We cover every aspect of RV Travel here at The RV Atlas. But there is no topic that we love covering more than our National Parks. On today’s episode of the podcast we invited Kid Tripster editor Shellie Bailey-Shah to share her 8 favorite National Park’s for kids. To listen to our conversation with Shellie click on the media player above.
Shellie has visited 44 National Parks with her family–many of them in her Newmar Ventana motorhome. So to say she is an expert would be a bit of an understatement! Follow the links to Kid Tripster articles for each park if you want tips for planning your own adventures. Shellie made clear that this list is in no particular order. But she did break the list down into her “top five” and then three “honorable mentions.”
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is America’s first National Park. It may well also be its most iconic. When American travel writers first started visiting Yellowstone over a hundred years ago, many people did not believe their descriptions of its natural wonders. The parks geysers, hot springs, thermal pools, dramatic canyons, waterfalls, deep forests, winding rivers, and wildlife galore will fill your children’s souls with awe and wonder. The park is massive and many of its most famous features are pretty far apart. Give yourself as much time as you can to explore Yellowstone’s majesty. Bring extra SD cards for the thousands of photos you are going to take.
To learn more about Yellowstone visit Kid Tripster’s post here.
Zion National Park
Zion is Utah’s first national park. It is also one of America’s most popular national parks. 4.3 million people visited in 2018. When it comes to great national parks for kids Zion should be near the top of any list. Shellie’s kids loved wading in the Virgin River and hiking in the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools. These hikes are easy to do with young kids. Biking the Pa’rus Trail is also highly recommended. If you have more ambitious young kids or teenagers then try hiking the epic Narrow’s Trail for an adventure you will never forget.
To learn more about Zion and Utah’s other magnificent National Parks visit Kid Tripster’s post here.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park wowed our family two summers ago. It’s wide variety of landscapes including rain forest, rugged coast, and snow capped mountains make it feel like three different National Parks in one. Kids just can’t get bored in Olympic. It’s just not possible. We recommend hiking Hurricane Ridge, kayaking in Lake Crescent, and dipping your toes in the Pacific ocean at Ruby Beach. Also plan on packing a few picnic lunches and seeking out one of the many waterfalls that will make you feel like you are visiting an enchanted land in a storybook.
To listen to The RV Atlas podcast about Olympic National Park click here.
To get even more travel tips for Olympic National Park visit Kid Tripster’s post here.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is known as “The Crown of the Continent” for good reason. Everything about this Montana gem is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Shellie thinks that a “national parks for kids” trip to Glacier is best reserved for families with older kids and teens. This is because she thinks the “true glory” of Glacier is to be found on a serious hike into the heart of the park. One of her family’s favorite hikes was to Grinnell Lake where you will come face to face with an actual glacier.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
If sledding down giant hills of sand sounds like your kind of fun, you’ll want to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park in south-central Colorado. This park is home to the nation’s tallest sand dunes, set against the epic beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Here, snow-capped mountain peaks rise above the golden dunes. Inside the park, you won’t find any designated trails. Instead, you just make your way across the dunes any way you wish. Aside from hiking on the dunes, the most exhilarating way to experience them is with a sandboard or sled. Shellie points out that you can’t bring your own since typical boards won’t work on the sand. Instead, you can rent boards at one of several location near the park. The NPS site offers several tips for sand sliding success. If you work up a sweat from playing on the dunes, if you’re at the park in the right season, you can cool off in the waters of Medano Creek. During May and June, the creek reaches peak height, allowing you to float. Sometimes, a strange phenomenon known as a “surge flow” happens, producing rippling waves in the water.
To learn more about visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park from Kid Tripster click here.
Badlands National Park (honorable mention)
Badlands National Park is a famous road trip destination. But many visitors view it as a quick stop and photo op. We wanted to really soak up the magic in this other-worldly place. So we camped for three nights at the Cedar Pass Campground located smack in the middle of the park. From amazing sunsets to breathtaking hikes and nighttime stargazing, we couldn’t be happier that we made that choice.There’s a variety of options when it comes to hiking in the Badlands. Our favorite was the short but totally epic Notch Trail pictured above. After exhausting yourself on a great hike make sure to drive the Badlands Loop Road. There you can marvel at how different the landscape looks at different times of the day. Towards the end of the Badlands Loop Road, there’s a turn off for the Sage Creek Rim Road. This dirt road will lead you to some of the best wildlife viewing in the park. We enjoyed our first South Dakota Bison sightings here.
To listen to our podcast about Badlands National Park click here.
To get even more travel tips for Badlands National Park from Kid Tripster click here.
Mesa Verde National Park (honorable mention)
Shellie has not visited Mesa Verde National Park yet. But she is researching it for a trip next summer and she thinks its could be a hidden “national parks for kids” gem! To visit the park’s website and learn more click here. After Shellie visits the park we will update this section with her best recommendations for families that visit the park.
Natural Bridges National Monument (honorable mention)
While not technically a National Park, Shellie still wanted to include Natural Bridges because she thinks its a hidden gem for young families. She particularly loved the hike to the Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint. It has a little bit of everything for little hikers including switchbacks, slick rock, and wooden ladders that lead to a gorgeous and magnificent natural bridge.
To learn more about Natural Bridges National Monument read the Kid Tripster post here.
We hope you enjoyed our list of 8 great National Parks for Kids! Thanks to Shellie Bailey-Shah for coming back on our podcast and sharing her expertise!
We’ll see you at the campground!