4 National Parks Perfect for Little Kids
We believe that babies and toddlers make the best travel buddies. This is especially true for national park destinations. You’ll see your little one’s eyes fill with wonder and awe as you explore wild outdoor spaces. The snow capped mountains, glittering waters, and fascinating wildlife impress visitors of all ages, but especially little ones seeing and experiencing these sights for the first time.
For more than a hundred years, the National Park System has been preserving natural wonders and making it possible for visitors to experience these one-of-a-kind places. We’ve highlighted four parks with hikes, sights and attractions that are perfect for families with littles. This intro-level roundup of baby-and-toddler-friendly national parks highlights trips that don’t require wilderness experience. Our national parks are for everyone, so get exploring!
Just like our kiddos, Zion is changing. The Virgin River that runs through Zion Canyon moves one million tons of sediment each year and continues to carve out the canyon. When you visit Zion, you’re witnessing the work of 2 million years of erosion.
The park’s main road—Scenic Drive—winds its way north along the Virgin River. Many of Zion’s iconic hikes and vistas are accessible from this main road via the park’s free shuttle service. It’s easy to hop on and off the shuttle buses—which run every seven to 10 minutes from March through November.
For an easy day hike, take the shuttle to stop number five, Zion Lodge (bathrooms and water available here). Follow the paved Lower Emerald Pool Trail 0.6 miles to the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. Return the way you came or take the slightly more difficult Kayenta Trail one mile to The Grotto shuttle stop.
No trip to Zion is complete without a peak at The Narrows. Ride the shuttle all the way to the end, shuttle stop number nine, Temple of Sinawava (bathrooms and water available here). Follow the paved stroller and wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk along the Virgin River. It’s an easy one mile to where it ends at The Narrows. This is where you’ll see adventurous hikers in fancy water shoes hiking up the river into Zion Canyon.
Accommodations in the gateway town of Springdale include South and Watchman Campgrounds (reservations recommended). Many visitors opt to stay in nearby St. George, where BabyQuip Quality Provider Sally Barlow rents kid carriers, strollers, etc. to families visiting Zion.
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is home to the highest highway in the United States, at over 12,000 feet! Gateway town Estes Park is also over a mile high. Give yourself and the kiddos a day to acclimate to elevation before hitting the trail. Like Zion, RMNP provides a free shuttle service. During peak season, parking lots fill up and the shuttle is the only way to access some trails.
For an all-terrain-stroller-friendly hike, check out the half-mile Bear Lake Loop trail. The mostly level trail is made of hard packed dirt. The trail circles scenic Bear Lake with views of Hallett Peak and Half Mountain.
While it’s not within park boundaries, we think kiddos will be delighted by a tram ride at Estes Park Aerial Tramway. Modeled after European tramways, this unique experience offers riders mountain views. Bonus, kids five and under ride free!
There are numerous accommodations in Estes Park. Nearby Lyons is also a great jumping off point for day trips into RMNP. Many families with babies find the Colorado air to be dry, which is why BabyQuip Quality Providers frequently rent humidifiers. QPs in the Estes area also deliver cribs, pack ‘n plays, jogging strollers, and hiking kid carriers to the park.
From coastal tide pools, to old growth rain forests, to alpine wildflowers, Olympic National Park wows visitors with a staggering variety of ecosystems. Your kiddos will be impressed by the impossibly tall trees and lush green mosses of the Hoh Rain Forest—the only rain forest in the lower 48!
For a quick photo-op, check out the world’s largest Sitka Spruce tree where kiddos will be dwarfed by its massiveness. Then drive north to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center where two easy trails loop through the temperate rainforest—the 0.8 mile Hall of Mosses Trail and the 1.2 mile Spruce Nature Trail.
At the north end of the park, drive Hurricane Ridge Road until it dead ends at the visitor center. From the parking lot, walk 1.6 miles on the paved and stroller friendly Cirque Rim Trail. The trail takes you past wildflowers and offers views of Port Angeles. It can be windy and cold up on the ridge, so dress in layers.
For unique accommodations, check out the lodges of the Olympic Peninsula. There are numerous hotels, motels and vacation rentals just north of the park in the town of Port Angeles where BabyQuip Quality Provider Jennifer Dimon-Hardesty delivers backpack carriers and other Airbnb baby gear essentials.
While the first three national parks on this list are best for summer visits, Everglades National Park at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula is more comfortable during the winter months. For families vacationing in Miami, Everglades makes a great side trip. In addition to its national park status, Everglades is a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. It provides a unique and fragile habitat for alligators, snakes, birds, bears and deer.
Just 39 miles from Miami, you can hop on a guided tour with Shark Valley Tram Tours. The two hour ecotour is narrated by a naturalist and takes riders through sawgrass prairie full of wildlife. The commentary is fascinating and the frequent animal sightings will keep even the youngest travelers engaged. Children under three ride free!
After your inland Everglades experience, head to the western edge of the park along the gulf for a coastal experience with Everglades National Park Boat Tours. On the Ten Thousand Island Cruise, a naturalist guides visitors through a saltwater mangrove forest home to manatees, spoonbills and dolphins. Children four and under ride free!
After you experience Everglades, add another stamp to your National Park Passport from Biscayne National Park. Just east of Everglades, Biscayne covers 172,971 acres, 95% of them on the water, and provides unique habitat for manatees, dolphins and tropical fish.
BabyQuip Quality Provider Helen Wright rents jogging strollers, baby carriers, and car seats from the gateway town of Homestead. Helen’s pro-tip for visiting the Everglades is, “Go early to beat the heat, lather up with sunscreen and pack hats and bug spray.”
Kathy is a freelance writer, an Independent Quality Provider with BabyQuip and the mother of a very active one-year-old boy. When she’s not changing diapers, developing engaging content for clients, or helping families travel with little ones, she enjoys reading, gardening, yoga, and naps.