It’s the year of the National Park and there’s lots to see across the country. With parks from Washington state to Maine, the 10 Best National Parks List is a great place to start. The National Park Service report that a record number of people visited parks across the United States in 2015. With NPS Centennial programming and the Every Kid in a Park initiative, 2016 is the year to find your park.
Best National Parks
It’s the National Park Service Centennial Celebration. If your family has ever wanted to visit a national park, 2016 is the year to do it. TravelingMom can help; we’ve been there.
The National Park Service just released the Top 10 National Parks for 2015 along with their annual attendance. Over 307 million visitors explored our national parks last year and more are expected this year.
Top 10 National Parks for 2015
Ridge upon ridge of tree-covered mountains that fade into the sky. It’s 270 miles west of Raleigh, North Carolina.
It’s an American icon, 215 miles north of Phoenix.You’ve seen it in pictures, but they can’t do justice to the epic vistas of the Grand Canyon. You really have to see if for yourself.
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Drive through wildflower meadows on the mountaintops, just 75 miles west of Denver.
- Yosemite National Park, California
Set in a valley overflowing with wildlife and waterfalls, it’s 200 miles east of San Francisco.
- Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Visit Old Faithful Geyser and drive through valleys full of bison. It’s 320 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.
- Zion National Park, Utah
The red sandstone cliffs and rock formations are a hiker’s paradise, just 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where the mountains, the ocean and the rainforest collide. It’s 110 miles west of Seattle.
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The pristine lakes reflect the granite peaks towering above them for a postcard picture at every turn. It’s 280 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.
Catch the sunrise at the first national park on the East Coast, 265 miles northeast of Boston.
- Glacier National Park, Montana
It’s one of the few places to catch the vanishing glaciers, 275 miles east of Spokane, Washington.
We wait for the Old Faithful Geyser to erupt in Yellowstone National Park, the first national park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks Traveling Mom
National parks are budget-friendly destinations. Most parks charge $20 to $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. All of the Top 10 National Parks offer camping for less than $30 a night for a developed camp site. Add the hotdogs and marshmallows and that’s one budget-friendly vacation.
If you are visiting more than one park over the year, consider an annual pass. There are several passes to choose from as well.
National Park Service Annual Passes
|Type of Pass||Eligibility||Cost|
|America the Beautiful Pass||All visitors||$80|
|Military Pass||Current U.S. military members and their dependents||Free|
|Senior Lifetime Pass||U.S. citizens and permanent residents 62 years and older||$10|
|Access Pass||U.S. citizens and permanent residents with a permanent disability||Free|
|Volunteer Pass||Visitors volunteering 250 hours a year||Free|
In celebration of the NPS centennial, President Obama launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative to get fourth graders in the parks this year. Ten-year-olds complete an online activity, print out a voucher and turn it in at a NPS park for a free annual pass for them and their family. This offer is available until August 30, 2016.
16 Fee-Free Days in 2016
Even if you don’t have a fourth grader, there are ways to get into a National Park for free.
|Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday||January 18, 2016|
|Presidents’ Day Weekend||February 13 – 15, 2016|
|National Park Week||April 16 – 24, 2016|
|National Park Service Birthday||August 25 – 28, 2016|
|National Public Lands Day||September 24, 2016|
|Veterans Day||November 11, 2016|
Tips from a Traveling Mom:
- National Parks are popular destinations during school breaks and holidays–make reservations as early as possible. Reservations for lodging are available 13 months in advance.
- Parking can be an issue at popular destinations during the middle of the day.
- Watch your children at all times, many features have barricades kids can climb over.
- Keep wild animals wild. Don’t feed them for your safety and theirs.
- Bring food and refillable water bottles for your visit. Food service can be limited.
- Drones are not permitted at any NPS location.