Family Road Trip: National Parks

Our Ruggish family is hitting the road this month! When we went looking for ideas for safe, affordable family vacations, it didn’t take us long to settle on road tripping to Montana to visit Glacier National Park. We’re looking forward to hiking, exploring and getting to know a new corner of the country.

It’s the perfect summer for a family road trip, and we’ve never been more grateful for our incredible national parks. After more than a year of being cooped up at home, we’re all ready to stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh air… and maybe check out some roadside attractions along the way (world’s largest Jolly Green Giant, anyone?)

To get you inspired to start thinking about your own family road trip, we picked out a few national parks in different regions of the country. If you need help figuring out what to do and where to stay along the way, Roadtrippers is a fun way to plan your fantasy vacation, complete with stops at the world’s largest frying pan, hammer, and ball of twine

Located 10 minutes from Moab, this park is great for kids who are early risers or night owls, since temperatures are more comfortable first thing in the morning and later in the day. There’s hiking for all skill levels, wide-open spaces, and spectacular scenery as far as the eye can see.

“What we discovered was that it was easy and absolutely perfect for kids of any age, as many of the best arches are very short walks from parking areas. There are moderate and long hikes for adventurous families, but it’s also great for families with toddlers and young kids, with rocks to play on everywhere.” (Travel Babbo)

Rocky beaches, mossy trees, hot springs and an actual rainforest — Olympic features some of the best things about the Pacific Northwest, with lots of corners for kids to explore and hikes for all ages.

“Olympic is an enormous park. It has alpine and rain forests, lakes, streams, mountains and beaches. All of these various environments offer a plethora of boulders, fallen tree trunks, enormous roots and giant piles of driftwood to leap, scramble and climb around.” (FamiliesGo!)

Feeling up for a little adventure? Channel Islands National Park can only be reached by boat or small plane (capacity is limited, so be sure to plan ahead). There are five islands to visit; on the largest, Santa Cruz, you’ll find hiking, sea kayaking, and the remnants of a 19th century ranching community.

“Be sure to take some time to walk through the visitor center. My family and I found the exhibit on what the islanders ate particularly interesting. But the real focus of your trip will be the island’s natural features.” (KidTripster)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

Sand dunes in the Midwest? Absolutely. Adventure on the shore doesn’t have to mean trekking to one end of the country or the other. The Great Lakes offer much of the same allure as the ocean, right smack in the middle of the country.

“Whether you spend your time on land or on the water, Pictured Rocks offers a wealth of recreation opportunities. On land, you will find towering sandstone cliffs, remote waterfalls, sandy beaches, and hiking trails through remote forests. If you can get out onto Lake Superior, you will discover hidden sea caves, beautifully rugged scenery, and great fishing.” (Back Road Ramblers)

Named for its main attraction, Mammoth Cave features the world’s longest cave system, which is… well, pretty awesome. There are cave adventures suitable for younger children as well as more challenging ways for older kids to explore.

“Overall, we found that Mammoth Cave was a fantastic way to spend a day with family. You can do as much or as little as you like and still make a full day of it. If you choose to explore with a guided tour, or on your own, your family will find something to love about this National Park.” (Along For the Trip)

Two words: Wild. Horses. If you ever read the classic children’s book Misty of Chincoteague, you must put Assateague Island on your bucket list. Home of the famed wild ponies of Chincoteague, this seaside park combines some of the road trip things kids love most: camping, beaches, and animals.

“I can’t say enough good things about this trip. We actually didn’t know what to expect, but we were thrilled with what we found!” (Unschool Rules)

Whichever national park you visit, be sure to ask about the Junior Ranger program. Kids can complete a free activity book in many national parks to earn their own Junior Ranger badge!

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