April 24, 2024
Michael Berago

Trailblazing with Kids: An Ultimate Guide to Family-Friendly Hiking in U.S. National Parks from Michael Berago

Exploring the vast and varied landscapes of the United States with your family can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there. The national parks offer a gateway to adventures that are not only breathtaking in their natural beauty, but also rich in educational value for children. From the towering sequoias of California to the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone, each park has a unique charm waiting to be discovered. Michel Berago and his family are avid travelers, currently traveling across the country together in their trailer to explore the many beautiful National Parks that the United States has to offer. They create content on their family YouTube Channel @TheBeragos. This guide from Mike Berago dives deeper into the best family-friendly hikes across the United States, providing you with essential tips to ensure your hiking trips are safe, enjoyable, and unforgettable.

Choosing Your Adventure: Top Family-Friendly Hikes

  • Yosemite National Park: Majestic Waterfalls and Giant Sequoias
    Yosemite is a paradise for nature lovers, offering a mixture of waterfalls, sequoias, and striking rock formations. While the Half Dome is an iconic hike, note that it’s not suited for young children. Instead, families can embark on the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, an easy 1-mile round trip that offers a spectacular view of Yosemite’s tallest waterfall. Michael Berago shares that, for a slightly longer walk, the 2.2-mile round trip to Mirror Lake provides a particularly serene setting and a chance to see the famous Half Dome reflected in the calm waters.
  • Redwoods National Park: Among Ancient Giants
    Redwoods National Park is a place where time stands still, and families can wander amidst the tallest trees on earth. The park’s easy trails, such as the Fern Canyon Loop, allow kids to marvel at the lush, fern-lined walls that have been used as the backdrop for many blockbuster movies. Michael Berago shares that this easy 1-mile trail is accessible and offers a magical experience as you walk through narrow canyons surrounded by 50-foot high walls dripping with ferns.
  • Yellowstone National Park: A Volcanic Wonderland
    Yellowstone’s vast landscapes are dotted with geysers, hot springs, and mud pots, making it a fascinating outdoor laboratory for children. Mike Berago emphasizes that the boardwalks around the Old Faithful area are perfect for families, providing safe viewing spots for the geyser’s eruptions. Another great option is the Grand Prismatic Spring, where a short hike leads to an overlook of the largest hot spring in the U.S., famous for its vibrant colors.
  • Grand Tetons National Park: Mountains and Wildlife
    Grand Tetons National Park offers breathtaking views of jagged peaks and a chance to see wildlife in their natural habitat. The Taggart Lake Trail is a family favorite, offering a moderate 3-mile round trip that ends at a beautiful lake with stunning views of the Tetons. It’s an ideal picnic spot and a great place for children to play and explore.
  • Arches National Park: Land of Stone Arches
    The Landscape Arch Trail in Arches National Park is an easy, flat hike leading to one of the largest natural arches in the world. The trail is a 1.6 mile round trip, making it manageable for families with young kids. Along the way, there are fascinating rock formations and plenty of opportunities for memorable photos.
  • Bryce Canyon National Park: A Fairy-Tale Landscape
    Bryce Canyon is known for its incredible hoodoos—towering rock spires created by erosion. The Mossy Cave Trail is an easy hike that takes you to a water-carved grotto and a beautiful waterfall. This 0.8-mile round trip is one of the best ways for families to experience the park’s unique geological features up close.
  • Zion National Park: Canyons and Rivers
    The Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park is a wonderful choice for families, offering numerous views of waterfalls and lush vegetation. The trail has three sections: Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools, with the lower pool being the easiest to reach. This hike provides a mix of scenic beauty and the excitement of exploring waterfalls.

More Gems: Glacier, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, and Beyond

Michael Berago emphasizes that the diversity of U.S. national parks means there’s something for every family. The Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park, the Big Trees Trail in Sequoia, the Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree, and the Bear Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park are all excellent choices for family outings. Mike Berago explains that each offers unique landscapes, from glacier-carved valleys to towering trees and desert vistas.

Beyond the Parks: Havasu Falls and Devils Tower

While not within a national park, Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon offers an unforgettable hike to witness turquoise waterfalls, perfect for older kids due to its difficulty. Devils Tower National Monument, with its easy trails around the base, offers a gentle introduction to hiking and the opportunity to learn about this sacred place’s geological and cultural significance. These are a couple of the Berago family favorites.

Ensuring a Safe and Enjoyable Experience

  • Plan Ahead: Always check the park’s website for trail conditions, weather forecasts, and any alerts or closures.
  • Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water, especially in hotter climates or during summer months. Encourage children to drink regularly, even if they don’t feel thirsty.
  • Pack Wisely: In addition to water and snacks, include a map, compass or GPS, sunscreen, insect repellent, basic first-aid kit, and whistle in your backpack. Don’t forget a camera or smartphone for pictures, and also consider binoculars for wildlife viewing.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear and pack layers of clothing suitable for changing weather conditions. Ensure that everyone has a hat and sunglasses for sun protection, and sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes or boots.
  • Start Early: Begin your hikes early in the day to avoid the hottest part of the day and have a better chance of seeing wildlife. This also helps with avoiding the crowds on more popular trails.
  • Take Breaks: Regularly taking breaks is important, especially for children. Use these pauses to admire the scenery, hydrate, and check if everyone is feeling good.
  • Leave No Trace: Teach your children the principles of Leave No Trace, including packing out all trash, staying on trails to protect fragile ecosystems, and respecting wildlife by keeping a safe distance.
  • Engage and Educate: Make the hike interactive by teaching kids about the nature and history of the area. Many national parks offer junior ranger programs that engage children in educational activities and stewardship.
  • Know Your Limits: It’s important to assess the difficulty of the trail and consider the youngest or least experienced hiker in your group. There’s no shame in turning back if the trail becomes too challenging or conditions worsen.

Creating Lasting Memories

Hiking with your children in the national parks is not just about reaching a destination; it’s about the journey and the memories you create along the way. These adventures can foster a lifelong connection with nature, instill valuable lessons in resilience and conservation, and provide endless opportunities for discovery and bonding as a family.

The United States’ national parks are a testament to the country’s natural splendor, offering families an unparalleled opportunity to explore, learn, and grow together. By selecting the right trails and preparing adequately, you can ensure that your family’s hiking adventures are not only safe, but also filled with the wonder of the great outdoors. Whether it’s the awe-inspiring geysers of Yellowstone, the ancient sequoias of California, or the serene beauty of the Grand Tetons, each hike promises a unique and unforgettable experience. So lace up your boots, pack your bags, and set out on a journey that will leave footprints on the trail and lasting impressions on your hearts.