The stale air of the city stifles the soul, so escape to the mountains for your next getaway. Find gondolas brimming with hikers looking to frolic among the wildflowers. Or rent a cabin in the shadow of the redwoods, making this a trip the kids will remember forever. See a volcano with its top and without. Read on to find 11 West Coast National Park trips for families from the National Parks TravelingMom.
West Coast National Park Trips for Families
Up and down the West Coast, find mountain getaways perfect for a long weekend or even a week-long family vacation. With over 1,300 miles from San Diego to the Canadian border, you’ll find lots of places to kick back and relax with the family.
- Mammoth Lakes in Inyo National Forest
- Sequoia National Park
- Kings Canyon National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Lake Tahoe in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Mt. Hood National Forest
- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
- Mount Rainier National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Olympic National Park
California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains
Running along the border of California and Nevada, the Sierra Nevada Mountains offer countless mountain escapes. And the naturalist John Muir famously said, “the mountains are calling and I must go,” about the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Find several national parks and forests, like Sequoia, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Mammoth Lakes in Inyo National Forest
A reasonable drive from Los Angeles, it’s a scenic drive that seems a world away from the palm trees and mirrored sunglasses of LA. Set in the sugar pines of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I found a mountain resort that hosts summer events like marathons and bike rides. Take the gondola to the peaks and reenact the scene from Sound of Music.
Devils Post Pile National Monument is up the highway and offers a study in geology. Find log-like rock formations in this popular hiking area.
Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park
These two separate national parks are connected. Both offer hikes among ancient redwood trees so tall staring at the top will cause vertigo. The shaded trails are perfect for hiking and learning a little about forest preservation and conservation.
Or if the kids are up for it, take a horse-back ride from the stables and relive a scene from an old-fashioned western. Find rustic cabins for a camping trip not easily forgotten too.
Yosemite National Park
If you haven’t been to Yosemite National Park, it’s an icon worthy of a park pilgrimage. Start at Yosemite Valley and see El Captain, the waterfalls and Tunnelview. Check into or tour the former Ahwahnee Hotel, now the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
Then explore the Mariposa Grove for Sequoia trees at the southern end of the park. See the former Wawona Hotel, now the Big Trees Lodge, for a refined historic inn.
Head up to Tuolumne Meadows for a subalpine meadow. And the Tuolumne River snakes through it for a picturesque picnic spot.
Lake Tahoe in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
With a dozen mountain resorts that ring an alpine lake and two states, the possibilities are endless. Grab a snowboard in the AM for a bit of summer riding then head down to the lake in the PM to strap on the water skis. Typical Tahoe.
Tour Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion built in 1929 at Emerald Bay. Don’t forget to snap a pic; Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed spots in Lake Tahoe.
Then hike through an alpine meadow and let the kids sled down the last of the spring snow.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Learn about volcanoes while exploring a northern California national park that looks similar to Yosemite but lacks the crowds. Take the scenic drive through the park and see Lassen Peak, one of the largest plug volcanoes in the world. Then see mudpots, fumeroles, steam vents and sulphur springs.
Stay in a rustic cabin with bunk beds or escape to the Drakesbad Guest Ranch for western hospitality, both within the park.
Oregon’s Cascade Range
In a mountain range that spans two states, find volcanic peaks dressed in evergreen forests.
Crater Lake National Park
See the deepest lake in the U.S. while driving along Crater Lake National Park’s Rim Drive, located in southern Oregon. Take a boat to hike to the top of Wizard Island in Crater Lake.
Or leap into the ice cold lake water. Learn how volcanic activity created Crater Lake.
End the perfect day watching the sunset from one of Crater Lake Lodge’s rocking chairs. Then spend the night at the Cabins at Mazama Village.
Mt. Hood National Forest
Standing tall and covered in snow year round, Mt. Hood is perfect for a mountain escape, just a quick drive from Portland. Drive up to Timberline Lodge, a historic lodge that oozes rustic charm and was the backdrop for the movie, The Shining. Mt. Hood is a summer destination for serious skiers and snowboarders since it’s one of the few places to offer consistent year-round skiing.
Find fruit farms on the nearby fruit loop, with 35 miles of orchards with roadside fruit stands. It seems Oregon keeps the best cherries for themselves.
Washington’s Cascade Range
What started in Oregon continues to the Canadian border. See how Mount St. Helens has recovered from its eruption. Then explore Seattle’s pair of mountain getaways, Olympic or Mt. Rainier National Parks.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mount St. Helens was once a recreational playground for Washington, similar to Mt. Rainier National Park. Then one quiet Sunday morning in 1980 the snowcapped mountain vaporized and a mudslide decimated a forest for a generation.
The Johnston Ridge Observatory is a must for school-age kids with live seismographs and geologic exhibits. The visitor center offers two films that had my school-age kids glued to their seats as they watched.
Find an off-grid campground just outside the monument. Located in southern Washington, near the Oregon border.
Mount Rainier National Park
On a clear day, Mount Rainier offers Seattle’s best view. This popular getaway offers crisp, pine-scented air along with the National Park Inn or Paradise Inn, an historic lodge half-way to its peak in Mount Rainier National Park.
Hike through blazing wildflower meadows offering months of blooms. Then explore one of the few temperate rainforests in the U.S. with moss every shade of green in a crayon box.
Kids of all ages can hop aboard the Mount Rainier Railroad to choo-choo through the forest. Of course, a trip to Mount Rainier is not complete without sampling its namesake cherries.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park, east of Seattle, offers 300 glaciers in a rugged park that’s quiet even in the summer. The west side of the park offers a temperate rain forest. And the east side of the park offers a dry ponderosa pine forest.
Find floating cabin at the Ross Lake Resort along the Skagit River. And they’re only accessible by float plane, ferry or horseback. Or visit Stehekin at the headwaters of Lake Chelan for another hamlet without a road.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a triple threat park. Find mountains to hike, rainforests to explore and beaches to walk. In fact, Olympic National Park is so rich in diversity its also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Drive up to Hurricane Ridge to see its glaciers. Explore an alpine ridge and hike through a meadow of flowers.
Hike along a temperate rainforest trail then have lunch at a woodland lodge along a glassy lake. Afterwards teach the kids to skip the perfect rock along shores of Lake Quinault.
Spend the afternoon exploring the rugged coastline where tide pools outnumber people. Kids can earn a nifty patch for their marine adventures and Mom can let the soothing sounds of the ocean work its magic.
Also find a mineral pool that offers families a warm place to swim since the lakes are chilly. Or grab a stand-up paddle board and explore from the water.