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Top 25 National Parks For Families To Visit This Summer

We live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

To say the scenery less than an hour from our front door is spectacular would be an understatement. For the past few years we have gone camping in Banff National Park on weekends, and have also spent some time in Montana visiting Glacier National Park.

As Memorial Day approaches, the unofficial start of road-trip season is here. So we are getting down to planning this summer’s weekend escapes.  We’ve pulled out the atlas (internet), flipped through the pamphlets (websites), and have added many items to our bucket list. (Arches and Monument Valley top our list)

Planning your summer getaway?

See if any of these amazing 25 Best National Parks and Monuments for families can be squeezed in to your road-tripping itinerary.

  • 25 Best National Parks 1 of 26
    Top 25 Best National Parks

    From mountain peaks to deep canyons, ice fields to everglades, check out the best National Parks you can escape to this summer.

  • Zion National Park 2 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Zion

    Where: Utah
    Why: Zion means 'place of refuge' in Hebrew, and this park is just that for more than 270 species of birds. More than 2 million people a  year visit this canyon that, at it's deepest, reaches a half mile below the surface.

    Get more information about Zion National Park here!

    Image via Alan Park

  • Jasper National Park 3 of 26
    Best National Parks | Jasper

    Where: Alberta
    Why: As one of Canada's oldest and largest national parks, established in 1907, Jasper was once seen as an island of civilization in a vast wilderness. It is also home to the Columbia Ice Fields, a huge glacier you can hike, climb on, and drink from. 

    Get more information on Jasper National Park here.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Blue Ridge Parkway National Park 4 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Blue Ridge

    Where: Virginia / North Carolina
    Why: This is where you want to take a Sunday drive. And then a Monday one. And Tuesday one. And so on. A Blue Ridge Parkway experience is unlike any other, a slow-paced and relaxing drive revealing stunning long-range vistas and close-up views of the rugged mountains and pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. 

    Get more information on the Blue Ridge Parkway here.

    Image via Ethan K

  • Glacier National Park 5 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Glacier National Park

    Where: Montana

    Why: The Going-To-The-Sun Road is one of the most spectacular drives you will ever take in your life.  You climb to the heights of Logan Pass alongside mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and descend the other side to lush scapes that are home to bears.  This picture was taken July 4. You can see why it takes them 3 months to clear the twisty, turning 2 lane road that clings to the cliffs.

    Get more information on Glacier National Park here.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Pacific Rim National Park 6 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Pacific Rim

    Where: British Columbia

    Why: While most places on this list have you outdoors exploring nature, you might find yourself shuttered inside in this grey, wet rainforest.  Truth be told, storm watching is a popular pasttime here.  If the weather clears, you'll enjoy wandering through the ancient rainforests or heading out to sea for whale watching or fishing.

    Get more information on Pacific Rim National Park.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Craters Of The Moon National Monument 7 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Craters of the Moon

    Where: Idaho

    Why: This is actually a park of protected ancient lava flows. There are no actual moon craters here, but this is one of the best ways to experience the surface of the moon, on earth. It's a very unique landscape and a worthy pitstop or detour on a drive between Washington and Montana.

    Get more information on Craters of the Moon National Monument here.

    Image via Dave

  • Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area 8 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Dunes

    Where: Oregon
    Why: You will get sand in your shoes here. While dune bugging riding, and hiking across the many dunes will have you dreaming of a Saharan adventure, the real thing to try is sandboarding.  Think snowboard, on a sand dune.  Warning: no chair lifts here, you're hiking back up.

    Get more information on Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area here.

    Image via Radiobread

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park 9 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Carlsbad Cavern

    Where: New Mexico

    Why: Spelunking. The kids will not only have fun saying the word, they'll have fun doing it. You can climb down through more than 110 known caves in the park all formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone.

    Get more information on Carlsbad Caverns here.

    Image via SkinnyLawyer

  • Yellowstone National Park 10 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Yellowstone

    Where: Wyoming
    Why: Established in 1872 as America's first National Park, Yellowstone is home to Old Faithful. Really, this is the reason you want to go. Having been to see the original Geysir in Iceland, I can tell you these geothermal explosions are great fun, as long as you don't stand down wind. Yellowstone is home to the world's largest collection of geysers, so you might get hit no matter where you stand.

    Get more information on Yellowstone National Park here.

    Image via Tipparti

  • Chimney Rock National Historic Site 11 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Channel Rock

    Where: Nebraska

    Why: This is an important landmark in American history. The natural geologic formation signaled that pioneers were almost done with the flat prairie and about to enter the foothills, and mountains. It's an oft mentioned landmark in pioneer journals. Many of them wrote their names at the base of the rock, but the erosion that created the spire quickly blew them away.

    Get more information on Chimney Rock here.

    Image via Robert Dudash

  • Green Gables Heritage Place 12 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Green Gables

    Where: Prince Edward Island
    Why: The books of Lucy Maud Montgomery bring thousands of people to this small home every year. Here the adventures of Anne of Green Gables come to life amonst the lush green, deep red, and vivid blue landscape of Prince Edward Island.

    Get more information on Green Gables here.

    Image via Heather Harvey

  • Channel Islands National Park 13 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Channel Islands

    Where: California

    Why: These 5 isolated islands off the coast of California are often called "North America's Galapagos."  They are a pristine, untouched, unique landscape right near the bustling streets of Los Angeles. This is a truly a magical escape for those who love nature.

    Get more information on Channel Islands here.

     Image via Ken Lund

     

  • Bruce Peninsula National Park 14 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Bruce

    Where: Ontario

    Why: "The Bruce", as it is called, is in the heart of a World Biosphere Reserve. These UNESCO sites are meant to show people and nature living in a perfect relationship. Huge cedar trees, rugged cliffs, dense forests, and the clear waters of Georgian Bay attract visitors here. 

    Get more information on Bruce Peninsula here.

    Image via ElPadawan

  • Acadia National Park 15 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Acadia

    Where: Maine
    Why: The first national park east of the Mississippi, people come to hike Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the US Atlantic Coast, bike historic carriage roads or simply enjoy the view. (for comparison, Cadillac Mountain is less than 10% the height of Mt McKinley)

    Get more information on Acadia National Park here.

    Image via Doug Kerr

  • Yosemite National Park 16 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Yosemite

    Where: California

    Why: First protected in 1864, Yosemite is best known for its waterfalls, but the iconic Half Dome is what calls the climbers to this wilderness of  nearly 1,200 square miles. The large slab of granite was the inspiration for the logo of the company The North Face.

    Get more information on Yosemite here.

    Image via Vincente Villamon

  • Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park 17 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Monument Valley

    Where: Utah

    Why: Cars.  The kids will think they have entered Radiator Springs.  These famous 1000 ft high sandstone buttes will have you thinking you've entered the set of dozens of other movies you've seen from Easy Rider to Forest Gump.  I want to go here so bad. SO BAD.

    Get more information on Monument Valley here.

    Image via Don Graham

  • Grand Teton National Park 18 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Grand Teton

    Where: Wyoming
    Why: You can make this a two-fer by visiting Yellowstone and then heading just a little further south. There are more than 1000 drive in campsites here to explore the backcountry with hiking and fishing. The park is named for the towering mountain, Grand Teton.  If you're in to archaeology, look around for signs that the earliest peoples traveled through this area more than 11 000 years ago.

    Get more information on Grand Teton here.

    Image via fortherock

  • Banff National Park 19 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Banff

    Where: Alberta

    Why: The first National Park in Canada, established in 1885, Banff is a pristine and classic Rocky Mountain playground.  Hiking, boating, fishing, camping, climbing, kayaking, and more can be had.  This place is, basically, my backyard, I can't sing about it enough.

    Get more information on Banff National Park here.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

     

  • Arches National Park 20 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Arches

    Where: Utah

    Why: The arches, more than 2 000 of them. The gorgeous red geography of this park is staggering.  Don't get too close to any of the edges, lest you reenact the role that garnered James Franco an Oscar nomination in 127 Hours.

    Get more information on Arches National Park here.

    Image via Tony Kent

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park 21 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Cuyahoga Valley

    Where: Ohio

    Why: Jammed between Cleveland and Akron, this park started as a nature escape as early as the 1870s when carriage rides in the country were a popular retreat.  As a nod to the region it shares, one of the popular points of interest is an old junk yard that is now home to beavers. The valley is still a popular place for Sunday drives, bike rides, hikes, and getting away from the city.

    Get more information on Cuyahoga Valley here.

    Image via Perry Quan

  • Redwoods National Park 22 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Redwoods

    Where: California

    Why: The trees. Big, huge, massive trees. The tallest, Hyperion, is nearly 400 ft tall.  The National Parks Service would like to have you look at more than the trees, though. They remind you "the parks also protect vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and nearly 40 miles of pristine coastline."

    Get more information on Redwoods here.

    Image via Kristina DC Hoeppner

  • Everglades National Park 23 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Everglades

    Where: Florida

    Why: This is a landscape like none other in the country. Referred to as "a river of grass", these wetlands cover  nearly 1.5 million acres.  Ever wonder why they called the hockey team The Florida Panthers?  You'll get the answer here.

    Get more information on Everglades here.

    Image via Sebastian Bergmann

  • Grand Canyon National Park 24 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Grand Canyon

    Where: Arizona

    Why: You can peer over the edge, climb to the bottom, or take a helicopter ride over the entire valley created by the Colorado River. Whichever you take, it's a bucket list item that absolutely, positively, must be checked.

    Get more information on Grand Canyon here.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park 25 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Great Smoky Mountains

    Where: Tennessee

    Why: Despite all the mountains, coastlines, volcanoes, and attractions of the other parks on the list, this is America's most visited national park. Historic buildings, beautiful drives, strenuous hikes, relaxing waterfalls, are just some of the things that draw the crowds.

    Get more information on Great Smoky Mountains here.

    Image via Jetske

  • Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park 26 of 26
    25 Best National Parks | Hawai'i Volcanoes

    Where: Hawai'i

    Why: There's more to the islands of Hawai'i than beaches, and surfing lessons. The active volcanoes on the Big Island are a sight where you can watch lava flowing directly in the ocean.  Make sure you stick to the pathways, and watch for the signs, this is nature live and in action.

    Get more information on Hawai'i Volcanoes here.

    Image via Ken Lund

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