With the Every Kid in a Park initiative taking place through the 2015–2016 school year, every 4th grader across the nation will receive a complimentary, all-access pass to our nation’s largest assets; our National Parks. This progressive plan will allow thousands of children to have their first taste of all the parks have to offer, and if you happen to be so lucky to know one of these fortunate 4th graders, you can tag alongside that memorable journey. Here are 10 National Parks that will provide the most accessible and picturesque adventure for that junior explorer:
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho
Touted as the Nation’s first National Park, Yellowstone is also one of the largest. Offering year-round adventure, Yellowstone has more easily accessible scenes of nature then you can count. And whether you choose to explore the geothermal attractions such as Old Faithful or Mammoth Hot Springs, or you study the various wildlife including bison, deer, or grizzly bears (from a safe distance of course), one thing is guaranteed for anyone of any age, memories will be made.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
When you first think about visiting one of the largest holes on earth, it doesn’t sound very appealing. But ask anyone who visits Grand Canyon National Park and sits at the rim overlooking vast distances of Southwestern sandstone scenery; it is almost too beautiful to believe that it’s not just an elaborate painting hanging in the sky. And by imagining that scene from the eyes of an impressionable youth, it’s hard not to believe in the magic of the National Park system.
Yosemite National Park, California
All hail Yosemite and its glory. Home to the famous Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, and El Capitan all in one beautiful view, this National Park established in 1864 and only 3 ½ hours from San Francisco, will give you days upon days of activity for the whole family. And even though you probably won’t be doing any serious climbing with your 4th grader, outside the climbing community Yosemite is equally as famous for its Redwood groves, stunning waterfalls, and all around stoic landscape.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Like many National Parks, the magic begins on the road leading through Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive, which is a scenic highway and the only public road to cross through the park, takes you back to a time before rush hour and the morning commute. While riding along this 105 mile road which maxes its speed limit at 35 mph, check out as many of the 75 viewpoints as you can and take the time to appreciate all the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.
Zion National Park, Utah
Translated to “Heaven on Earth”, Utah’s Zion National Park lives up to the title. From soaring sandstone features to clear blue waters, Zion National Park is already akin to an adult playground, so imagine how it must seem to a child. Some adventures will have to be put on hold when traveling with kids to Zion, but there are still plenty of day hikes to explore and great resources at the visitor centers in the park.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Although your 4th grader won’t connect the park to U2’s iconic 5th studio album released in 1987, their trip to Joshua Tree National Park will remain as one of the coolest adventures of their young lives. That’s because with massive boulders spread out through the desert landscape, and enough guide companies equipped for even the littlest of beginners, Joshua Tree is a mecca for every age of outdoors person.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
Within sight of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s easy to see where they came up with the name. Characteristically this land of mysticism and might has a low hanging fog descended upon it, creating even more of a magical destination for you to explore. Beneath that fog is miles and miles of amazing trails to saunter along until the sun goes down, making sure that you and your little one will sleep well at the cozy campsites.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is a unique section of the country. Cascade Mountaintops mix with swelling waters of the Pacific Ocean, breathing life to rainforests and volcanoes alike. And perhaps for the best representation of all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, Mount Rainier stands tall as a beacon of beauty. The National Park itself is lined with amazing hikes across waterfalls, a welcoming visitor center, and 360⁰ views of Cascade glory.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
There’s something about the Rocky Mountains that instills a sense of wonder to whoever gazes upon their peaks. Dividing the continent in half, the Rocky Mountains and Rocky Mountain National Park stand as the gateway to the west, with a pristine sense of freedom that has lodged itself squarely into the hearts of the millions of Americans who have explored the well laid trails. The first time you see the Rocky Mountains is a milestone in any adventurer’s life, and pass or no pass, this is a National Park for everyone to see.
Mammoth Caves National Park, Kentucky
Mammoth Caves National Park takes you underground to explore the geological wonders that take place beneath our feet. Plunge into darkness with a guided tour at Mammoth Caves National Park and you’ll see for yourself the allure of cave exploration. From cave dwelling species (who mean you no harm), to huge formations created by time, a trip to Mammoth Caves National Park will be a welcome contrast from the pressures of living above ground.