Visiting a national park is the perfect place for an offbeat family vacation. In addition to enjoying some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the country, your family will learn about nature and the importance of protecting wildlife. The best part? There are so many things to do at a national park that allow you to get some fitness out of your vacation time. For the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), get out and get moving at one of these adventure-filled frontiers:
Yosemite National Park
There’s a reason California’s breathtaking Yosemite Valley inspired President Theodore Roosevelt to focus on conservation. Not only will your family appreciate nature in a whole new way after peering up at a towering redwood, but Yosemite is also the perfect spot to enjoy hiking trails of all difficulty levels. You can easily find one for younger and older kids alike. To explore the park on wheels, there are also several miles of paved bike trails. During the summer months you can sign the kids up for the Junior Ranger program, where they’ll experience guided walks and learn while they exercise. Water activities are also abundant; visit the Merced River where you can test your swimming skills or rent a raft and navigate your way through the currents. For something a little tamer, try kayaking on Tenaya Lake.
Bryce Canyon National Park
With the same breathtaking views of the rocky Utah terrain as larger parks like Arches and Zion, Bryce Canyon offers a smaller, less-crowded option that makes it easier to navigate with your kids. There are several easy hiking trails, like Mossy Cave, a streamside walk, and Queen’s Garden—all of which offer some stunning views of the hoodoos and canyon. For more adventurous kids, saddle up and go for a horseback ride through the winding canyon paths.
Yellowstone National Park
The first (and probably most famous) national park in the country is well worth a visit for a glimpse of Old Faithful alone. This park, while mostly in Wyoming, actually leaks into Idaho and Montana as well. From hiking the backcountry to day treks across more than 900 miles of trails, there are so many different ways to explore the stunning terrain at Yellowstone (biking, horseback riding, and even winter snowshoeing aren’t uncommon). In honor of this year’s Summer Olympic Games, your kids can also test out their “animal strength” in the Wildlife Olympics. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from June to August, little adventurers can get their muscles working while trying to run and jump as fast or as high as some of Yellowstone’s most awesome inhabitants.
Shenandoah National Park
With more than 500 miles of trails, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is the perfect place to head for a day of family hiking. There are trails of all levels that offer beautiful views. While an easy three-mile path will take you to the wondrous sight of the 81-foot Lewis Spring Falls, the park also offers rock climbing for all skill levels and horseback riding along more guided trails.
Everglades National Park
Visiting a national park like the Everglades in Florida offers kids the opportunity to learn about an incredible ecosystem while enjoying tons of fun outdoor activities. Easy hiking trails—perfect for kids of all ages—crisscross the flat terrain, offering a great workout the whole family will enjoy. Keep in mind you can also explore a bike ride for a solid upper-leg workout along the same trails. And with so much water, expect the kids to jump in and cool off. Make it an arm workout by kayaking down these streams.
While some of the most famous national parks offer unforgettable experiences, don’t overlook some of the smaller spots in your own backyard. There are thousands of state parks included in the NPS that are a great place to start your family off on some outdoor activities that will help keep you fit and get you in touch with nature without having to travel that far.
What’s your favorite national park? How do you get exercise in during your vacation? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.