15 fantastic family hiking vacation ideas in the US: where are good places to go hiking with the kids in the US? We got researching and have compiles a list of great family hiking spots in the US: in National Parks or in other beautiful natural areas, these are some great hiking spots on the mountains or the desert, that are perfect for beginner hikers and kids.
My kids fell in love with hiking in the US, in Zion National Park to be precise, and even since they declared their love for hitting the trails, I have been on a hunt for great hiking spots for families in the USA for active vacations.
The US is full of wonderful kid friendly hikes.
Many are in National Parks, and these are often among the best equipped to welcome young visitors, but many are not: state parks, forests, lakes make wonderful vacation destinations for outdoorsy families with kids of all ages.
Out of the many we could mention, these are 10 of the best hiking spots in the US for a family vacation in the great outdoors.
Best family hiking spots in the US – our list
There is so much great family friendly hiking to be done in the US that it is impossible to compile a complete list.
The approach we have take to this list of vacation ideas for active families is to include diverse destinations and landscapes so if you ant to go hiking with the kids in the desert, the mountains or mix time in the city with say access to trails, you can find good ideas here.
1. Zion National Park, Utah
Red rocks, river walks, expansive scenery, forests, desert landscapes
I said my kids learned to hike and love it in Zion National Park so my list starts from here!
Zion is a well-known hikers’ paradise, with trails such as Angel’s Landing and The Narrows attracting hikers from all over the country however, Zion is a fabulous hiking destination for families with kids too.
The Zion canyon floor has many easy trails for kids, there are lovely intermediate hikes that will keep teens happy too and the park has nice facilities for families that make it fun also for non-hiking days.
The Pa’rus trail is dog and bike-friendly, the Zion drive is scenic and wonderful and there are family hotels in and outside the park that are perfect for a relaxing holiday.
You can spend here a day or a week and no run out of trails to try: you can see our favorite family hikes in Zion here. When it comes to family-friendly hiking spots in the US, Zion is up there with the best of them!
Where to stay: stay in the park or Springdale just outside the park entrance. You can find our recommendations on where to stay in and near Zion here.
Tip: this is one of our top pick for an outdoorsy family vacation with toddlers and primary school-age kids especially.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
Alpine scenery, Mountain peaks, forests, lakes, sequoias groves
Yosemite is a wonderful hiking destination for families in Northern California, blessed with stunning granite peaks, wonderful waterfalls, sequoia groves and lovely hiking trails for all levels.
Hikes range from very easy, flat trails to more challenging ones, perfect for toddlers ups to teenagers, and there are plenty of things to do for kids also on rest day. You can find our favorite family trails in Yosemite and tips for visiting with kids here
On the valley floor you can walk, cycle, swim in the river, there are museums, ranger talks and even a pool, perfect for hot summer days!
The park offers the excellent junior ranger programme that is fun for kids of primary school age – make sure you attend as many ranger talks as possible: they are fun for kids and really informative even for adults.
Yosemite is one of the best family hiking spots in the US for families and a great place for an active vacation at any age – toddlers and teenagers included.
Stay inside the park if possible: Yosemite is very big and having to regularly drive or take the shuttle will eat into your time on the trails. You can find our accommodation guide to Yosemite here.
This is a wonderful destination in the US for outdoorsy families with something for kids of all ages, from primary school to teens.
3. Portland area and Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Forests, rivers, waterfalls, opportunities to mix city life and hiking
Seeing the name of a city in an article about hiking destinations for hikers may sound odd however, Portland and the surrounding area is a paradise for beginner hikers.
Whiting the city limit there is Forest Park, which is a large green and wilderness area with 70 miles of trails, several perfect for easy walks with the kids, and Mt Tabor Park, an extinct volcano with several easy trails.
You can find ideas for family hiking trails and kid-friendly hikes in Portland here.
Only 30 miles out of Portland you find the wonderful area of Columbia River Gorge, famous for waterfalls, vistas and very easy to enjoy with kids thanks to its many easy trails but also farms and small towns.
Finally, only a little farther afield you can hike with the kids at Silver Falls State Park and admire its wonderful waterfalls.
Overall, if you are looking for easy hikes, beautiful forest areas but also the convenience and the opportunities offered by a dynamic city, Portland is perfect!
4. Bryce Canyon, Utah
Red rocks, desert scenery and climate, unique rock formations
Bryce Canyon National park is in southern Utah and it is one of the so called Mighty 5, the most beautiful national parks in the region.
Only an hour from Zion, it is often considered a stop on the way to its more famous neighbor however, it is a fantastic place for hiking with kids and one that people usually regret not spending enough time enjoying.
Bryce has several family-friendly hikes along the rim of the by the amphitheater and climbing down into, a fun thing to do which allows you to see up close and personal the wonderful rock formations that make the park so special.
This is one of the best family hiking spots in the US for beginner hikers.
You can find our favorite family hikes in Bryce here.
Bryce Canyon offers an excellent junior ranger program and many family-friendly areas in the vicinity that can keep you entertained for days.
Red rock canyon is stunning and fun, the Kodachrome basis is cool to see and plenty of hotels and ranches in the area have mountain activities for kids of all ages.
Stay in the proximity of the park entrance or in the nearby towns of Tropic: here you have lovely family friendly lodging options with nice views of the red rocks of this area and lots of outdoor space for kids.
Tip: this is one of our top pick for an outdoorsy family vacation with toddlers and primary school-age kids especially.
5. The Grand Canyon, Arizona
Unique natural wonder, rocky and forest landscapes
The great outdoors doesn’t get much greater than in the Grand Canyon, one of the best destinations in the world for outdoorsy families.
The Grand Canyon has hiking trails suitable for all levels of experience and stamina.
On the South Rim, the most accessible and better-served part of the Grand Canyon for families with kids, small kids and families with strollers can enjoy the rim trail (very scenic despite being flat and easy) but if you have older kids you can also tackle more challenging trails going down into the canyon.
Pay a lot of attention to trail signs and difficulty: while several trails in the Grand Canyon are suitable for kids, others are only for experienced hikers, with a strong emphasis on experience.
Aside from hiking, the Grand Canyon offers opportunities to go biking, becoming a junior ranger, learn and admire traditional dances, go on a mule ride, take a river trip and go stargazing.
Stay inside the park for the most convenient location and stock up on hiking essentials in nearby Flagstaff, a town with a lovely outdoorsy feel.
Find all our tips for visiting Grand Canyon South Rim with kids.
6. Yellowstone National Park
Forests, lakes, geysers, alpine meadows, grass prairie
Yellowstone is one of the great natural wonders in the USA and a wonderful destination for hikers of all ages.
Stretching over 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone has over 900 km of trails, many of them suitable for kids.
Those that are most likely to impress visitors big and small are those that get to Yellowstone’s most famous landmarks such as Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail, Lone Star Geyser trail and fairy fall trail but there are very many more, in variety of landscapes and at difficult levels of difficulty.
When not hiking, families can go biking, boating, kid can take part in the Junior Ranger program offered by the park or go horse riding.
Yellowstone is the prime wilderness area in the US, one of the best hiking spots for families in the country and a fantastic destination for an outdoor vacation at any age. Find info to plan your trip to Yellowstone with kids here.
7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Alpine scenery, forests, lakes
Grand Teton National Park is a hikers’ paradise for pint size hikers as well as their parents.
The scenery here is simply stunning: tall peaks, glacier lakes and canyons make it one of the most scenic areas in the US and a fantastic destination for outdoorsy families who want to enjoy Alpine scenery.
There are lots of day hikes in Grand Teton that are suitable for kids: popular ones are Lakeshore trail, Hidden Falls, Schwabacher Road Nature Trail, Heron Pond Swan Loop Trail but there are many more you can choose from, which you can find here.
As well as hiking, Grand Teton kids can go kayaking, swimming, paddle boarding and biking, the whole family can enjoy a day in Moose, take a boat ride and of course try spot the wildlife that calls this park home!
8. Sedona, Arizona
Rod rocks, mountains, forests, small town feel
Sedona is a wonderful, scenic area in the heart of Arizona blessed with stunning red rocks with plenty of hiking trails for kids and parents, many even stroller friendly.
The town is perfect if you are looking for a hiking vacation destination that is a good introduction to hiking for kids and all allows for lots of relaxation in a nice small-town setting.
Here, you can easily spend the day on the trails and then play and have fun in Sedona town in the afternoon and evening: shops, restaurants and family hotels abound and there are tons of fun things for kids to see and do int he area.
Slide Rock State Park will have them slip sliding away on natural water slides, you can take one of the Sedona’s signature jeep tours, and of course you can hike, hike, hike.
Popular family hikes in Sedona are Bell Rock Trail and Best Fork Trail and you may also be able to tackle the very popular Devil’s Bridge Hike that will lead you to the top of a stunning rock arch (older kids only, this is a harder hike with sheer drops once on the arch)
Stay in one of the many family hotels in town so you can relax in the famous Sedona spas after your long day on the trails!
You can find a selection of our favorite things to do in Sedona here.
9. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
Lake views, forests, mountain scenery
Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular family vacation destinations in California and is a paradise for outdoors lovers and beginners hikers thanks to the many easy trails in the area.
The lake lies under some of the most beautiful peaks of the Sierra Nevada and straddled the border between California and Nevada and offers very many trails as well as opportunities to enjoy its waters kayaking, going river rafting in Truckee or enjoy the views from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola.
Kid friendly hikes in Tahoe abound: some popular ones are Emerald trail, which has stunning view and a castle (!), East Peak Trail, which includes the gondola ride mentioned above and Tahoe Meadows, which is stroller friendly.
Other fun things you can do in Tahoe with kids include splashing and playong one of the many Tahoes beaches, explore the kids museum in Truckee, go geocaching and cycle.
You can find info on cool family hikes in Lake Tahoe here.
10. Acadia National Park, Maine
Coastal views, pine tree forests, lighthouses overlooking rocky coastline
Acadia national park is a wonderful vacation destination for beginner’s hikers.
Located in Maine, the park is blessed by the wonderful presence of the Ocean and it has many trails that are perfect for families and that least you to many of the most famous and scenic spots in the park.
Family friendly hikes in Acadia are cenic Gorham Loop, Ocean Trail, Wonderland/Ship Harbor trail (together or independently but truly, the choice is vast!
Other things to do in Acadia include driving the Park Loop Road, a wonderful scenic road that will show you most of the Acadia must-see spots, play on the beach, see lighthouses, go cycling, participating in the junior ranger programme and more.
You can find an overview of the best things to do in Acadia with kids here.
11. Glacier National Park, Montana
Mountain peaks, lakes, alpine meadows
If you want a family hiking vacation among stunning mountain peaks and expansive mountain scenery where the white of the snow and the green of the firests pain a perfect Alpine picture, then you should head to Glacier National Park.
The park has lots of good hikes for kids as well as more challenging trails for teens or more experienced hiking parents. You can easily see waterfall, lakes and streams tumbling down the mountains: some family trails in this area even being stroller accessible such as the short trail to Avalanche Gorge.
Hidden Lake is a lovely place to see summer snow, one of the most distinctive traits of Glacier: this is not a place for hot weather but for crisp mountain air!
This is a lovely place if you want to hike in majestic mountain scenery and escape hot summer temperatures. Find info about family hikes in Glacier here.
12. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Beautiful peaks, forests, lakes, Alpine Meadows
The Rocky Mountain national park is a wonderful destination for families who want to hike in beautiful mountain scenery, pristine lakes and beautiful forests.
It is one of the nation’s highest national parks and has wonderful hikes for kids but also opportunities to go horse riding, canoeing and also become a junior ranger, which is always a fun way to experience and learn about the park as a family.
Make sure you attend the family ranger talks, which are great for grown-ups too! You can find all the info about the Junior ranger Program in rocky Mountain here.
13. Olympic National Park, Washington
Forests, streams, waterfalls
Olympic National Park is a wonderful hiking destination for families who want a choice of beautiful hikes in stunning forest settings.
Green and full of streams and waterfall, this is a lovely area for forest hikes and mixes alpine scenery with the beautiful coastline – the park actually has 4 different ecosystem so there is no chance kids can get bored hiking here!
The park is particularly well equipped for kids.
The wonderful Olympic National Park Ocean Stewards Junior Ranger program is designed for kids age 4 and up and focuses on the nature of the coastal areas of the park and the ONP visitors centers also offer the chance to borrow a kids discovery backpack with field games, photo guides and photo guides.
You can read about the Junior Ranger programs in Olympic here.
When you want to take a break from hiking, go tubing at Hurricane Ridge you can go soak in the hot springs at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and if you want a vacation that mixes city and nature, you can also make the most of the proximity to Seattle, that is great fun with kids too!
14. Shenandoah National park, Virginia
Shenandoah national park is often mentioned as one of the best places in the US to see foliage but it is also a wonderful destination for hiking with the family.
The park is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is located along the Appalachian Trail and it is easily accessible from DC: this means that if you have a week in the area, you can easily visit both!
Shenandoah has several kid-friendly hikes.
Dark Hollow Falls Trail is one of the most recommended by rangers for beginner hikers and gets to a nice waterfall, Stony Man is also popular and allows you to say that you have hiked the Appalachian trail (ok, a tiny part of it, but it counts!), and Whiteoak Canyon trail is also super popular and cool for kids, albeit busy.
As well as hiking, in Shenandoah kids can go hiking, biking, EarthCashing and becoming a junior ranger with the junior ranger program – always our favorite things to do with the kids in US National Parks!
15. Arches National Park, Utah
Red rocks, desert scenery
Arches national park is a super scenic rocky national park in Utah and one of those places that you need to see to believe, with its incredible reck rock arches that seem to defeat gravity.
Arches is is one of the most famous parks in Utah and a wonderful place for hiking with kids who are guaranteed to be wowed by the natural rock sculptures.
Some of the best hikes for kids in arches are Sand Dune Arch hike, fun for little kids too thanks to the sand that gives it its name, skyline arch and, if you have older kids and are up for the challenge, delicate arch, the most famous hike of all (evaluate well this one as it is not for everyone).
As well as having fun on kid-friendly hiking trails, in and around Arches kids can try rafting in the Colorado River, see dinosaurs at Utah Giants, become a junior ranger and even see petroglyphs!
Arches is one of the most scenic parks in the American Southwest and a dream hiking destination for families who want to experience red rocks and the otherworldly landscape typical of this part of the country.
I hope you enjoyed this selection of family hiking spots in the US and it gave you good ideas for family hiking vacations.
Resources for a family hiking vacation
- Tips for hiking with kids – tips based on our experience to get started hiking with kids
- Great toddler carriers you can use on the trails
- All terrain strollers for tackling the trails
This article about great family hiking spots in the US is part of our travel inspiration series for families: find also great US beach vacation beach ideas for families, fun and educational vacation ideas for families with kids and our recommended city trips with kids.
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