Since, 1916, the National Park Service has served as an organization that provides people from all realms of life the ability to experience the beauty of our nation. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, history buff, or you just want to relax and unwind, there is something waiting for everyone at the beautiful National Parks that are spread across the country.
Visiting a National Park is a great destination for families, as they are affordable, family-friendly, and fun! Long before our daughter Addie was born, my wife Kendra and I loved visiting National Parks. Now that we have a young child in tow, we love it even more! Here is a list of our five favorite things to do in our National Parks:
1. Residing in the Impeccable Campgrounds
Many of our National Parks have incredible camping opportunities. Unlike commercial campgrounds, the campgrounds at National Parks tend to be smaller, yet offer incredible views and a unique closeness to nature that goes unrivaled. Last summer, we took a five-week cross-country road trip and spent a lovely time camping in the National Parks. At Great Sand Dunes National Park, we woke up to deer ambling through the campsite, while at Mesa Verde National Park, we watched an incredible sunset fall over the mesas from the comfort of our own picnic table.
“Our campsite at Great Sand Dunes National Park”
2. Exploring the scenic trails
Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes. There is something very calming about hiking through the trails of the national parks. National Parks offer incredible opportunities for hiking in myriad landscapes. We have climbed sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park, walked through cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and hiked among Aspen trees and glacial lakes at Great Basin National Park. From steep climbs up mountainsides to strolls along flat lands, there are trails for hikers of all experiences and ages.
“Kendra carrying Addie as we hiked in Great Basin National Park”
3. Learning the History of our Nation
Our national parks offer more than just recreation opportunities for nature lovers. They are imbued with history, whether natural or human. In Yosemite National Park, we listened to a lesson on the biology of Sequoia trees. During a trip to Lowell National Historical Park, we were able to learn about the birth of the Industrial Revolution in America. At the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, we brushed up on the history of racial segregation in American schools. National Parks offer the opportunity to learn about science, nature, astronomy, math, history, art, archaeology, and so much more. It is experiential learning at its best.
“Facing history at the Brown b. Board of Education National Historic Site”
4. Experiencing the Natural Amenities
"Addie playing in the mud at Yosemite National Park"
National Parks are a great place for kids to get dirty. They can play in the mud, collect sticks, scoop sand, and roll down grassy hills. There are many National Parks that have creeks, streams, or lakes in which you can swim. Kids of all ages love natural play spaces and without fail, kids always seem to find something that captures their interest.
5. Making Lifelong Friends
One of my favorite things about visiting National Parks is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. At Yosemite National Park, we ate dinner with a lovely couple from California and a family from Belgium. We were even lucky enough to share a campsite with a wonderful family from Canada. At Great Sand Dunes National Park, we camped next to a Marine and his son. After helping them set up their new tent, we shared some of Kendra's mom's pound cake and exchanged stories and favorite park memories well into the night. At Four Corners we met a family from Kendra’s hometown who lived just a few streets from her parent’s house. In Mesa Verde, when we pulled into the visitor’s center, we parked in between two other cars from Massachusetts. We quickly learned that we all lived within twenty minutes of each other. What a small world!
Overall, the personal connections you make with other visitors are incredible - and make the visit more fun and interesting than experiencing it alone.
“The Grand Canyon South Rim”
Jen Bauer is one half of the Adventurous Moms, and enjoys traveling, camping, and hiking with her wife and daughter. She writes about their adventures at http://adventurousmoms.com/