Best Tips for Families Exploring Our National Parks

Marisa LangfordNPF Blog
A family walks into the distance on a paved trail path lined with evergreen trees
Marisa Langford and family in Rocky Mountain National Park - Marisa Langford

National parks are a great place for families, with activities and resources for all ages and ability levels. But planning any family vacation can be daunting for parents and planning a trip to a new destination can be even more intimidating. With so much information out there, it’s hard to know who to listen to.

Inspired but don’t know where to start? GoGo squeeZ and the National Park Foundation (NPF) have got you covered! I learned so much when I organized our first family vacation to Rocky Mountain National Park a few years ago, and I’ve put together my tips and recommendations to planning an epic national park adventure the whole family will love.

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Kids walking on a paved trail surrounded desert vegetation against mountains

Visitors at Joshua Tree National Park

NPS Photo / Alessandra Puig-Santana

The best park vacations start before you get to the park — with trip research and prep. You can visit NPF's website to explore park images and stories or check out your local library for books on what to do. Seeing the pictures and activities written out helped get our little ones excited and invested into our itinerary. Once you’ve decided where to visit, I recommend purchasing a few guides to that specific park. There’s often little Wi-Fi inside the parks so books and maps can be very helpful onsite! As always, visit to check out current park conditions before you head out.

Download the NPS Mobile App Before You Go

Marisa Langford's family stands in a stream

Marisa Langford's family on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

Marisa Langford

NPS’ new official app has tools to help you explore the more than 400 national parks nationwide, such as interactive maps, tours of park places, on-the-ground accessibility information, and much more to plan your park adventures before and during your trip.

Make Reservations

A family sets up their tent at a back country site

A family sets up their tent in White Sands National Park

NPS Photo

You will need reservations at some parks. With people visiting national parks in record numbers, you will need to visit to secure a Timed Entry Permit or Day Use Pass to certain parks. Search the location you will be visiting to secure your necessary permits or passes!

Get Your National Park Passes

Marisa Langford and family smile for a photo along their hike

Marisa Langford and family stop for a photo at Rocky Mountain National Park

Marisa Langford

Did you know your fourth grader can get into the national parks for free? All fourth graders and their families can get their own Every Kid Outdoors pass. This pass provides free access to public lands across the country, including all national park sites! The pass is good for the 4th grade school year, from September 1 through August 31. Passes are available for adults too, and are ideal if your trip includes visits to multiple parks. Learn more about park passes and how to purchase your annual park pass today.

Embrace the Unplanned

three people biking on a snowy road

A family biking in Denali National Park & Preserve

NPS Photo / Kent Miller

Be prepared to throw away your plans, your map, your picture perfect spot that you wanted to visit. Go explore! Take the road less traveled. Stop and talk with a park ranger and ask them where they would go on the day you visit. As you drive, enjoy the scenery. As you hike, take in the beauty that is the serenity of the land. And as you leave, remind yourself that there are hundreds of millions of new acres to be explored all over America. You’ll be planning your next trip to the national park before you even leave the first park you visit!

Fuel your National Park Adventure

A family sits and enjoys a picnic at a wooden picnic table in a clearing within a forest

Marisa Langford and family enjoying a picnic at Rocky Mountain National Park

Marisa Langford

There are so many ways to explore the national parks. You can spend the night in a tent at a park campground or in a room at a park lodge. You can plan a day trip or visit at night to stargaze. Whatever national park experience you’re planning, always pack healthy and delicious snacks like GoGo applesauce or their new AlmondBlend Pudding. Both are nutritious and delicious snacks that fit easily in your pack, making them an easy on-the-go treat that will refuel your family in no time.

This summer, GoGo squeeZ is hitting the road from Shenandoah National Park to Grand Canyon National Park with pop-up events to introduce park-goers to GoGo squeeZ’s partnership with the National Park Foundation in support of Open OutDoors for Kids and help families fuel up for their next adventure. The tour kicks off July 15 in Richmond, Virginia — come and join us! Check out the GoGo Explore Tour’s website for the full itinerary to find a stop near you.

Can’t make it to the tour but still want to get in on the fun? Enter the GoGo squeeZ’s #GoGoExplore contest from July 15 through August 24, 2021 for a chance to win a trip for four to a national park of their choice!* Learn more on how to enter on the contest website.

Don’t forget to follow my tips to plan an epic family adventure and make your park visit a safe one. I hope you’ll start planning today for your next visit to the parks with your kids! When you do, add your own tips in the comments below. Where will you GoGo explore next?

Marisa Langford is a GoGo squeeZ employee, national park explorer, and mom to four.

*No Purchase Necessary. See Official Rules for details.


my daughter is confined to a wheelchair, what national parks are best to visit for her?
Hi David! We would suggest checking out this page from NPS that maps out parks and accessible features, programs, and services across the country: Hope this is helpful in planning your next park adventure!

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