National Park Week is this week and the perfect time to start thinking about how to enjoy the parks with more than just yourself. For those with kids, our National Parks are about the best place to take the little ones for not just great memories, but also to instill in them a love of the outdoors. But hiking with children can be difficult. The trail can’t be too long, or too steep—but should still be enough of a challenge to keep them from boredom.
Here’s a list of the 8 best bets on taking your whole family hiking in the U.S. National Parks:
Acadia National Park, Maine
Out on the coast of Maine in Acadia National Park, you’ll find 50 miles of carriage roads with gravel paths that are 16-feet wide, meant for walkers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. The roads are closed to motorized vehicles, so you’ll never have to worry about vehicular traffic, and you and your family can admire the landscape of Mount Desert Island. The trail is never too steep, making it great for the youngest in your family—even if they’re in strollers.
Zion National Park, Utah
Weeping Rock isn’t a long hike by any means—it’s only a half-mile round trip—but it is pretty steep. And you can see a lot of the landmarks Zion has to offer at the top, so it’s definitely worth it. If you want a little more distance, try the Canyon Overlook Trail, which is 1‑mile round trip and gives you a view of all of Zion’s Switchbacks and lower Zion Canyon.
Mount Rainier, Washington
Sourdough Ridge Trail
Sourdough Ridge Trail rewards hikers with a fantastic view of Washington’s snowcapped peaks. The trail makes an easy 1‑mile loop in the subalpine zone in the Sunrise area of the park, and it’s a great hike to introduce your family to the mountains.
Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Devil’s Tower is definitely one of the coolest naturally formed rock formations in the nation. With its flat top and carved-looking sides, it’s not the kind of monument you just stop and take pictures of. No, get out of your car and take your kids on the walk around it to get a view of every angle.
Arches National Park, Utah
Delicate Arch Hike
A red-rocked desert landscape with more stone arches than anywhere else on the planet, Arches National Park is a must-see. The hike to Delicate Arch, the main attraction, is a little long for kids at 3 miles, but it’s absolutely worth it for the awesome view you’ll get of La Sal Mountains off in the distance.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
This is less a hike than just a fun family outing in one of the country’s coolest National Parks. With some of the tallest sand dunes in North America, Great Sand Dunes offers a perfect day of sand-sledding, skiing or just rolling down.
Yosemite National Park, California
Mist Trail to Vernal Falls
The Mist Trail is one of the more difficult on this list and is probably not best for younger children since it’s a little long with a decent amount of elevation gain—but the sublime view is absolutely worth the hike. Plus, you’ll cool down on even the hottest days thanks to the mist spray from the falls.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Thurston Lava Tube
Be sure to check the conditions before you head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, since this is one of the most volcanically-active places in the world. Young children might be a little afraid of the Thurston Lava Tube, since it’s an underground tunnel formed by molten lava—but older kids will likely have an awesome time. Oh and don’t worry, there are lights strung up just in case you’re prone to claustrophobia.