Top 10 Activities in State and National Parks
We have hundreds of national parks, monuments, and seashores protected by the National Park Service and more than 10,000 state parks to explore in the USA. There are so many options to enrich our family outdoor experience, whether in a nearby park, state park, national forest, or national park. Here are some suggested activities to deepen or rekindle our bond with nature.
Plan a camping trip in a nearby park with your family and/or a few friends to get a break from weekdays routine. I will highly recommend using recreation.gov and Oh! Ranger Parkfinder apps to find campgrounds to meet your expectations, whether car camping or RV camping.
My favorite camping experiences are from Great Smoky National Park, Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park, and Colorado National Monument.
2. Nature Walks
Take your family out for nature walks around you and spend time observing wildflowers, mushrooms, trees, and rocks with them. Download apps such as FieldGuide, Mushrooms, or Leafsnap to enhance your explorations.
Story of the Forest Trail in Shenandoah National Park is my favorite with countless beautiful memories of my kids.
Summer is also a great season to spot many species of birds. Bird watching is a wonderfully relaxing activity. Listening to bird calls with family can surely be a fun time in nature. Download Audubon Society’s app to identify birds and learn some more about them.
Yellowstone National Park is home to several birds big and small.
Find a park around you to take your family for fun exploration. Pack a picnic to add some more fun to your outing. Some national parks allow e-bikes as well.
Cades Cove Loop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park are my favorite biking trails.
Hiking is one of the most intimate ways to experience nature and the most popular as well. Find a hike near you using alltrails.com and start adding miles to your activity log. How about hiking some sections of epic hikes such as the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, or John Muir Trail? Read these field-tested tips to start hiking with your little ones.
Give yourself a break from routine and head out to a quiet park with your journal, sketchbook, or watercolor kit. Take a pause to reconnect with your inner creative self.
7. Water Activities
Fishing and paddling are great options to enjoy nature while letting the calmness wash over our stress. Rafting is a great option for adventure seekers. Numerous lakes and rivers in our state parks and national parks are great for paddling and fishing for every level of expertise.
Lakes – Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton. Rivers – Big Bend National Park, Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Canyonland National Park. Sea Kayaking – Acadia National Park and Olympic National Park.
8. Wildlife Observation
If you are a wildlife enthusiast and planning a trip to a national park, search for resources about the wildlife of that park. Enjoy watching wild animals in their native habitat and learn more about them using the iNaturalist app.
Yellowstone National Park and Great Smoky National Park are my top two favorites parks for wildlife watching.
9. Scenic drives
The easiest and safest way to enjoy the scenery of some iconic parks by driving some of the most scenic roads in the country.
My favorites are Trail Ridge Road in Rocky National Park and Park Loop drive in Grand Teton National Park.
There are no more joyous moments then lying in your tent and looking up at the star-filled sky. Download the Nightsky app and share the magical moments with your little ones.
I can never forget the awe-inspiring star-studded skies at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and San Juan National Forest.
In many parks, you may have the option of riding a horse on trails. Climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering are options for those seeking high adrenaline adventures. Whichever way you choose to enjoy outdoors with your family, please remember to do so responsibly – check Parks, Forests websites for the latest announcements regarding trail/road conditions, and any other change/restriction due to covid19. And always follow 7 rules of leave no trace to protect our parks for the future.
Safe and Happy Travels!