8 National Parks Your Family Needs to Visit Before the Kids Grow Up!

I knew the answer before I even asked the question.

“Hey guys, want to go to the Grand Canyon on Saturday for the National Park’s 100th anniversary?”

“No thanks.”

“That’s too far.”

“I’m so glad I’m going to be gone,” said our hockey playing son, who has to be in California with his team this weekend.

“I’m not doing that.”

Sigh. The family fun weekend memory making struggle is real.

That’s why you do a 7 month family sabbatical around the USA and hit as many National Parks as you can before your kids become teenagers! We had our foursome exactly where we wanted them in 2014, when we wore out our National Park pass traveling from state to state by RV.

Today marks the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary and for those of you with kids under the age of 13, I’m begging you to stop what you’re doing and take advantage of the centennial celebration this weekend! Head to the nearest park and take advantage of free admission this weekend! Nature, history and adventure do the body good.

Better yet, plan a fall vacation to some of these favorites of ours. If you’ve got a 4th grader, you’re in luck! Every Kid in a Park is a program for all 4th grade American students enabling them and their family members to enter parks for free throughout the school year. Take advantage of this fun opportunity!

Here are 8 of our National Park Service Faves

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – North Carolina and Tennessee

Roaming Elk at Great Smoky National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is gorgeous in the fall. We loved our time here!

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

2. Bryce Canyon National Park – UtahFamily hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

We loved hiking all through Bryce Canyon. Gorgeous unique scenery!

Are you familiar with Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks? We only hit two of them and hope to knock out the other three next year to celebrate our triplets’ 16th birthday. They won’t be able to say no to that milestone purposeful trip!

Zion National Park in Utah

3. Zion National Park – Utah

Kids hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park and the Narrows hike was a family favorite.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

4. Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming

Buffalo at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Yellowstone is just one of those popular National Parks that you just have to go to one day. It’s really amazing to witness Old Faithful spout up right in front of you!

Currently, fire has unfortunately closed the main thoroughfare between Jackson and Yellowstone National Park. The fire has burned about 42 square miles since was ignited by lightning on Aug. 8. So sad!

Family hiking around Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Glacier National Park in Montana

5. Glacier National Park – Montana

West Glacier National Park in Montana

Glacier National Park is out of this world! Despite the rainy weather and cooler temperatures, this park was absolutely stunning.

Junior Ranger program at West Glacier National Park in Montana

Get your kids involved in the Junior Ranger program, where they can earn badges or patches by filling out workbooks at each National Park for free.

National Park Junior Ranger badge collection

Our kids have quite the collection of earned badges and have many fun memories attached to each one.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico

6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico

Family hiking at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns was one of a few caves we hit along our tour of the US. Try to go when the “Bat Flight” program happens every evening from Memorial Day through October at 7 p.m.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park ranger guided candlelight cave tour

Or take a candlelit guided tour through the cave for a unique experience!

Mount Rushmore National Park in Black Hills, South Dakota

7. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – South Dakota

Kids looking at Mount Rushmore National Monument in Black Hills, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore is a must see. Here are my tips when visiting this American icon!

Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming

8. Devils Tower National Monument – Wyoming


Devils Tower is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Mount Rushmore.

Devils Tower National Monument Deer in Wyoming

Happy 100 years to the National Park Service! These parks and many others brought much joy to our lives and I hope you get the chance to go experience as many as you can too!

What are your favorites?

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