Top Tips for Hiking National Parks
You guys, I did it. I visited the six national parks on my bucket list with my family!! I thought I was crazy for having this dream, and throughout the trip I really was crazy. But I’m so glad I did it. We made some really great memories on our big trip and I loved showing the parks to Olive and Henry. Along the way I gathered some top tips for hiking national parks, so of course I’m going to share them with you.
It has been a dream of mine to visit all six of these national parks and then come out with a tee shirt line to match each one. I finally did it! It was absolutely magical to wear each tee shirt at its matching national park. You can check out the national park tees here! The style and fit are just amazing. I hope you fall in love with them like I have! Wearing these tees is definitely my first of the top tips for hiking national parks. OK, OK, it’s not a must, but it would still be so cool to wear it while you’re in the park!
National Park #1: Zion, Utah
Just the drive alone to Zion National Park is gorgeous! The ombre colored rocks are amazing. There are TONS of trails to choose from. I know the most popular are Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. While those are beautiful, it may be a bit more crowded. If you want to go on a trail with less people, there’s so many others you could go on.
If you stop in at the Visitor’s Center first thing, the rangers can help you pick a trail that fits best with your family. Depending on what time of year you go, expect water to be along your trail (sometimes on your trail), so be sure to wear the proper footwear to keep your feet protected! Literally EVERYWHERE is beautiful, so there will be no regrets with whatever hike you choose.
Like I said, the drive here was incredible, so there is a scenic drive through the Kolob Canyons you can do if you want to keep your little ones in the car! I’m serious, even if you never left the car your trip would still be worth it. Zion is just breathtaking everywhere you look and there really is something for everyone to do!
National Park #2: Joshua Tree, California
The Joshua Tree National Park blew me away! I haven’t seen anything like it. Joshua Tree is truly a unique place. Its busier season is October through May. We went in May, so maybe we hit the tail end of it, but it was OK for us as far as how busy it was.
There’s so many different activities you could do here. From bird watching, horseback riding, spotting wildflowers, or kicking it there overnight and seeing the amazing night sky. All of them sound amazing, right? We just hiked through it for the day and it was all still worth it to us.
If you do end up staying through the night, stargazing must be included in your trip! I’m definitely doing this with my family whenever we end up camping there. I hear a lot of people experience the Milky Way for the first time when they stargaze at Joshua Tree. I’d just love to show my kids this view of the world!
National Park #3: Arches, Utah
The Arches National Park is just breathtaking! All the natural sandstone rocks and arches were so incredible. I recommend seeing these in person when you get the chance! It’s best to show up early or in the mid-afternoon to avoid long lines getting into the park.
The hike we chose was pretty family friendly. There were parts where we hiked up a cliff on the side of the mountain, but it was wide enough for us to keep our kids on the inside of the trail. There’s so many different hikes to choose from though, so you can find one that works best for your family! And since there are thousands of sandstone arches, you don’t need to worry about not seeing one depending on the hike you choose. Just be sure to plan it out before you go!
The Windows Trail is a great option for a family hike! It’s a mile long and is an easy climb to the top where you see the most beautiful view of arches and rock. It’s not a bad hike at all and it’s even close to the parking lot. That’s a win for sure!
National Park #4: Yellowstone, Idaho
Yellowstone National Park is Bryce’s favorite out of all six! I guess he prefers the sulfur rotten egg smell? The smell was totally worth it for what we experienced though! This park has tons of wildlife you can see throughout your hikes. We saw an incredible amount of bison. There was even a huge family of them walking alongside us as we were driving in. Just be sure to enjoy the wildlife from afar to avoid any dangerous interactions!
Yellowstone has several boardwalks you can walk on, so you can comfortably enjoy many different scenes up close. There’s a variety of activities you and the whole family could do. Some include hiking trails ranging from easy to hard, boating, swimming, camping, and more! Just plan your trip before you go and you’ll have an amazing experience!
One family-friendly hike we plan to do next time is the Harlequin Lake Trail. It’s supposed to be a gentle, easy trail with a lake at the end! I feel like the parents can relax a little bit knowing this hike is safe for younger kids. We can all just enjoy the fresh outdoors together without stressing too much on the severity of the hike. That’s my kind of hike!
National Park #5: Grand Tetons, Wyoming
If you know me you know I LOVE the Tetons! We live just two and a half hours away from Grand Tetons National Park and this was our first time going! Crazy, right? I’m so glad we finally went--even though it was freezing!! It felt like January at the top of that mountain. So, depending on the type of weather you’re OK with, plan to go according to the season you’re in.
Jenny Lake is a must see when you visit the Tetons. It’s this magical lake hidden in the mountains. You’d have no idea something like that existed here until you see it in person. It’s just beautiful, from the colors of the water to the view surrounding the lake. You’ll love it!
You can even go boating and/or floating in Jenny Lake (or several others nearby). Can you imagine being in the middle of the lake with the view of the mountains surrounding you? Gosh, that would be an amazing feeling! I bet your kids would love to splash around while you all took a break at the top of the mountain too.
National Park #6: Grand Canyon, Arizona
OK, this park was SUPER busy when we went. We had to wait in line for an hour just to get into the park and then all the parking lots were full! (I’ll just say it’s still too soon to talk about it in our family. It’s hard when unexpected things come up on vacation with two littles to take care of too!) We had to park pretty far away and then walk all the way back, so we could finally see the majestic views of Grand Canyon National Park. If there ever was a key tip to the top tips for hiking national parks, don’t go when it’s super crowded like we did!
Anyway, the view was just beautiful!! No wonder there were so many people there. It was so amazing to see the layers of rock and colors from top to bottom. It just makes me think about all the years it’s been there and how it's changed over time. The least crowded time to go is November through February. You can also make reservations, so that will probably help with getting in and not having to wait as long to do the activities!
Speaking of activities, the Grand Canyon Park Rangers provide a super cute Junior Ranger Program for kids ages 4 and up. There’s different activities to complete and a pledge you say once you get your reward and certificate! You can even do this virtually. Sounds like a fun activity to do in the summer when your kids are out of school!
If you ever have the chance to visit just ONE of these six national parks, do it! Now that you have these top tips for hiking national parks, hopefully your experience will be a bit easier. My trip was amazing and exhausting all at the same time. Definitely worth it, and I bet it will be for you, too. If you want to rock one of our tees for your trip, you can buy one here!!
I did an Instagram Live about my trip to all the parks with my family, so be sure to check that out too! You can follow us on Instagram @loveoliveco to check it out and get the latest on our styles and deals!