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Outdoor Destinations

The 5 Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in the National Parks

July 23, 2016
yellowstone

Looking for an amazing, but inexpensive adventure hike to take the family on this summer? Go visit a National Park! You can watch Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone, wander beneath sheer granite cliffs in Yosemite Valley, stroll past sea stacks on the Wild Coast in Olympic, or stand under the Delicate Arch in Arches. It’ll be an experience you and your kids will never forget, and it’s a lot more reasonably priced than a day at the amusement park. If you’re worried about the kids getting bored, too tired, or getting hurt, one of these five kid-approved, family-friendly hikes are sure to do the trick. They’re all reasonably short, relatively flat, and jam-packed with all sorts of cool stuff that will make the kids completely forget you made them leave their gadgets in the car.

The Kephart Prong Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee

Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Recommended Age: Elementary and up
Difficulty: Moderate
Restroom Facilities: Colins Creek Picnic Area (open in summer and early fall) and Smokemont Campground (year-round)
Trailhead: 8.8 miles south of Newfound Gap on HWY 441 or 5 miles north of Smokemont

Explore the Smokies’ beautiful landscape along with its history, from the early logging days to the Civilian Conservation Corps, on this meandering 4-mile out-and-back trail. The path follows an idyllic, burbling mountain stream where remnants of an old logging railway can still be found, along with slippery salamanders, an abundance of wildflowers, and part of an old fish hatchery left over from 1942. Four fun log bridges cross the stream, but the last two might be a little challenging for very young children.
nps.gov/grsm/index.htm

Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park, WY in October 2015

Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park, WY in October 2015

Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone National Park, Montana

Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Recommended Age: Elementary and up
Difficulty: Easy
Restroom Facilities: Old Faithful Visitor Center
Trailhead: Old Faithful Visitor Center

Take your time sauntering along this 4-mile-long boardwalk – it passes through the worldís largest concentration of geysers. Hot springs and waterspouts abound, along with neat-looking mineral deposits. Start by stopping in at the Old Faithful Visitor Center, where you can get prediction times for when the largest geysers are supposed to blow. Plan your exploration around those times, and remember: Old Faithful is called that for a reason – you can always go back and see it if another, rarer eruption is supposed to happen at the same time that day.
nps.gov/yell/index.htm

Pathway to Yosemite Lower Falls in Yowemite Valley California

Pathway to Yosemite Lower Falls in Yosemite Valley California

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
Yosemite National Park, California

Distance: 1 mile round-trip
Recommended Age: Go ahead and bring the stroller
Difficulty: Easy
Restroom Facilities: Along the western side of the trail
Trailhead: Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead (shuttle stop #6)

This exceptionally easy, but rewarding, hike offers up-close-and-personal views of – and a healthy spray of mist from – the tallest waterfall in North America. (You might want to bring a jacket – it gets on the cool side.) The mile-long paved loop trail offers multiple vantage points of both upper and lower Yosemite falls, as well as Yosemite Creek. Be sure to check out the trailside exhibits to learn more about the area. Just be aware, mist covered rocks can be slippery, and the meltwater cascading down from the cliffs above usually dries up by the end of July or early August.
nps.gov/yose/index.htm

Rugged rock formations at Rialto beach coastline in Olympic National Park

Rugged rock formations at Rialto beach coastline in Olympic National Park

Rialto Beach to Hole in the Wall
Olympic National Park, Washington

Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Recommended Age: Elementary and up
Difficulty: Moderate
Restroom Facilities: At the trailhead
Trailhead: Rialto Beach parking area, at the end of Mora Road

Experience the Olympic Peninsula’s wild Pacific Coastline on this captivating, family-friendly beach stroll. It comes complete with enormous sun-bleached drift logs, towering sea stacks, tide pools filled with all sorts of colorful creatures, and even a naturally formed arch that you can walk through at low tide. There’s one shallow creek crossing at the one mile mark, but it’s more fun than challenging, provided you’re willing to get your feet a little wet. It helps to wear shorts.
nps.gov/olym/index.htm

Views of the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Views of the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Delicate Arch
Arches National Park, Utah

Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Recommended Age: Elementary and up
Difficulty: Moderate
Restroom Facilities: At the trailhead
Trailhead: Wolfe Ranch Parking Area

You know that arch that’s on the Utah license plate? This is the one. A fun, slightly uphill hike takes you to this iconic landmark. The trail is well established leaving the Wolfe Ranch Parking area, but soon, you’ll find yourself on some signature Southwest slickrock, where the only trail markers are cairns. There are plenty to show the way, but it can be a fun game for the kids to spot them! Just be sure to bring at least one liter of water per person, if not more. There is no shade, and the trail is in the middle of the desert, after all. Wearing light, breathable clothing helps. Early morning or evening excursions are advised during the summer months.
nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Join Royal Robbins in preserving the National Parks! We’ve partnered with the Yosemite Conservancy for 40 years. Here are some ways you can help, too.

RELATED LINKS:
7 Outdoor Wonders in the US: National Parks
Camping Trip Tips
The Best Day Hikes on the Georgia Section of the Benton MacKaye Trail

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