Following the pandemic, more people than ever are traveling and taking advantage of all Mother Nature has to offer. A national park is a majestic and exciting way to enjoy Mother Nature, and it is a popular destination for families. With more than 400 parks across the nation, we wanted to round up the best national parks to visit with the family.
You may be wondering the difference between a state and national park. A national park is managed and funded by the federal government, while a state park is managed on the state level. Here are the top 10 national parks as decided by Google reviewers.
Nestled in the pristine Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, this national park offers all the beauty of Mother Nature along with a ton of family activities to experience. You’ll love breathtaking mountain views (especially in the fall when colors change) and if you’re lucky, you can catch a peek at black bears, deer, and many other animals that call this area home. Pro tip: If you are ever driving through the park and see a line of people waiting and looking up, the chances are very high they have spotted bears atop the trees!
- What Google Reviewers Like: Elk, black bears, and the beautiful fall colors are frequently mentioned by Google reviewers. They also love the babbling streams and multitude of recreational activities like rafting that can be enjoyed all around the national park.
- What’s Nearby: If you’re a Dolly Parton fan, you may want to pay a visit to nearby Pigeon Forge, home to Dollywood and other tourist experiences like mining for gems to make your own jewelry.
- Pet-friendly: You can bring dogs on a leash, but with such an abundance of black bears in the area, you shouldn’t bring them on hikes for their own safety.
- Camping: The national park campgrounds offer a variety of options from backcountry camping to campsites for beginners.
- Trails: You will never get bored if hiking is your idea of fun. There are many trail networks throughout the park.
- Other activities: Downtown Gatlinburg offers fun for the whole family, from an aquarium, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Experience, and even moonshine tasting for adults.
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in northern Colorado and offers protected mountains, lush forests, and plenty of wildlife to take in. Whether you plan to drive to see the sights or hike for hours, you’ll have the chance to see untouched beauty while taking advantage of recreational activities across the national park.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Moose, deer, big horn sheep, and chipmunk are some of the most mentioned words in the Google Reviews, so this tells us it might be one of the best national parks for seeing wildlife up close and personal.
- What’s Nearby: If history is your thing, the Estes Park Museum gives a look into the early days of the area with a look back into the lives of local homesteaders.
- Pet-friendly: Pets are prohibited on all Rocky Mountain trails. Leashed pets can accompany you in parking lots and on national park campgrounds.
- Camping: There are 5 national campgrounds to choose from and plenty of other options in surrounding areas that will fit your needs.
- Trails: Enjoy 350 miles of hiking trails to choose from ranging from novice to expert hikes.
- Other activities: Visit Alberta Falls for a gorgeous look at a waterfall, or head to Moraine Park if spotting elk is at the top of your list. Cross-country skiing is another great option in the winter.
Have you ever heard of hoodos? These irregular columns of rock are stunning to look at, and at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, you’ll find the largest concentration of hoodos in the world. The elevation and remote nature of this national park makes it one of the best national parks to take in the night skies.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Breathtaking views and horseback riding are what many of Google reviewers rave about at this national park.
- What’s Nearby: Check out some of the best stargazing opportunities in the United States at Dark Ranger Telescope Tours.
- Pet-friendly: Pets are only allowed in certain areas of the national park for their safety, including paved surfaces, and most of the paved viewpoints except where posted.
- Camping: Whether you are a backcountry camper and need little more than the wilderness, or you want full accomodations for a family, there are a number of national park campgrounds to choose from.
- Trails: There are several easy, moderate, an expert hikes to choose from all throughout the national park.
- Other activities: One of the most popular things to do while visiting this national park is to take in the sights by horseback.
This ultra-popular Maine getaway is situated on 47,000 acres of the Atlantic coast, filled with rocky beaches and granite mountaintops like Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast. Whale watching is a popular activity, and other wildlife like bear and moose are also a delight for visitors.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Visitors call this the best of both worlds, with thousands of acres of untouched coast matched with a beachside town with plenty of restaurants and things to do when not mingling with nature.
- What’s Nearby: Also called the “Thunder of the Sea,” take a 15-minute drive to Thunder Hole to see Mother Nature show off as waves crashing against the rocky shore.
- Pet-friendly: Pets are permitted on trails and at national park campgrounds.
- Camping: There are two national park campgrounds, and several more in the surrounding area to fit your needs.
- Trails: Choose from 100 miles of walking trails with an adventure around every corner.
- Other activities: There is always somewhere to boat, swim, or fish inside Acadia National Park, and horseback riding is another popular outing.
If an active volcano appeals to your adventurous side, then this is one of the best national parks to visit. Mount Rainier National Park is a whopping 14,410 feet above sea level in Washington state, leaving its peak glistening with white snow. This national park encompasses 368 square miles, with almost all of it designated by Congress as wilderness.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Taking in sights like waterfalls and enjoying rock climbing and gorgeous hikes filled with nature are what Google Reviewers liked most.
- What’s Nearby: As if there isn’t plenty to see throughout this extensive park, take a trip back in time and head to the Longmire Museum for a look at earlier settlers in the area.
- Pet-friendly: You will not want to bring your pets as they are not allowed in most areas of the national park.
- Camping: There are a variety of choices for family-friendy camping throughout the national park and on the outskirts.
- Trails: You won’t have time to hit all 149 hiking trails, but you’ll have plenty of fun trying!
- Other activities: Bicycling, climbing, fishing, and scoping out the lush assortment of wildflowers are all popular activities at this national park.
One of the most gorgeous national parks in the country is in South Dakota. There are more than 240,000 acres of stunning geological formations and enough interesting wildlife to keep thewhole family entertained. Scenic lookouts and plenty of easy hiking for the whole family is enough of a reason to visit this gem.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Even if hiking isn’t your favorite thing to do, you’ll be able to see plenty of sights from your car thanks to Badlands Scenic loop. If you’re lucky, you can watch prairie dogs and bison roam the park.
- What’s Nearby: If you’ve got some younger hikers on your trip, the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead is a great spot to take in the sites while looking at fossil replicas.
- Pet-friendly: Pets are allowed, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
- Camping: There are a variety of choices for family-friendly camping throughout the national park and even more outside of the park.
- Trails: There is a hike for everyone, including a 10 mile trek for more advanced hikers.
- Other activities: You can bike, fish, and backcountry camp in the Badlands while taking in Mother Nature.
You will revel in Alaska’s untouched wilderness in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve while experiencing some of the world’s most gorgeous tidewater glaciers and one of the world’s largest protected areas. (This national park is one of the few that can be enjoyed by cruise ship!) Whether visiting by sea or by land, you’ll see sea lions, whales, birds, and many other wildlife unique to the area.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Reviewers call it some of the bluest water they’ve ever seen, and suggest you opt for a glacier excursion if taking in this national park by cruise ship.
- What’s Nearby: Explore Bartlett Cove, which is the only developed area within the national park. You’ll find kayak rentals, campgrounds, and other activities to take part in while visiting one of the best national parks in the world.
- Pet-friendly: Pets are only allowed in certain areas, but it is not recommended to bring a pet to this national park.
- Camping: There is a developed campground you can take advantage of within Bartlett Cove.
- Trails: There are no maintained trails in the national park, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of gorgeous hikes and sightseeing throughout the area.
- Other activities: If you’re feeling a little adventurous, the Zip Rider is a thrill-seeking ride that gives you a birds-eye view of one of the most gorgeous national parks in the world.
This national park located in Alaska at the edge of the Kenai Peninsula features incredible glaciers and lush forests over 600,000 acres. Snow and ice cover 60 percent of the national park, with countless tidewater glaciers. Family fun includes kayaking, fishing, hiking, and even cross country skiing.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Where else can you kayak a glacier? This is a bucket list trip for many reviewers, and one of the top experiences to add to the list at this national park.
- What’s Nearby: The Lowell Creek Waterfall is a sight to see for tourists, but they mention walking across the street for an even more gorgeous view when you’re done.
- Pet-friendly: Pets should not be brought to the park for their safety, although they are allowed in a few select areas to use the bathroom and walk.
- Camping: There aren’t a huge number of campsites at the national park campgrounds, but you can
- Trails: There are only a few maintained trails in this national park, but they have gorgeous views.
- Other activities: In the summer months, take a boat tour even deeper into one of the best national parks for sightseeing.
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is a stretch of canyons spanning one mile deep and 277 miles long. This natural formation provides some of the most stunning views in the world and is perhaps the most iconic national park in the U.S. One of the most visited tourist destinations will also provide plenty of family fun whether sightseeing is your top priority or other recreational activities.
- What Google Reviewers Like: One visitor called it “The most wonderful park in the world” while others say pictures simply don’t it justice. This is truly one of the best national parks for expansive views of nature.
- What’s Nearby: There are a variety of different overlooks throughout the national park, but the West Rim is only about 130 miles from Las Vegas, which makes it easy to hit both spots while you’re there.
- Pet-friendly: Leashed pets are allowed through developed areas, but keep in mind that wild animals roam this national park and it might not be the safest spot for your pet.
- Camping: Tent and RV camping is available throughout several areas of the park.
- Trails: There are a variety of trails for an easy day hike, or more advanced hikes throughout the park. Always make sure to check the weather.
- Other activities: Jump on a guided bicycle tour or a 3 hour trip on a mule! You can also take a night trip on a mule if you are extra adventurous.
Tucked into California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain range, Sequoia trees, waterfalls, and granite cliffs are just some of the sights to take in at the 1,200-mile Yosemite National Park. This park welcomes millions of visitors each year for its abundant wildlife and landmarks like El Capitan. Enjoy nature up close while choosing from a number of recreational activities with your family.
- What Google Reviewers Like: Waterfalls, mountains, and Instagram-able views are what visitors talk about most on Google Reviews.
- What’s Nearby: If you’ve ever seen the iconic California Tunnel Tree in photos online, you’ll have the chance to get your own picture nearby. If natural history is your speed, take the family to the nearby California State Mining and Mineral Museum will offer you the option to view amazing gems up close and personal.
- Pet-friendly: Dogs are allowed within Yosemite National Park, but you will want to be careful due to the abundant wildlife.
- Camping: Camping options are plentiful within the national park campgrounds, but you’ll want to double check the reservation policies as they vary by month.
- Trails: There are a large variety of trails, but here are a few of the best and most popular hikes based on skill levels.
- Other activities: Birdwatching, fishing, and rock climbing are all popular within this national park.
What Should I Bring to National Park Campgrounds?
When traveling to national park campgrounds, it is always important to check each park’s website for policies regarding reservations and other requirements. For example, some national park campgrounds allow RVs and tents, while others do not. Here is a good idea of what to bring on your next camping adventure to one of the best national parks in the United States.
- Camping chairs are perfect for resting during a hike or hanging out by the campsite.
- Pop up canopies provide ample sun protection for the whole family.
- Umbrellas and portable sun shelters are ideal for fishing by the lake.
- Coolers are important to stay cool and hydrated.
- A cot will keep you comfortable no matter where your adventure takes you.
- A camping table is crucial for preparing food properly at the campsite.