National parks in the USA are pure goldmines when traveling with children. In the vast majority of national parks and national monuments, they have special programs for children that focus on children and their curiosity. An extra incentive is that you can get one Junior Park Ranger badge after solemnly swearing the Park Ranger oath in front of a real one park ranger. It is a perfect way to learn together more about the current park in particular and nature and the environment in general. The assignments and tasks take anywhere between 30-90 minutes. Some parks require you to take a guided walk with a park ranger to get a more personal and detailed overview of what is unique in that particular park.
1. White Sands National Park
Can you go sledding in 40-degree heat? In White Sands National Park there is the possibility of sledding along the dunes. The sand is dazzling white gypsum sand, which means that it does not get as hot as ordinary desert sand.
It is possible to rent a saucer sled in the visitor's center including paddling. In principle, all dunes are skiable, but it is important to keep an eye on whether any area is closed for recovery. About 15 km into the park there is a picnic area with welcoming sun protection. Sunglasses are recommended as the sand is dazzling white.
Read more in my post White dreamscapes in White Sands | New Mexico
2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
A huge limestone cave in the middle of the plains of New Mexico provides welcome coolness and a different experience out in the desert. There are actually more than 100 caves that together form the national park, but it is mainly one, Big Room, to which the majority of all visitors come. This cave is about 250 meters underground. There are two ways to get up and down. Best is to go down via Nature Trail, an exciting walk straight down into the underworld. The path is not too steep and the surface is good, which means that a seven-year-old can follow along without any problems. The ascent is most easily done with the lift after you have had coffee down in the depths.
Read more in my post Carlsbad Caverns National Park – Otherworldly views underground
3.Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is a spectacular national park in southern Utah. Here we had the privilege of taking a guided tour of the different geological periods that created the fantastic rock formations that make Bryce so famous. The ranger was a theatrical talent which made little E listen in fascination and ask for translations as soon as he finished speaking.
In Bryce, you can take a relatively easy hike down into the valley. If you are there in the summer, you must take plenty of water with you as the temperature easily climbs up to 40. When you follow the excellent path, there are three stations where a junior ranger must chalk off a medal that is on a sign. If you do, you get a special badge when you hand in the booklet and take the oath as a junior ranger.
4. Olympic National Park
One of Washington state's great national parks. It offers both a sea walk and a trip up the mountains. The area is more famous for being the location where the Twilight series takes place but it is not something that is noticeable when you are there. Both along the sea and up in the mountains, there are many easier paths to hike along. There is plenty of wildlife here – deer, red deer and mountain goats can usually be seen during a hike.
Read more in Olympic National Park – Misty beaches and alpine meadows.
5.Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is so unimaginably large that once you stand on the edge, it's hard to take it all in. The park area itself offers a variety of good discovery spots for Junior Rangers. There are free buses that take you between the different places along the edge of the canyon. Several ranger programs run each day, ranging from learning more about how the Grand Canyon was formed to how to tell the difference between carnivores and herbivores.
With a bit of luck, you can also experience performances from various indigenous peoples. When we were there last time, we got a wonderful show from the Sioux nation.
Read more in mine post about the Grand Canyon.
6.Yosemite National Park
You can get to Yosemite from two directions, either via long winding valleys from the western entrance (closest to Los Angeles) or over the mountain pass from the farthest eastern parts of California. However, the mountain passes to the east are not open that many months of the year due to the rich amounts of snow.
There are several different hiking trails, both simple paved to steep advanced gravel trails. You should try to visit the park as soon as the snow melts away, as the many waterfalls are at their fullest then. There are bears, deer, deer and coyotes in the park and the probability of seeing animals is high.
If you are visiting during the drier summer months, we recommend that you go over the Tioga Pass to the other side of the Sierra Nevada and also visit the ghost town of Bodie. Read more about Bodie here.
7. Arches National Park
In southern Utah is the beautiful and somewhat different Arches Park. The name of the park gives a clue to what makes it special. A number of huge natural stone arches can be viewed. They have been formed naturally by rain and wind and it is a powerful feeling to stand under an almost 100 meter long stone bridge and look up. The majority of good, relatively easy hiking trails allow you to see a lot of the park even if you have small children's legs. Remember and bring plenty of water though as it can be very hot during the summer months.
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.