The Great Smoky Mountains Area
More than just a national park, the Great Smoky Mountains encompass the surrounding villages and towns to give visitors insight into southern Appalachian culture as well as the Cherokee culture that existed prior to the settlement. The national park covers more than 500,000 acres, straddling the Tennessee and North Carolina border. Visitors can climb the park's highest peak, Clingmans Dome, or simply camp in one of the park's numerous campgrounds. Families can enjoy other activities such as hiking, biking, picnicking, canoeing and white-water rafting. If the kids somehow get bored with nature, tourist towns on the park's edge like Gatlinburg and Cherokee offer plenty of opportunity for souvenir shopping and candy eating. In addition, cities like Johnson City and Asheville provide a more genuine cultural experience and can be reached within an hour's drive from the park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Yellowstone National Park
This is the park among parks. Not only is it the cornerstone of the national parks system, but it is also one of the most impressive. Yellowstone National Park's remote Wyoming location makes it the perfect place for families looking to be awed and inspired by the vast beauty of nature. From hiking to watching the magnificent Yellowstone Falls to fly-fishing in the park's rivers, Yellowstone puts families in among nature. Yellowstone's most attractive feature, and the one kids are sure to enjoy the most, is the safari-like atmosphere the park has. It is impossible to go a day without seeing more large wild animals than one can count. Bald eagles, buffalo, elk, moose, deer, wolves and the occasional bear can all be spotted on an almost daily basis from the car window or while on a solitary hike through the park's never-ending backcountry. Families can camp in one of the park's many semi-developed campgrounds or find solitude by camping in the backcountry (with permit).
Yellowstone National Park
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Northern Arizona and Southern Utah
The border area of northern Arizona and southern Utah is home to numerous national and state parks including the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Monument Valley and The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Each of these parks offers families a unique setting in which to camp, hike, climb, bike, raft and observe nature. There are some of the United States' finest examples of unspoiled desert wilderness. It is easy for families to plan a trip that will take them to some or all of these natural wonders as they are well connected by roads. If the desert becomes too hot, the beach at Glen Canyon is a great place to cool down in the fresh waters of Lake Powell and camp on.