Joshua Tree National Park with my nine month old son Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan with Kids TravelingMom

Joshua Tree National Park with my nine month old son
Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan with Kids TravelingMom

Having baby in the mix can set you back a little from your adventurous ways even if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. It was challenge for me, a not typically outdoorsy person to plan a visit to a national park with a baby. But national parks make flexible getaways for babies with their ever changing schedules and quite economical if you want to bring additional adults along for help. Short trails, long drives, picnics with scenic views are just a few ways even non hikers can have a memorable time at a national park with a baby.

We are neither avid hikers nor devoted nature enthusiasts, but visiting national parks have been a great way for us to experience geographical diversity during our travels. You don’t have to spend days camping or hours on long hikes to enjoy what national parks have to offer. The visit can be tailored depending on the park, the weather and the baby’s needs. Here are a few tips we learned from taking our babies along on these adventures.

1.Make it part of a bigger trip

If you’re worried about making the whole trip based on staying in the wilderness, then decide to spend a day dedicated to the highlights of the park. We visited Joshua Tree National Park as part of our two day trip to Palm Springs, California. During our fall foliage visit to Portland, Maine, we took a day trip to Bar Harbor to visit Arcadia National park.

Views from our drive through Arcadia National Park Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

Views from our drive through Arcadia National Park
Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

2.Stay within your limits

We assess our physical limitations when planning what to do at the park with baby. We enjoy going on short trails and driving around to various look out points.

Many of our outdoorsy friends have been taking babies on hikes since they were a few a months old by carrying them in slings or baby carriers. But my first baby absolutely hated being restricted and the baby carrier was of no use. We were concerned about how to make the most of visiting a national park, which was highly unlikely to be stroller friendly.

Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

We were creative in our approach to visiting the park. Driving through a well mapped out route helped us cover a lot of ground. We enjoyed a lot of scenery from the car with occasional stops at look out points when we took the baby out for fresh air, did short walks and posed for pictures.

We have had more luck with our baby carrier loving second baby and have been able to spend more time on foot.

3.Save money

A visit to a national park is a multi-generational activity that is very economical.  As entrance fees are charged per vehicle, it will only cost a few dollars for a car full of passengers. It is ideal getaway to include extended family or helpers without adding too much cost per head.

Airboat ride at Evergaldes National Park Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

Airboat ride at Evergaldes National Park
Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

4.Find activities to enhance your visit

Some parks may have different activities that can help you have a one of a kind experience without much physical exhaustion. On a visit to Everglades National Park we took an airboat ride which included a guided swamp tour with a closer look at alligators. The location of the tour onset point and its duration played a key role in choosing this activity. We were mindful of the maximum time our infant son could be engaged on our laps. As long as he was held close and had a life vest it was safe for him to take a boat ride. It was definitely worth the money we spent on a tour as this was not an experience we could have had driving on our own.

5.Have a picnic

This is one of our must dos on any national park trip. Most parks will have restaurants s or picnic areas with amazing views. Our lunch stop at Cater lake with magnificent views of the lake is one of my favorite meals at a national park.

Crater Lake National Park Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

Crater Lake National Park
Photo credit: Anuja De Silva/Cosmopolitan TravelingMom with Kids

National parks are an American treasure that should be experienced by citizens and tourists alike. If you enjoy nature it will be a memorable experience. We are excited to share this experience with children at such a young age. We are looking forward to them discovering the parks on their own through the Junior Ranger Program in the not so far away future.