National Parks: 6 Fun Free Family Vacations
By Allison O'Connor
It’s summertime: the kids are off school, the house is swarming with chaos and you need a break. You’ve got a little over a month before school starts and tranquility falls within the halls of your home. So, break up the last days of summer with a quick trip to one of these national parks. The U.S. National Park Service is hosting free park weekends at national parks nationwide, but did you know that many parks are free daily?
We’ve picked six parks in the U.S. for you and the kids to visit so get out and start exploring. By the way, if you don’t like our choices, there are 94 other national parks offering free weekends this summer too.
This breath taking park is home to some of the tallest and most spectacular redwood trees you will ever see. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), it is also one of the largest urban national parks in the world containing 75,398 acres and 59 miles of shoreline. There are 6 miles of trails and hiking loops ranging from 1/2 hr. hikes to 1 1/2 hrs. Sorry, picnicking, pets, bicycles, smoking, and camping are not permitted within the park. The park is open from 8 am to sunset, including holidays. Click here for more information.
Can you imagine the people that inhabited parts of Western U.S. 10,000 years ago? Well, Hovenweep National Monument provides a glimpse into how nomadic Paleoindians lived. The park contains six prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages spread over a twenty-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. You and your kids will be in awe of these multi-storied towers precariously perched on canyon rims and boulders. The park offers camping, hiking, and guided tours. Visitor center is open from 8 am to 6 pm during the summer months. Click here for more information.
50 miles of pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and wide marshes make up the Cumberland Island National Seashore. If you are looking for sun, sand, and beautiful surroundings, then this is the spot. There are plenty of activities for everyone including: guided ranger tours, hiking, camping, bird watching, bicycling, swimming, boating, beach combing and more. The island is accessible by ferry only and is open year round. Click here for more information.
If you and your kids are into hiking then the Shenandoah National Park is for you! There are over 500 miles of hiking trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. As you hike in the shade of oak trees along the Appalachian Trail, you will discover some of the most spectacular vistas the East Coast has to offer. Don’t feel like hiking? Try horseback riding, fishing or a bicycle tour. Camping and backpacking are permitted. Park is open year round. Click here for more information.
If you’re looking for a real New England maritime experience, then look no further than Cape Cod National Seashore. This beautiful park has 40 miles of pristine sandy beach, marshes, ponds, and uplands. Plus, you’ll even find lighthouses and wild cranberry bogs. Doesn’t get any more New England than that! This park offers miles of walking trails, bike paths and guided tours. You can also just kick back and enjoy swimming and sand castle building on one of the six white sandy beaches. The park is open until midnight year round. Click here for more information.
Sand dunes in Michigan? That’s exactly what you’ll find at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, plus a whole lot more. Michigan’s Lower Peninsula has 35 miles of beautiful coastline stretching along spectacular Lake Michigan. You can explore North and South Manitou Islands, swim at one of the many beaches, hike through the Maple/Beach forest and of course climb the dunes. There’s even a museum you can wander around in if you need a break from the sun. Camping facilities are available and the dunes are open year round 24 hours a day. Click here for more information.
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