3 off the Beaten Path National Parks to Visit with Your Kids

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As a young girl growing up, I spent a lot of time in an 18 wheeler traversing the country with my dad and mom. From a young age, travel became an innate part of me, road trips in particular. I remember the feeling on every trip when we’d hit Oklahoma, that feeling that we were headed west. We also took at least a couple of trips in our car, visiting national parks all along the way. That young girl grew up, married a man who loves to explore just as much as she, and together we had 3 boys who are growing up learning to explore the world around them.While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful!

While we’ve visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out in my memories as a little more off the beaten path. They’re not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans for the year ahead, don’t forget about these 3 parks. They’re well worth adding to your travel itinerary.

1. Great Sand Dunes National Park

There may not be another park that offers quite so much diversity in both nature and wildlife as Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes are the highest in North America, reaching as high as 750 feet. They cross a span of about 19,000 acres.While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful! Nothing can prepare you for the awe-inspiring view of these wind-blown but very tall sand dunes with a majestic mountain range rising up behind. It’s breathtaking. I’d never felt as much like an ant as I did trying to climb those beautiful sandy dunes. And when you see other people in the distance, the immense size of the dunes becomes very real.

The wonderful thing is there’s something for every member of your family in this park. Camping is available, whether you enjoy campground camping or getting a bit more off the beaten path on Medano Pass Primitive Road (4-wheel drive only).While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful! Splash in the creek, ride the dunes on sand sleds, go fishing, and view the beautiful night sky so full of stars. Hike the dunes or hike into the forest covered mountains.

2. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I’ll be honest. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park made me feel like the Grand Canyon made me feel. I wanted to hang onto my boys for dear life. You don’t expect to see what you’ll see the first time you walk up onto the rim of this amazing canyon. But when you do, it’ll take your breath away. While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful!The Gunnison River flows through the bottom of this very steep, rocky, craggy canyon with its sheer rock walls.

Driving along either of the rims (or down to the river) provides for several stops along the way with different views of the canyon. You can also hike the rim.While we weren’t there at night, I can only imagine what the stars must be like. Fishing, rock climbing, and kayaking are also popular activities, although rock climbing and kayaking here are for the more experienced adventurers. You’ll understand why when you witness that powerful river surging through the canyon.While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful!Watch for wildlife because you may just have an opportunity to see a marmot (one of my personal favorites), bighorn sheep, elk, a mountain lion, black bears, golden eagles, the peregrine falcon, and so many more beautiful creatures.

3. Mesa Verde National Park

This is one park I wish we’d had more time to explore. The history and the stories Mesa Verde holds are amazing. It is a bit more crowded than the other parks, and I do recommend getting there early so you can book tours of the cliff dwellings.While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful!

There are more than 600 cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde; it was home to the Pueblo people for over 700 years. The Visitor Center is a must stop destination with your family before you actually drive into the park. You’ll be able to walk through exhibits and learn more about the park and the people who lived there. This is also where you reserve your tickets for the tours.While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you're making travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful! Cliff dwellings include Cliff Palace, Balcony House, Long House, Step House, and Spruce Tree house. Spruce Tree House looks to be closed for some time due to rock falls. Other activities include hiking, stargazing, camping, cross-country skiing, and more.

Never Stop Exploring Our National Parks (Including Off the Beaten Path National Parks)

Our national parks are a heritage for us to preserve and protect. They’re just waiting to be explored by your family and my family, adults and kids alike. While I love a good theme park, I’m so passionate about showing our kids more of what this country has to offer in terms of natural beauty, the wildest of wildlife, the tallest mountains, the most colorful deserts, and the deepest valleys. We live in an amazing land, America the Beautiful, as the song says. I pray our boys will grow up not only with a respect for this beautiful land we call home. I pray they’ll grow up with a love for this country and all the natural wonders it holds, both off the beaten path and on.While we've visited a few of the more popular national parks, there are 3 that stand out as a little more off the beaten path. They're not as widely talked about, but they offer so much incredible beauty, history, and adventure. Coincidentally, all 3 happen to be in southern Colorado. As you make travel plans with your family, don't forget about these 3 parks. They're well worth adding to your travel itinerary. America the Beautiful!

How ’bout you? What is one of your favorite national parks that may be a bit more off the beaten path?

80 thoughts on “3 off the Beaten Path National Parks to Visit with Your Kids”

  1. My husband and I LOVE national parks. Although we don’t have kids yet, we do plan to take them when we do. We’re actually visiting Mesa Verde this weekend along with a few others in the area. And your sand dunes pictures reminds me of ours from the Middle East. I love riding camels through sand dunes!

  2. We visited National Parks when I was a child, but I haven’t been to one in ages. This makes me want to visit one again. Thanks!

  3. Amazing photos! When I graduated from highschool, my family including my grandparents, took a drive out west from wisconsin. It was a trip I’ll never forget (5 of us in a station wagon with NO AC and only AM radio). But I loved visiting other parts of the country. Hubby and I hope to purchase a RV and travel soon!

  4. I live in Northern Ontario (in the middle of the vast wilderness) and we have so many places to explore. We geocache here as much as we can but I would love to explore some of these places, especially Mesa Verde.

  5. I went to mesa verde with my family when I was little. We had a really good time. i haven’t been to the others, but they sound like they would make great trips.

  6. Oh those all look so beautiful! I have not been to any of those. I would love to go to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! Oh that looks so amazing!!!

  7. Great post! I don’t think as many people visit national parks much anymore but they should! They’re great for families to get off phones and video games and just be together and for children to cultivate a love of nature!
    It’s hard to destroy something when you love it!
    thanks!

  8. We usually do a staycation & that involves national parks along the great lakes. These parks look anazing, would love to visit them someday!

  9. Our family’s hope is to visit every National Park but of course we have a lot left to see. We also hope to kayak the Black Canyon of the Gunnison since we’re a whitewater loving group. Thank you for the great post!

  10. Wow, these are three great national parks. I would love to visit the Mesa Verde National Park someday. I know this would be a fun time for my whole family.

  11. I really like the article. I have three kids and I need vacation ideas that are in the outdoors thats we can do together. Thank you.

  12. This post really brought back memories of traveling as a child and teen. I really need to plan a nice road trip to some of these parks again. Beautiful photos :)

  13. We travel 6 months of the year with our kids and animals and wouldn’t have it any other way. I didn’t know that you could actually visit cliff dwellings. Incredible! Hope to make it there some day.

    Besos Sarah
    Journeys of The Zoo

  14. I love some of the State parks in Florida, where I live, a few I love to go include; Florida Caverns State Park, Suwannee River State Park and for swimming Ponce de Leon Springs State Park or Devils Den. It has a crazy name but ultra awesome to explore.

  15. Would love the opportunity to explore all of these great locations ! I just love wildlife ! I just love camping ! And I love spending time with family !

  16. I’d love to visit the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park and Mesa Verde National Park. They both look amazing. I haven’t seen much of the West or far South except for California, Tennessee, Florida, and South Carolina. I really want to go to Arizona but these are cool too.:)

  17. I would love to go to all 3 of these parks. I loved the way they all looked so peaceful and totally nature. Just the land as beautiful as it is.

  18. I loved your pictures! That one looking down into the canyon and the river must have been scary to shoot. I love visiting Nat’l Parks, recently I visited Red Rock (Canyon?) in Nevada near Vegas. It was breathtaking to see the clouds encircling the peaks!

    • Inez, thank you! That one was scary… In fact, I was hesitant to lean on that fence at all because it was just straight down. lol I had a hard time letting go of the kids at all. I would love to visit Red Rock Canyon; I bet it is absolutely beautiful!

  19. I have never seen Mesa Verde before.. it is absolutely incredible! What a spectacular place. So many great family outings on this list!

  20. Is the Navajo National forest part of Mesa Verde National? If so, we were there two years ago on my son’s birthday camping! It was totally amazing. We got to watch the Navajo women weaving baskets at the visitor’s center too. These all look awesome!

  21. Oh, the Great Sand Dunes looks so beautiful! If I could, I would travel the whole country with my family. That’s a huge bucket list for us!

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