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Best US National Parks for Teens 

Are you planning a National Park Vacation with your teen? Older kids and teens make great travel buddies, and you’ll have a blast seeing America’s beauty through their eyes. 
This list includes some of our favorite National Parks for teens. Plus, we’re sharing our top tips to make the vacation fun and worthwhile so that you can have the best time as a family. 

US National Parks Teens will Love - Kids Are A Trip

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Table of Contents

National Parks for Teens We Know They’ll Love

1. Glacier National Park (Montana)

Glacier National Park’s beauty earned its spot at the top of our list. Visitors of all ages can step into unbelievable beauty as they hike, drive, or bike through Montana’s natural landscape. 

Glacier National Park summer

Best Activities in Glacier National Park

  • Join a guided raft tour to explore the rivers of Glacier National Park.
  • Take a scenic drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  • Guided horseback rides offer a unique way to see the park.
  • Watch for wildlife! See if you spot bears, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, or elk during your adventures.

Where to Stay: Whitefish

Whitefish, Montana, is a vibrant resort town that is the gateway to Glacier National Park. Check out Grouse Mountain Lodge for a stay with teens. 

2. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (Wyoming)

We’re putting Yellowstone and Grand Teton on this list together because you can easily see both National Parks in one trip. They offer two distinct yet interwoven experiences that teens will love. 

Best Activities for Teens:

  • Float down the Snake River in Grand Teton. 
  • Ski or snowboard in Jackson Hole near Grand Teton during the winter months. 
  • Visit Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone in Winter-Kids Are A Trip

Where to Stay: Jackson Hole or Jenny Lake Lodge

Staying in Jackson Hole will put you right at the entrance of Grand Teton National Park and about an hour away from Yellowstone. 

Or, immerse yourself in the beauty of Grand Teton by booking a luxurious stay at Jenny Lake Lodge, a western-inspired resort in the heart of the National Park. 

3. Joshua Tree National Park (California)

There are nine National Parks in California, but Joshua Tree is the best one to visit with teens. The desert landscape is so much fun to explore, and it has a great location in Southern California.

    Best Activities in Joshua Tree National Park

  • Take a hike! We especially recommend easy hikes, like the 0.2-mile Cholla Cactus Garden walk and Arch Rock trail, which is a 1.2-mile loop. 
  • Book a campsite in Jumbo Rocks Campground to sleep in the middle of the park. 
  • Rock Climb. Join a class or hire a permitted guide to teach you the ropes. 
Joshua Tree National Park sunset

Where to Stay: Palm Springs

Staying in Palm Springs will allow your teens to enjoy the vibrant culture of Southern California while being a short drive away from Joshua Tree National Park (about 50 minutes from the main entrance). 

Check out Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa for a stay the teens won’t soon forget!

4. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Olympic National Park has a little bit of everything: mountain ranges, beaches, lakes, and hiking trails.

Best Activities for Teens at Olympic National Park

  • Tidepooling is a great coastal activity that teens and little kids both enjoy. 
  • There are many backpacking trails in Olympic National Park – this could be a great place to try out a true multi-day adventure.
  • Though much of the park is inaccessible in winter, some parts remain open for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. 

Where to Stay: Seattle

If your teens (or you!) enjoy nature only to a certain extent, staying in Seattle will give you the best of both worlds – nature and city life! Kimpton Hotel Monaco offers a convenient location with easy access to everything!

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5. Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (Utah)

An easy 90-minute drive separates Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, so you can easily include both wonders in one trip. 

Best Activities for Teens

  • Hiking the Narrows at Zion is an unforgettable adventure.
  • While you’re in Zion, bike along the Pa’rus Trail and stop to swim in the Virgin River.
  • Drive the mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
  • Stargaze with the night sky ranger program at Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • Take a mule ride to see Bryce Amphitheater.

Where to Stay: Zion National Park

You’ll want to spend most of your time exploring Zion, so we recommend staying inside the park. At the Zion National Park Lodge, you’ll be tucked within the stunning sandstone cliffs. If you want to stay in town with easy access to shops, restaurants, and Zion, we recommend SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park. There are also three campgrounds in Zion National Park. 

6. Acadia National Park (Maine)

Acadia is a gorgeous National Park, and visiting here will allow your teens to see the natural beauty of America’s East Coast. Teens are sure to love the endless photo spots in Acadia National Park.

Best Activities for Teens

  • Acadia is one of the best places to explore tide pools
  • Your teens may also be surprised how much they enjoy bird watching at the park. 
  • When the weather is right, you can swim in the ocean or paddle from the park’s shores. 
  • You can even try dog sledding in Maine if you visit during the winter.

Where to Stay: Bar Harbor

The coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine, serves as the gateway into Acadia. Look at the Harborside Hotel Marina & Spa which offers easy access to the park and local amenities.

7. Yosemite National Park (California)

The highlight at Yosemite Valley might be its incredible waterfalls, but with 1,2000 square miles of natural beauty, you may be surprised by what becomes your favorite memory. 

Yosemite National Park with teens

Best Activities at Yosemite National Park

  • See its magnificent waterfalls: Yosemite Falls (the tallest waterfall in North America) is the most popular, but there are over 25 within the park. 
  • Raft along the Merced River or take a dip in Tenaya Lake
  • See what life in the area used to look like by visiting Pioneer Village in the Pioneer Yosemite History Center

Where to Stay: Yosemite

You’ll want to stay inside the National Park while visiting Yosemite.

The Ahwahnee is a luxury hotel in the valley, and Yosemite Lodge is a classic lodge near the base of Yosemite Falls. 

Reservations open up a year in advance and book up quickly, so this is a vacation you’ll want to plan in advance. 

8. Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii)

Your teen wants to visit Hawaii – it’s hard to argue with that! Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a great way to explore the state’s natural phenomena and see some of America’s most unique beauty. 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park steam vent

Best Activities at Hawaii Volcanoes

  • The Crater Rim Drive Tour will take you to the Kilauea Overlook, the Steaming Bluff, Thurston Lava Tube, and the otherworldly Keanakākoʻi crater.
  • Stay up late! See Kilauea Overlook at night to see the glowing caldera when it’s active. 
  • Explore more of the Big Island by taking a road trip toward Kona.

Where to Stay: Hilo

Hilo, Hawaii, will be the closest hotel area to the National Park’s main entrance. This charming town has simple accommodations, lots of local flair, and great beaches. If you want more space, consider booking a vacation rental through VRBO.

9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee & North Carolina)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is where your kids can fall in love with an old way of life and natural splendor. Plus, chances are pretty good that you’ll see a black bears roaming the wilderness. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park-3

Best Activities for Teens

  • Bike, Hike, or Drive along the Cades Cove Loop, one of the most famous areas of the park.
  • Head into North Carolina to board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, a unique way to see parts of the National Park.
  • There are four horseback riding stables throughout the park. 

Pro Tip: The best time to visit is the fall (colorful foliage) or spring (wildflowers galore!) 

Where to Stay: Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg

Book a hotel or cabin in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to be close to the park entrance while enjoying a family-friendly vacation. These neighboring towns have lots of kitschy attractions, shopping, and dining for the whole family. 

We stayed at Riverstone Resort & Spa in Pigeon Forge which has easy access to all of the attractions and the National Park.

10. Dry Tortugas and Everglades National Parks

Have you visited southern Florida with your family? Teens will love the warm environment and unique landscape, which they can fully enjoy at two national parks: Dry Tortugas and Everglades. 

Best Activities for Teens

  • Take a Seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park and enjoy some of the best snorkeling you’ll ever find. 
  • Have you ever heard of slough slogging? Park Rangers at Everglades National Park will take you on one of the park’s most unique experiences. 
  • Take an airboat tour of Everglades National Park.
  • Paddle through the grassy swamp or mangrove forests at Everglades.
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Where to Stay: The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is the perfect place to stay while exploring Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks. 

Seaplanes and ferries depart from Key West to Dry Tortugas. Key Largo is about 45 minutes away from Everglades National Park. 

11. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Towering Mountains, glistening lakes, peaceful meadows: it’s all just some of the amazing sights you’ll find in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Best Activities for Teens:

  • In the winter, try skiing in one of the many resorts near the park. 
  • When the weather is warmer, hike or horseback ride to see the park’s many lakes and rivers. 
  • Drive the Trail Ridge Road, a 48-mile scenic journey that’s a designated All American Road

Where to Stay: Estes Park

Estes Park, Colorado, is the best place to stay during your Rocky Mountain NP vacation. It’s located 70 miles from Denver and has a range of hotels for all kinds of families. 

12. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Many teens already have Grand Canyon National Park on their travel bucket list. After all, you’ve seen the vistas on TV and in pictures, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. 

Grand Canyon in winter-Kids Are A Trip

Best Activities for Teens at the Grand Canyon:

  • Hike or walk around the South Rim to enjoy the iconic views of the Grand Canyon. 
  • Take an overnight mule ride, complete with a stay at Phantom Ranch. 
  • Kayak or raft down the Colorado River

Where to Stay: Under Canvas or Flagstaff

Glamp at Under Canvas, just 25 minutes from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance. 

Or, book a stay in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is about 80 miles from the South Rim. This city has many hotel options and fun activities, like skiing and hiking. 

13. Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

If you and your kids are aching for an extreme adventure while staying in the United States, Kenai Fjords National Park might be the place to fulfill your wanderlust. 

Best Activities for Teens

  • Book a dog sled tour for one of the most unique National Park adventures out there.
  • Drive along The Exit Glacier (the only place you can drive into the park). 
  • In the summer, go deep into the park on a boat tour
  • Kayak through Kenai Fjords to experience the scenery at a relaxed pace. 

Where to Stay: Seward

Seward, Alaska, is a quintessential Alaska seaport town. Staying here will allow you to immerse yourself in the area’s nature and beauty while near the entrance of Kenai Fjords National Park. 

14. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

The white-sand desert of New Mexico is an unforgettable sight. There are two National Parks in “The Land of Enchantment,” but we think White Sands is the best one to visit with Teens. 

White Sands National Parks for Teens

Best Activities for Teens

  • Go Sledding! The sand at the park is so much like snow that you can sled down its glistening white hillsides. Rent disks at the gift shop.
  • Try primitive camping by backpacking deep into the park. 
  • Dunes Drive is the main drive into the park, and there are lots of great stops along the 8-mile, in-and-out trek.

Where to Stay: Las Cruces

 Las Cruces is a vibrant New Mexico city that will allow you to explore the region’s heritage and nature, and it’s about an hour from the park’s main entrance. We stayed at Home2Suites Las Cruces and it was quite comfortable.

15. Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

If you want to explore America’s great lakes, you’ve got to check out Indiana Dunes National Park. Established as a National Park in 2019, this underrated attraction offers year-round fun. 

Indiana Dunes National Park Lake Michigan

Best Activities for Teens

  • There are over 15 miles of sandy beach in Indiana Dunes National Park. 
  • In the winter, Indiana Dunes is a great place for beginner snowshoeing. You can rent free gear to use on the Paul H. Douglas Trail. 
  • Sledding is allowed near the West Beach picnic shelters — this is a great time for teens and young kids.
  • Indiana Dunes National Park is about an hour from Chicago, making this a great road trip destination. 

Where to stay: Michigan City

Michigan City, Indiana, is a lively and historic town with a range of hotel options. It’s just a few minutes from the entrance of Indiana Dunes National Park. We stayed in the Beachwalk Vacation Rentals which offers homes of all sizes.

16. Saguaro National Park (Arizona)

“We came all this way to see a cactus?” Your kids may be tempted to say that as you head toward Saguaro National Park, but once you’re here, they’ll be charmed by the unique landscape and vibrant scenery found in this incredible place. 

Saguaro cactus and desert landscape in Saguaro National Park

Best Activities for Teens

  • Visit in the late spring to see the iconic saguaro cactus in bloom. 
  • Watch the sunset from the Tanque Verde Ridge trail.
  • Saguaro National Park has a couple of really great biking loops.

Where to Stay: Tucson

Tucson, Arizona, sits between the two districts of Saguaro National Park, so it’s the best place to stay during your getaway. There are some amazing resorts in Tucson, and we recommend The Westin La Paloma and Loews Ventana Canyon.

National Parks with Teens

Many teens are eager for a slower pace (even if they don’t realize it!). A National Park vacation will fulfill their sense of adventure while allowing them to slow down and enjoy nature’s vast beauty. 

Where will your next National Park family vacation take you?