When we began traveling across the United States as a family a few years ago, I really wanted to go hiking in the US National Parks with the kids. Luckily, there are several easy national park hikes for families to enjoy.
However, if you have kids, you know that hiking with kids can be challenging, and I often feared that my kids stamina (okay, I’m lying, I feared my own stamina) wasn’t going to be enough to see the really amazing sights in our US National Parks.
I am pleased to report that those fears are unfounded! There are numerous easy national park hikes that are perfect for families.
In fact, we asked several other outdoor-loving travel families, and they gave us this huge list of easy day hikes for families in our national parks.
Time to go hiking with the kids! No more excuses.
Acadia National Park
Cadillac Mountain Summit Loop
We had a very brief time in Acadia on our road trip through New England, but I loved that we didn’t have to skip the views from Cadillac Mountain Summit.
Many people like to hike, but you can actually drive up the 3.5 mile road of the summit to the top of Cadillac Mountain and park your car.
Then you can enjoy what is essentially a leisurely stroll along the rocky path with vast views of the entire area. It’s breathtaking!
Amanda of VeraVise Outdoor Living (Yours truly ;))
Ocean Path Trail
Ocean Path Trail is one of the best national park hikes for families. It is located in Acadia National Park. Acadia contains some of the most scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the granite rock formations along the cliffs are stunning.
The trail is great for kids because it is paved and flat. Technically, it is 4 miles round trip; however, you can stop and turn around at any point. It is mostly stroller friendly, yet there are numerous unmarked “side adventures” you can take to see the water even closer.
Once you are off the main trail, you can scramble around the granite rock formations until you reach the water’s edge below or the edge of a cliff. The side trails are very short, but a great opportunity to see even better views of the forested and rocky shoreline.
Ocean Path Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. Some of the most famous pictures of Acadia have been taken from one of the many vantage points on this trail.
It is definitely one of the most scenic, easy hikes we have ever done as a family. I highly recommend families explore Ocean Path Trail when visiting Acadia National Park.
by Margie DQ of DQ Family Travel
PRO TIP: A Few Essentials To Pack In Your Day Pack
- National Park Specific Essentials
- Passport To The National Parks book
- Trail maps
- National Park Guides
- Outdoor nature pocket guides for birds and plants specific to the region
- National Park Pass– BY THE WAY REI will donate 10% of sale proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities
- Trail maps and a compass
- Water, water, and more water! The absolute BEST INVESTMENT I have made in hiking gear was when we purchased kids hydration packs.
- Merino Wool Socks! DarnTough (made in America…yay!) or SmartWool are great options.
- Great Hiking Shoes– It’s no secret that my favorite hiking shoes of all time are CS Ultra Salomon shoes.
- Base Layer – T-shirts, Pants, Capris (I have just discovered these and LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM…just sayin, Shorts
- Outer Layer- Jacket, Gloves, Buff, Beanie
Arches National Park
Windows Trail is a great place for families to begin their day in Arches National Park as the hikes are easy and you can easily access both the Window Arches as well as the nearby Double Arch and Turret Arch within a 20 minute walk.
This is great since parking can be hard to find and you won’t need to move the car until you’ve seen all these easy to hike to arches.
The trails are flat and paved in most areas, but there are steps and rocky places so its not stroller conducive, but the short distance should make using a carrier easier.
A little lesson from experience for you: Don’t give up and think you have passed the entrance or have the wrong directions to the trailhead once you enter the park.
It is actually 9.2 miles up Arches Entrance Road, and then after Balanced Rock (yes that is bolded and stressed for a reason!) take the first right. Then you will drive yet another 2.7 miles to parking for Windows Trail.
So be sure to allow time for that in your plans and don’t think (like we did) that arriving at the gate before 10 am means you will be ahead of the crowd. 🙂
Sand Dunes Arch was so fun! I’m not kidding when I say everyone loved this place! It is basically one giant sand box complete with fins for climbing, slot canyons for squeezing into, and rocks for making funny pictures!
As with any of the sites in Arches National Park, get there early. We almost skipped this one because we couldn’t find a parking space, but one opened up at the last minute.
I’d have missed some great memories if we hadn’t made it, so don’t miss this hike with your kids and give yourself time to get a place to park.
Landscape Arch is a very popular hike in Arches National Park and the chance to see one of the world’s longest arches.
Starting at the Devils Garden trailhead, it’s an easy 1.6 mile (2.6 km) hike along a hard packed trail to Landscape Arch and back.
You could take a stroller for the majority of the trail, but there is a section of sand near the Landscape Arch. A hiking backpack carrier is a better choice.
Right at the start you’ll be hiking through tall fins and enjoying spectacular views. If the little legs are up for it, near the start of the trail is a spur trail to two other arches, called Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch, which are well worth the time to see.
Also both near the start of the trail and again at the Landscape Arch, you’ll find some sections of sand that are fun for kids to play in.
At the start of the hike, the sand is in a narrow section amongst the fins and is fun for kids to run up and down. It’s also shady and cool so a great place to stop at the end to cool off.
If your kids are older and up for more of a challenge, you can continue past Landscape Arch along the Primitive Loop trail to Double O Arch. We weren’t able to continue up this way with our young kids, but we did do a large section of the Primitive Loop trail heading the opposite way.
It was a beautiful hike with amazing views. However much of the trail you do, make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and hats. We also recommend starting as early as possible to avoid both crowds and the heat.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend is an excellent family destination because it is filled with short easy national park hikes for families of all sizes.
The Lost Mine Trail
One of the most popular hikes in this West Texas park is the Lost Mine Trail. This is a shorter trail at 4.6 miles in and out. There is a pretty substantial elevation gain, so it’s best for the bigger kids versus toddlers.
The Lost Mine is a very popular trail with scout troops in the area (we even found one celebrating their hike at the top!), so kids love it. The views at the top are epic and there is lots of room to run around and relax with a snack before beginning your way back down.
Luckily for tired little legs, the entire trip back is downhill. Keep an eye out for wildlife, aside from white-tailed deer and bunnies, these mountains are home to black bears and mountain lions. Sightings are rare but looking for them can be an exciting game for the family.
There is a lot to do in this park tucked away in the West Texas desert, from day trips to Boquillas Mexico to learning about dinosaur fossils, but no trip is complete without a hike to the Lost Mine.
Bryce Canyon National Park
The Rim Trail
The Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points is the perfect way for families to enjoy the Bryce Canyon National Park views of the amphitheater without the steep hike down the canyon and back up.
The paved path is 1 mile round trip beginning and returning to the same point. Near Sunset Point you can peer over the edge to see the chasms of the Silent City and watch hikers winding their way along the steep switchbacks of Wall Street.
Be sure to find the famous hoodoo called Thor’s Hammer near the entrance to the Navajo Loop trail. If you are feeling daring, or have older kids, you can hike along the Navajo Loop trail as far as Thor’s Hammer.
Seeing the hoodoos from this perspective is spectacular. Just don’t get too carried away going down since the return trip is a steep climb back up!
In the winter, the path between Sunset and Sunrise Points is usually cleared of snow. If you want an unforgettable winter experience, strap on snowshoes and hike along the other sections of the Rim Trail that aren’t maintained.
The views and unique beauty of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater from the Rim Trail are something you’ll never forget!
Capitol Reef National Park
Grand Wash Trail
Grand Wash Trail in Capitol Reef National Park is a great family friendly trail that the kids will love. To access the trail from the Scenic Drive begin at the Capitol Reef Visitor Center drive to Grand Wash turn-off and follow a maintained gravel road for about 1.2 miles to the parking area.
Alternatively, you can access it from Scenic Highway 24 about 4.5 miles east of the visitor center. The trail cuts through the wash all the way so either end is fine.
Our family loved Grand Wash because the easy hike into the dry wash bed gave us plenty of places to climb and explore.
The 800 foot canyon walls that loom overhead on both sides narrow down to only 15 feet apart in sections. This is a fun sensation for kids. Slot canyons were definitely a highlight for our family while we were out west.
Death Valley National Park
Badwater Basin Salt Flat
Death Valley has several day hikes that are appropriate for families. The easiest, and by definition the flattest, is the Badwater Basin Salt Flat, which is less of a hike and more of a wander.
As the name suggests there is absolutely zero elevation gain and the ground is smooth thanks to the daily visitors that flatten the salt underfoot.
From the parking lot, the walk is a half mile (800m) to the edge of the salt flat and back, but realistically you can go as far as you want before turning back.
The only real impediment will be the heat, depending on the time of year. Surrounded by mountains on both sides, the vast salt flat is a truly unique hike and one that anyone with somewhat working legs will manage.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
Just 3 minutes from Stovepipe Wells, the Mesquite Sand Dunes are a surprising feature of an otherwise rocky desert.
While sand is often automatically associated with deserts, after driving through the rocky and mountainous national park, this image has long since left your mind’s eye.
There are no trails at the Mesquite Sand Dunes, just acres of rolling, shifting piles of sand just waiting for you to trudge over.
And while you may pick a destination to aim for, you can have an enjoyable time with the family simply by wandering — and playing — in the sand. Go as far or as short as the little legs will allow and let the rolling hills tell you where to go.
Everglades National Park
Since there are more swamps than mountains in Florida, most of the hikes you’ll find there are pretty flat and easy, making them great for families.
Anhinga Trail Everglades
One of my favorite trails in Everglades National Park was the Anhinga Trail, named after the birds that congregate there. The anhinga’s nickname is the snakebird due to its long neck.
When it catches fish, it holds the fish above the water with its long neck and swims to shore to enjoy its snack.
We were quite surprised at the start of the trail when we saw what appeared to be a snake swimming upright with a fish in its mouth! Turns out it was just an anhinga having lunch.
Starting at the Royal Palm Visitor Center, the Anhinga Trail is only about a mile long and is wheelchair/stroller accessible. Most of the trail actually consists of a boardwalk over the marshy areas so it is very flat and can be walked at your leisure.
The best part of this trail is the abundance of wildlife. In addition to the aforementioned anhingas, we saw alligators, several species of birds, turtles, and fish along the trail. Bring your camera to catch some of these animals in action!
by Danielle of Wanderlust While Working
Grand Canyon National Park
The trail to Shoshone Point is the best day hike for families visiting the Grand Canyon with small kids.
Seriously, if you only have time for one activity, hiking this trail should be it. How is it family-friendly? Let me count the ways…
- The trailhead is unmarked, so most people drive right by it. That means your family will enjoy a relatively crowd-free hike.
- The trail is extra wide and completely flat. It’s perfect for even the youngest walkers, but if yours can’t, the trail is incredibly stroller-friendly.
- It meanders through a forest before ending at the canyon rim, so is very safe for kids to explore freely (until you reach the canyon, of course).
- There’s an open space with picnic tables and a pavilion at the canyon, so everyone can relax and have lunch after the ¾ mile hike before going back.
And that about sums it up! Five would, of course, be the incredible canyon views, but that goes without saying!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains are filled with easy hikes for kids, but Laurel falls trail is up there with the best of the best national park hikes for families. As such, don’t expect to be alone on the trail.
The 2.6 mile round trip trail is paved and I have gone with a stroller, though it can get bumpy in areas. The incline is mild with only a little over 300 foot gain in elevation.
What makes it so popular, however, are the beautiful mountain laurels along the way and the cascading reward at the end. I may be bias, but I certainly believe this to be one of the most beautiful hikes on this list.
Want to know more about taking a family vacation to the Smokies? Great, I have lots of great information for you to check out! And if that isn’t enough, find me over in our Facebook Group and ask away! I love helping people enjoy the Smokies!!
Here are a few more resources to help you plan a trip to the Smoky Mountains;
- Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide
- Smoky Mountains Things to Do With Kids
- Complete Guide To The Smoky Mountains
- Outdoor Adventures in The Smokies That Should Be On Your Bucket List
- Smoky Mountains Cabin Rentals
- Best Restaurants in Smoky Mountains
Haleakala National Park
Far on the Eastern edge of the Hawaiian island of Maui, just past the end of the legendary Road to Hana sits the backside of the amazing Haleakala National Park.
While this side of the park may not see as many visitors as the 9,000 ft volcanic crater that makes up the other side of Haleakala, it offers a far more lush and accessible experience for families.
7 Sacred Pools (and other easy hikes for families)
Visitors to the backside of Haleakala National Park are treated to relaxing hikes through beautiful spots such as the 7 sacred pools (which, ironically, are neither pools nor sacred) and the magical bamboo forest. Either hike is relatively easy for families.
The tour of the 7 Sacred pools waterfalls involves a relaxing 1-mile circuit that could be doubled if you want to explore the shores as well.
The Bamboo Forest is a slightly longer 1.8-mile one-way hike along waterfalls and musical bamboo plants that seem to defy gravity.
Kids will love the relatively flat (for Hawaii) trails and the gorgeous streams and waterfalls along the way. Bring a swimsuit, but check with the wardens. Sometimes you can swim in the streams, however, swimming is often closed due to heavy rains.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park located near Palm Springs, California is known for its unique Joshua Trees and giant piles of boulders which makes it great for kids. Your family will love the scrambling and rock climbing they can do in Joshua Tree.
Hidden Valley Nature Trail- Joshua Tree
Hidden Valley Nature Trail is a short 1 mile loop trail which is perfect for families. While the trail does have some stairs making it not suitable for strollers, it is a perfect trail for young children especially if you are short on time.
Kids love this trail because they can climb the rock piles. Parents will enjoy the wildflowers along the trail. You will also encounter Joshua trees and cactus on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail.
While the trail does have some sheltering, it’s important to remember this is the desert so an early hike or an off season visit to the park is recommended for families.
Amanda of Patsey Family Travels
Mesa Verde National Park
Park Point Trail
Park Point Trail in Mesa Verde is an easy 0.4 out and back paved trail leading to the highest view point in the park. Don’t confuse this trail with the MUCH LONGER AND HARDER Point Lookout Trail.
I mean, seriously, hike naming people, could you make it a little easier on us next time with these names? Anyway, I digress.
PARK POINT TRAIL is not too bad at all. However, though it is paved, the climb is steep and pushing a stroller up it may prove more difficult than just carrying your child, in my opinion.
While it is a bit of a steep climb, everyone in our party could manage the trail from our 4 year old to our 64 year old. At the top of the trail on a clear day you will be able to see Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park has some pretty amazing hikes, but one of the best to complete as a family is a hike to Emerald Lake.
The trail is roughly 3.5 miles roundtrip and the terrain is fairly easy. We saw many people completing this hike with young children, but it is not a stroller friendly hike.
The trail can get pretty crowded with people and families, but it is crowded for good reason- the scenery you will encounter along the way is absolutely breathtaking!
The hike begins at Bear Lake Trailhead and continues off to the right towards Nymph lake. There are some steep, but short climbs throughout the trail and they are totally doable by young children.
You will pass by 3 different alpine lakes during your hike and each is incredibly beautiful. You will also encounter a gorgeous waterfall along the way. Depending on the time of the year, the falls could be roaring with snowmelt from the top of the mountains!
If you want to park at the Bear Lake Trailhead- we recommend you arrive extremely early as this parking lot fills up by the latest 10 am every day.
If you aren’t there early enough, do not fear- you can simply park down at a lower parking lot and take the shuttle service up to the trailhead.
Alberta Falls and Bear Lake
We also enjoyed Alberta Falls and Bear Lake (mentioned above) during our time in the Rockies. Here’s a quick video of our time there.
If you want even more pictures (because you aren’t somehow convinced of how beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park is yet), visit our Facebook page to see more from our time there.
by Amanda of VeraVise Outdoor Living
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is a great national park for families because there are some easy day hikes. My favorite is Congress Trail, an easy loop trail that passes several of the biggest trees in the world.
The largest of the trees are named after famous political and historical figures(hence the name “Congress Trail”) and kids will love seeing and exploring them.
Congress Trail is an easy three-mile walk that is paved the whole way and is stroller-friendly. This is an easy national park day hike that is perfect for young kids and families.
Starting at the General Sherman parking lot, the first part of the walk is actually along the General Sherman Trail which goes from the parking lot through a tunnel carved in the trunk of a tree that fell across the path to the General Sherman tree. The Congress Trail is a loop that starts from there.
The beginning and end of the paved trail are through pine forest, which is nice enough, but it is the enormous sequoia trees that tower high above that are the main attraction. Running around the trees is fun, and a great way to feel small and insignificant.
James at Travel Collecting
Shenandoah National Park
As a family, we love getting out into the great outdoors. We currently live in the DC area and so escaping to Shenandoah National Park is a family favorite. We are frequent visitors to the park and enjoy spending a long weekend in nearby towns.
Neighbor Mountain Trail
Shenandoah is the perfect park for families with it’s three different entrances, making it easy to try out multiple hiking locations.
Since our son is still working on his stamina, we picked the Neighbor Mountain Trail. It is a family, as well as a dog-friendly trail with a gradual 0.5-mile ascent to the top with views over the valley.
Tips For Visiting Shenandoah National Park With Kids
- Pick up a trail guide either at one of the visitor centers or online. There are two guides that are perfect for families looking for short and easy hikes.
- Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at the picnic pavilion at the top of the trail.
- Play hide and seek through the meandering fern valley and thick with trees before zig-zagging up the hill.
- Play eye spy to find all the hidden bugs and spiders with their beautiful webs.
by Chelsea from Pack More Into Life
Yellowstone National Park
Prepare to be astounded by the geyser activity you will find along Yellowstone’s Boardwalk Trail. This trail meanders through the Upper and Lower Basin in the Old Faithful area of Yellowstone National Park. Along this trail you will discover over 100 active springs and geysers.
The abundance of activity makes this walk fun for kids. If you stop by the Old Faithful Visitor Center families can check out a Young Scientist toolkit.
With this interactive tool, your family can work together to solve mysteries as they explore the Upper Basin. It’s a great way for your kids to learn about the geothermal activity while having a blast completing the challenge! When you return the toolkit kids, age 5-17, earn an award.
Our favorites were the Grotto Geyser which was extremely active on the day of our visit and the Morning Glory Pool which has gorgeous colors creating the image of a blooming flower.
Although you’ll find that not all features are active anyone day, because of the diverse mix in this condensed area you are sure to find a variety of lively activity to delight every family member.
Plan at least 2 hours to explore the Upper Basin area. The Boardwalk Trail is stroller friendly along most of the walk. Make sure you have water and hats, this trail is in the full sun. Looking for something more active? You can also rent bicycles and ride along the paved trail that follows the West side of this area.
by Ladona of Walking The Parks
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is great for kids! There are numerous kid friendly hiking trails in Yosemite National Park. There are two hikes in particular that are in different parts of the park that make for fantastic easy day hikes with kids.
First, the Glacier Point hike to the iconic viewpoint called Glacier Point is a must hike for any family visiting Yosemite.
The 1 mile in and out trail has a minimal elevation gain and leads to one of the best views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome that you can find in the entire park. Come here during sunset for an extra special treat.
Tuolumne Hike Around Tenaya Lake
Second, if you are looking for something just slightly longer than the Glacier Point hike and a bit more removed from the crowds of Yosemite Valley, then it’s worth driving to Tuolumne to hike the 2.5 mile loop around Tenaya Lake.
This hike is stunning, minimal elevation gain, and easily accessible for families with kids. Regardless of what you choose to hike in Yosemite, your family is bound to fall in love with Yosemite National Park.
Lower Yosemite Falls
The trail to Lower Yosemite Falls is a great national park hike for families – it’s short (just 1 mile round trip), pretty flat, and relatively stroller-friendly for folks visiting with small kids.
I’d recommend an all-terrain stroller for this hike, because there are some bumps here and there, and the ground can be fairly soft and muddy after a winter thaw or a summer rain.
When we went, we got pretty wet, but it was worth it for the reward at the end – the bottom of a huge waterfall spraying mist into our faces!
Portions of the hike – where the ground holds the most water – are planked with wood to keep strollers and young walkers from getting stuck, and the rest of the trail is nicely packed down from all the foot traffic.
Speaking of foot traffic, this isn’t exactly a crowd-free trail. It’s one of the most popular ones in the park. While there’s no way to avoid all the people, arriving super early – like, crack of dawn early – will help you avoid some of the peak crowds. It’s worth it!
Where To Stay Near Yosemite National Park
- Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is located only 7 minutes from the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park and very close to the Glacier Point hike.
- Yosemite’s Big Rock Cabin– This 3 Bedroom 3 bath Cabin is less than 2 Miles from the South Gate and sleeps 10 people
Zion National Park
We know you have heard of the famous Narrows Hikes and Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Perhaps you think all the hikes at Zion are only for the venturesome people without any kids.
Think again! I can not imagine skipping Zion National Park in our quest to get our kids to all the national parks before they move out!
Riverside Walk is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL HIKE and it is a perfect national park hike for families with kids of all ages.
It is actually a the hike you will take on your way TO the Narrows so unless you arrive super early, you won’t be alone on the trail, but it is a sidewalk trail and it is stroller friendly until you reach the Narrows.
For more tips and Itineraries for Zion National Park try these articles.
My absolute favorite part of the hike was reaching the river where we were able to take off our shoes, get in the river, and have a blast! Don’t miss this one!!
We hope after seeing all these amazing and EASY NATIONAL PARK HIKES, you won’t be intimidated and will get your family into the parks and on the trails.
Did we leave off one of your favorites? Leave us a comment or find us on Facebook and tell us about your favorites!
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Make your trips fun for the kids with this national park scavenger hunt printable game for kids.