nationalpark

Take A Trip: Top 5 Most Popular National Parks for Your Family Vacation

  • Rodger Johnson
Mar 22, 2016

That time of year is quickly approaching. The country begins to thaw from a long winter, and we get the itch —  cabin fever no more! It’s no secret Spring and Summer are the most recreationally traveled months for most Americans.

As you plan for vacation, have you considered national parks as destinations? Using statistical data from the National Parks Service, we have compiled a list of the top five most popular national parks. If thoughts of packing up the family for the quintessential road trip have tickled your fancy, this list may help you pick a destination.

Great Smokey Mountain National Park: Are you a nature lover? This park’s biological diversity sets it apart from others in the United States. Scientists have documented some 17,000 species of animals and plants, but estimate there’s 30,000 to 80,000 different kinds of plants and animals living in the park’s 800 square miles in Southern Appalachia. There’s also recreation choices galore in this national park. Bicycling, camping, and hiking are among the most common activities.

Grand Canyon National Park: If you’re a natural history nut, this national park is for you. It’s an archeological Disneyland for the amateur. The oldest human artifacts found are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period. As you descend into the canyon, which the Colorado River has chiseled for millions of years, your hike is a walk through antiquity. Is archeology not your thing? No problem. What about touring the North or South Rim by mule? Of course, these are popular attractions, so the national park recommends making reservations at least 13 months in advance. While the South Rim is open year around, the North Rim is open from mid-May through mid-October.

Rocky Mountain National Park: In the mountains you’ll likely climb to some of the highest points in the United States. Imagine that view! The top third of the park encompasses the alpine tundra, a windswept land above the trees. And this park is truly full of family experiences. For the kids, there’s the Junior Rangers program. Your children will have fun discovering the natural world, while learning why we need to protect the special treasures found in our National Parks.

Yosemite National Park: The majestic lands that make up this park inspired some of Ansel Adam’s most iconic work. No wonder it’s one of the most visited U.S. national parks. If landscape can imitate tranquility — this is it. As with all national parks, camping is common, but the experience may be uncommon with a backdrop of granite cliffs, glaciers, grand meadows, and summer afternoon lunches shaded by a sequoia canopy. And with 1200 square miles of park land, you’ll wear holes in your boots from hiking.

Yellowstone National Park: Last on our list, but surely not least in beauty is Yellowstone. What make this national treasure unique from all others? Geysers! There’s more here than anywhere on the planet. And preserving these were the main reason why the land was preserved in 1872. If you’re into kayaking Lewis Lake or the river with the same name, this might be the attraction for you. The waterways, save for one, are preserved and do not allow motorized boats.

Did you know there’s tremendous benefit from an excursion into the wild? One study “found that when parents and their children engage in an activity that is new and challenging to both of them, they often experienced an ‘equalizing’ of their relationship, where parents and children depended on one another more equally, perhaps for the first time in their lives,” said Jill Overholt, a professor in the Outdoor Leadership Department at Warren Wilson College. Hiking, fishing, setting up camp — all have challenges  Minecraft and Super Mario Brothers just can’t duplicate.  

Being secluded in environments like those found in national parks also created more open communication and better trust shared between family members, the study found. “Spending time in nature as a family leads to more purposeful engagement with one another,” said Overholt.

When you plan for your summer vacations, visiting a national park may be just what the doctor ordered. Aside from that majestic, natural beauty, there are marked benefits for the health and well-being of your family. But you don’t want to hit the road without some protection. By some estimates, more than 152 million American have purchased travel accident insurance. A bigger picture of this demonstrates the magnitude. We cited a USTiA report, which found Americans spent over $2.2 billion on all types of travel protection. Could trip protection insurance be right for your family?

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