the family needs a fun day in the city.

A teenage boy and girl walk on Sand Beach after a hike in Maines Acadia National Park.
A boy and girl walk on Sand Beach after a hike in Maine's Acadia National Park
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Acadia National Park (Maine)

Acadia is a park on the shores of Maine with a little bit of everything, including 16 small islands. In addition to its panoramic ocean views, the park has lush forests, lakes, mountains, wetlands, valleys and beaches, not to mention abundant wildlife. You'll always have things to do in Acadia The park offers fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing, horseback riding, kayaking, rock climbing, guided tours and swimming in the summer months. But if you visit during the winter, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and more. For lodging, there are two rustic campgrounds on Mount Desert Island and plenty of resorts in nearby towns for a comfortable stay.

A family hiking in the desert
A family hiking in Grand Canyon National Park near Utah
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Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

One of the world's seven natural wonders, the Grand Canyon is a 277-mile gorge carved by the Colorado River with a depth of 1 mile from top to bottom. Although the expansive views of rugged red and orange striped rocks from the top are breathtaking, you'll see an even more majestic view when you venture below the rim. The best way to experience the canyon is with a family-guided tour while hiking the trails, riding a mule or taking a raft trip. You can also ride the Grand Canyon Railway to the park or rent a bike to explore the South Rim. But take advantage of the Trail of Time for a visual history of the canyon's geological timeline and witness stunning vistas along the way. There are also several campgrounds in the park (both South and North Rim) and luxury hotels outside the park. A tourist favorite is the historic El Tovar, a 1905 limestone-and-pine hotel with easy access to the trails and spectacular park views.

What's YOUR favorite national park? Let us know in the comments below.

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