This year, the National Park Service is commemorating its 100th anniversary and encouraging families to share in the celebration. Here are five parks to put on your list:
1. Acadia National Park, Maine. Explore the rocky Maine coast via kayak, just as native people did centuries ago. The Maine Island Trail – 325 miles of waterway – passes through the park and offers abundant sea life, views of the scenic coastline and the opportunity to camp in protected coves. Open and private guided tours enable family groups to sample or fully immerse themselves in the splendor of the area’s natural beauty and rich wildlife. Details: www.nps.gov/acad.
2. Everglades National Park, Fla. A birder’s paradise! Follow paved roads or wooden boardwalks to spot warblers, mangrove cuckoos, herons, egrets and other wading birds in the country’s largest subtropical wilderness area. This 1.5 million-acre park is home to 360 species and is a World Heritage Site . The park offers a free Junior Ranger program to enhance the experience for young explorers. Details: www.nps.gov/ever.
3. Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. Hike, photograph, raft or paint this wonder of the world. Explore the Bright Angel Trail for great views of the inner canyon. Choose day hikes to the Three-Mile Resthouse or to Indian Garden. With plenty of advance planning you can reserve a campsite at the Bright Angel campground or bunks at Phantom Ranch (www.grandcanyonlodges.com/lodging/phantom-ranch) on the canyon floor for a full experience. In Williams, Ariz., hop aboard the vintage Grand Canyon Railway train (www.thetrain.com) for a memorable journey to the South Rim. Choose from several classes of service and various vacation packages, some of which include a night’s stay within the park. Details: www.nps.gov/grca.
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4. Mount Rushmore, S.D. A tribute to four men and their contributions to our nation’s history, Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are carved into Black Hills rock for the ages. Hiking, biking, wildlife and other tourist sites are nearby. During summer, Junior Ranger and other immersive programs are offered to engage young visitors. Details: www.nps.gov/moru.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 800-square-mile wonderland that stradles the N.C.-Tenn. border offers a treasure-trove of outdoor opportunities for all ages. The heavily forested park is well known for its plant and animal diversity, including a healthy population of black bears. Enjoy picnicking, hiking the nearly 800 miles of trails, horseback riding and fishing. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge and tap into a wide array of ranger-led programs designed for the younger set. Details: www.nps.gov/grsm.