National Park Week 2017 Brings Two Weekends of Free Park Visits
National Park Week runs from April 15 to 23 and to celebrate, we’ve come up with a list of 10 of our favorite family-friendly National Park destinations! To sweeten the deal, the National Park Services is offering free entry for National Park Week, so you can access the parks for free both this weekend (April 15-16) as well as next (April 22-23)! So get out there and explore our amazing National Parks with your UNICEF Kid Power band!
Can’t decide which one to visit? We love this tool created by the National Park Services that matches your location and choice of activity with the best national park for you and your family!
Here are our top National Park picks:
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
Dunes Fields: The tallest dunes in the U.S. are hidden on the east side of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Scattered across 30 sq. miles, the dunes in some areas tower over 700 feet tall, with High Dune, the second highest, making for a long mile climb through the shifting sands. During the summer, when the sand is scorching, this can be a tough climb. But a dip in earby Medano Creek will cool everyone down.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Sourdough Ridge Trail: Incredible views of western Washington’s snow-capped peaks, including Mount Rainier, make the Sourdough Ridge Trail an adventure the whole family will treasure. Positioned high in the subalpine zone of the park in the Sunrise area, the trail makes a one-mile loop with gentle elevation gain and passes through flower-filled meadows. Save this hike for summer—the road to Sunrise may not even open until July—or early fall.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Frozen Niagara Tour: Caves are cool, but let’s face it, the novelty of a cave tour—the safest way to explore them—quickly wears off for kids and grownups if lots of stairs or squeezing through tight spaces is involved. The Frozen Niagara Tour is a delightful exception. At just quarter-mile round-trip, taking just over an hour, the spelunking experience at Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave is easy enough for kids, but still offers spectacular cave scenery such as Rainbow Dome, Crystal Lake, the Frozen Niagara flowstone, and the Drapery Room.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Giant Logs Trail: One of the best short hikes for kids is the Giant Logs Trail, a 0.4-mile loop that begins at the Rainbow Forest Museum, at the park’s southern visitor center. Kids will love the hike to Old Faithful. The largest log in the park, measuring around 170 ft. long and more than 9 ft. across its base, Old Faithful, with its finely detailed growth rings, harks back to ancient times most visitors, kids and grownups alike, find wondrous.
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Base Loop Trail: In 1906 Devil’s Tower was named as our first national monument. But Northern Plains Indians and other tribes have long deemed this place in northeastern Wyoming a sacred spot. The remarkable Devils Tower rises 867 ft. above the rock rubble at its base in distinctive mult-isided columns. Walking once around the 1.3-mile loop trail its base is barely enough time to take in this astounding structure from all angles, which kids who’ve seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, will have fun re-imagining as an alien landing site.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland/Virginia
Life of the Marsh and Woodland Trails: This seashore park—encompassing a 37-mile-long barrier island on the Maryland–Virginia border is home to the famous wild horses of Assateague Island. Possible descendants of horses brought to the island in the 1600’s by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws or taxation, the feral horses travel around in groups are fun to watch from a safe distance. Catch a glimpse of the herds while hiking the half-mile round trip Life of the Marsh and 1.5 mile-loop, Woodland trails.
Muir Woods National Monument, California
Trails Along Redwood Creek: There’s nothing like walking among the giant redwoods of the Pacific coast majestic forest to give the family new perspective on their significance in the natural world. Trees in this park top at 250 feet in height and more than 14 feet across at the base with the average age of the redwoods being 600 to 800 years old. Paved trails run alongside Redwood Creek.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone (behind Old Faithful): Walk the 4-mile boardwalk Upper Geyser Basin Trail through the world’s highest concentration of geysers! You’ll find the trailhead behind Old Faithful, so stop and snap some pictures of one of the most famous geysers before you embark on your journey. This trail is recommended for ages eight and up for the entire distance, but a particle hike can be done if you’re traveling with youngsters.
Arches National Park, Utah
Balanced Rock Trail: Standing 128 feet high, one rock is balanced delicately on a second rock. However, as the National Park Services informs us, this is not actually a balancing act and more accurately a fascinating example of erosion. Check out this unique act of nature on a 0.3 mile hike (about 20 minutes) the whole family will enjoy. There is a picnic area located across from Balanced Rock to recharge before hiking back with picnic tables, a covered canopy, some toilets, and, most importantly, spectacular views of Salt Valley and Balanced Rock.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Cliff Palace Trail: Travel through the Cliff Dwellings where the Ancestral Pueblo peoples once lived. This trail is guided by a ranger and costs $5 a person (purchased at Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center), and is totally worth it. Once home to approximately 100 people, the Cliff Palace used to contain 150 rooms and is thought that it was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage. The whole family will be fascinated with these these magnificent homes built into the side of the cliff.