Exploring National Parks with Kids


A few years ago, we decided to start visiting National Parks as a family. Exploring our country’s most beautiful places has become a tradition we look forward to each year. These trips require some good planning, especially when traveling with kids.

Tips for Traveling with Kids to a National Park

Manage your Expectations

Kids still have meltdowns on vacations, don’t expect perfection, have fun and listen to everyone’s needs.

Know your Kids’ Limits

How long can they hike? Choose trails that you know are doable, then you can build from there. Depending on how old your kids are, carriers can also be helpful.

Pack Appropriately

Hiking boots are a must, and it is great to bring some water shoes as well. Check the weather and trail conditions before you go so you don’t have any surprises.

Discuss Safety at National Parks

Safety is always important to discuss prior to entering the park. Be “bear aware” and stay on trails. These places are beautiful but also can be dangerous. Also teach kids to “leave no trace” and respect and preserve nature.

Involve Kids in the Trip Planning

Is there something specific they want to see or do? You can look at trails before and have them select a hike that looks fun for them. Also, let them pick out snacks or what you will have for dinner one night. My daughter loves choosing special camping snacks for our trips.

Always Carry Snacks

Are you hiking? Bring extra snacks. Driving? Snacks. You can never have enough snacks when being active and after extended periods in the car.

Bring Lots of Water

Staying hydrated is vital for everyone.

Plan Car Activities

National Parks are large, there can often be long periods getting from point A to point B. Tablets, coloring books, cards and small toys that are easily packed are very helpful.

Stop at the Visitor Center

There is an awesome Junior Ranger program available that your kids can participate in. Kids can get a Junior Ranger activity book to complete while in the park, then show their answers to a Park Ranger at the end of the trip. They can earn a patch and certificate.

Choose Alternative Activities to Avoid Burnout

Hike one day, then explore a lake the next. Many parks have bike and boat rentals available; this is a really fun way to see the park in a new way.

Enjoy the Local Area around the Park

Support local restaurants and shops and try regional cuisine.

Get a Souvenir

We let our daughter pick out a magnet as a fun reminder of our trip.

Many National Parks are close to National Forests and State Parks. If you have extra time, it can be fun to explore these areas as well. They are often less crowded and offer beautiful views. You can have a picnic or get out and stretch your legs for a bit. Due to the increase in popularity, several National Parks have implemented a timed-entry system. For these parks you must have a ticket for a specific date and time. These can be found online.

Enjoy your trip! Try your best to go with the flow and appreciate the beauty in these extraordinary places.

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Hi! I’m Elizabeth. I grew up in Overland Park, Kansas and have been living in Colorado for almost 9 years. I met my husband in Denver and we have two wonderful daughters. My oldest is 5 and my youngest is 8 months. I am a former preschool teacher turned health insurance broker. I do my best to juggle kid activities, two kitties and our dog and everything in between. I love the outdoors and being close to the mountains. Our family is slowly checking visiting National Parks off our list and hoping to instill a love and respect for nature in our children. I enjoy reading, indulging in Italian food, spending time with friends and family and trying to improve my disc golf skills. I’m looking forward to connecting with more Colorado mamas!


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