5 Family-Friendly National Park Hikes You Owe it to Your Family to Do

Eastern Dune Ridge, Great Sand Dunes

National Park Service

Take your kids to nature's biggest sandbox when you head to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado. If you park at the Point of No Return and hike 1.5 miles into the Castle Creek area, your kids will have a great time playing in the sand (and possibly sandboarding or sledding on the dunes' steep faces). If there's water in Medano Creek, you can all take breaks from the hot sand and cool off in the water. I have great memories of making a "mud city" along the banks of the creek when I visited as a kid with my family.

Robinson Lake, Yellowstone National Park

Jim Peaco/National Park Service

Yellowstone is another national park I have fond memories of visiting as a child. Between the acrid scent of Old Faithful and my first glimpse of a moose walking through the campgrounds, it's a trip I'll never forget. The park has almost 1,000 miles of trails, so you want to be sure you choose a family friendly excursion like the Robinson Lake hike accessible from the Bechler area of the park. The 3.6 mile hike is easy with little elevation change and leads you to a lily-covered lake where wildlife viewing is plentiful. Just remind your kids to be on the lookout for bears!

South Kaibab to Cedar Ridge, Grand Canyon

Michael Quinn/National Park Service

Few kids are going to want to go to the Grand Canyon without walking into the Grand Canyon. The trouble is that not all kids are prepared to hike back out of the canyon after the trip down. Trails are steep and kids don't always know their own limits. Not to mention, because there's no water on most of the trails heading into the canyon, kids need to carry their own.

That's why a shorter hike, like the South Kaibab hike to Cedar Ridge, is a good option. The down-and-back hike is three miles long and will take a few hours to complete. Ooh-Aah point and Cedar Ridge both offer beautiful views of the interior canyon. Your kids will neveer forget the experience.

General Grant Tree Trail and North Grove Loop, Sequoia National Park

National Park Service

You can't really know how small you are until you stand beside the giant trunk of a Sequoia tree at Sequoia National Park in California. To give your kids a history lesson in addition to a heart-pumping hike, head to the General Grant Tree Trail. The General Grant Tree is one of the largest trees in he world and was heralded the nation's Christmas tree in 1926 by President Coolidge. The hike is short at just 1/3 mile, but you can make it a longer hike by picking up the North Grove Loop winding through forests and fields to extend your hike by 1.5 miles.

Historic Tour, Mammoth Cave National Park

National Park Service

If you've taken your kids to mountains, along seashores and through forests, it's now time to take them under the ground with the Mammoth Cave National Park Historic Tour. This moderate-difficulty, two-mile guided tour will introduce your kids to the subterranean world of caves. Just keep in mind you and your children must be prepared to take the 440 stairs - no strollers or child carriers are allowed within the caves. Check out the latest schedule of tours and pricing information on the Mammoth Caves website.

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