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10 top national parks in America for hiking families

Written by Fiona

July 17 2023

America offers many great hiking opportunities, but where should you go if you are a family on holiday? KURU Footwear has come up with a list of the 10 best national parks for hiking families.

Did you know there are no less than 63 national parks in the US? That means there is a huge wealth of hiking possibilities. But to ensure you have fun with the family while on holiday in America, KURU has ranked the top 10 US national parks best suited to families.

The footwear brand used five criteria to rank the family friendly US national parks, including percentage of trails tagged as “kid friendly”, average distance, average elevation gain, average trail rating and the average trail difficulty level. KURU researchers also used data from AllTrails and the National Park Service to find the best parks for hiking families.

Top 10 US national parks for hiking families

1. Biscayne National Park, Florida

While only 5 percent of this park is on land, there is still plenty for families to explore. The park, located near Miami , boasts several hiking trails with some in the mangrove forests and others islands that are accessed by boat. Most hiking trails are short, gentle and with low elevation.

2. Fort Hunt Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia

Historic Fort Hunt Park is situated on land that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate and, over the years, it has been used for shore batteries, Conservation Corps camps and Fort Hunt.

The park features several easy trails and all of them are child friendly, such as the Mount Vernon Trail.

3. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

More than 800 years ago, indigenous people built cliff dwellings among the mesas of Colorado. Today, you can see a range of historical and archeological gems from various hiking trails.

Many of the trails boast views of the natural beauty as well as the famous cliff dwellings and more than 80 per cent of the park’s trails are child friendly.

4. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has 12 miles of steep canyon terrain, so deep and steep that some areas of the gorge only rarely see sunlight.

While hiking down to the river is considered to be a challenging walk, there are many child-friendly hikes along the canyon rim and surrounding areas. 

5. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Congaree National Park protects the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the US and you an see these majestic trees and the park’s broad biodiversity from one of a number of hiking trails. Some 75 per cent of the forest hiking trails are child friendly.

6. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

With plenty of trails, all of which are pet-friendly, Petrified Forest National Park is a perfect place to take a hike for the whole family and including the dog. Many trails give views of attractions such as an ancient village, petroglyphs and petrified logs.

You can also see the “painted desert” landscape and archeological remnants of 100-room pueblo, as well as a 700-year-old dwelling called Agate House.

7. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Perched on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the park has 15 miles of sandy shoreline and more than 50 miles of trails through sand dunes, woodlands, prairies and wetlands.  Children can also experience a real-life ghost story, Diana of the Dunes Dare.

8. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

There are some 125 miles of hiking trails at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including historic Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The 20 mile-long trail is open 24 hours a day with multiple access points. It is wheelchair, bike and stroller accessible. 

9. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park offers fabulous views of unusual geologic deposits. The park features trails suitable for children, as well as activities such as Junior Ranger Program or a hike along the Fossil Exhibit Trail. 

10. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The centerpiece of this park is the more than 100 caves, including the cave that gives the area its name, Carlsbad Cavern. If you plan to visit, you must make a reservation by phone or online in advance.

The main cavern features hiking trails, with at least one that is gentle and good for younger children. There are also surface hiking trails for exploring the natural beauty of the surrounding desert.

KURU Footwear is an independent retailer based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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