Kid-friendly Hikes in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

We made our first visit to Acadia in August and completely fell in love. I’d planned so much travel for 2020, and like everyone else in the world this year, I had to cancel all but our Acadia trip. 

I’ve been to Maine before, but never as far north as Bar Harbor. I loved the scenery of Maine – the cliffs reminded me of Hawaii a little bit, albeit with different foliage and FREEZING cold water. 

Here are our favorite spots for hiking and swimming in Acadia National Park. For current conditions at the park, check the Acadia website before you go!

Swimming in Acadia: Sand Beach

Sand Beach is the main beach access within the park. It’s also the trailhead for Ocean Path and Great Head Trail (more on that below). The beach is BEAUTIFUL, but the water is freezing. This did not bother my seven-year-old, who dove straight in. This was his favorite part of the trip by far!

Just FYI, the parking lot here fills up fast, so plan to get here early. They are also rolling out a reservation system. Get updates on that here.

Sand Beach Cliffs and Shore line
Sand Beach in the Early Morning

Swimming in Acadia: Echo Lake Maine

You’re not able to swim in all of the lakes/ponds in Acadia. Many are part of the drinking supply, so swimming is prohibited. But Echo Lake is one of the areas where you are allowed to swim. The water was slightly warmer, if that makes swimming in Maine any more appealing! 

You can also access the Beech Cliff Ladder and Canada Cliff Trailheads from the Echo Lake parking lot, making the lake a fun spot to cool off after a hike. 

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Acadia: Ocean Path to Thunder Hole 

This is one of the more popular hikes in Acadia. You can access this from Sand Beach or you can park at Thunder Hole and walk back toward the beach. There are some spots where you can step off the trail and onto the rocks and do some exploring. This was my sons favorite part – it was definitely more exciting for him than walking the path.

Ocean Path continues along toward Otter Cliffs, but depending on your kid’s endurance, you might want to just do a portion of the trail. The trail itself is super easy, but there’s minimal cover from the sun, so by 10am, this trail was HOT. 

Cliffs and Evergreen Trees in Acadia
Cliffs and Ocean in Acadia
Cliffs and Rocks in Acadia National Park
Yellow Wildflowers in Acadia
Birch Tree Bark in Acadia

Acadia with Kids: Great Head Trail

We did this trail on a cloudier day, so the views weren’t as clear, but it was still amazing. There was a range terrain – including some fun spots to scramble over rocks. You get some beautiful views of the cliffs across the water! The full hike is 1.8 miles. 

Great Head Trail is also accessed from the Sand Beach parking lot.

Trees and Rocks along Great Head Trail
Trees along Great Head Trail Acadia
Tree Stump and rocks along Greart Head Trail
Rocks on Great Head Trail
Pine Cone and Needles Close e up
Foggy Landscape in Maine
Foggy Cliffs along Great Head Trail
Foggy field with mountain in the background at great head trailhead
Ferns and Trees in the Forest Acadia
Algae Close Up in Acadia
Birch Tree on Great Head Trail

Acadia National Park with Kids: Jordan Pond Loop

This was one of my favorite hikes of the trip! Jordan Pond is absolutely beautiful. You can’t swim or go in the water, as it’s part of the drinking supply. But the views are amazing. We did the full loop, which is 3.4 miles. There’s a variety of terrain – parts of it include walking over rocks, which was a lot of fun. 

Jordan Pond Landscape
Jordan Pond Acadia
Jordan Pond View
Jordan Pond Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Hikes: Beech Cliff Ladder and Canada Cliff Trail 

This was a great trail that was on the quiet side compared to some of the other more popular trails in Acadia. Parts of the trail had steel ladders that you had to climb. We made the mistake of going clockwise around the loop instead of counter clockwise, so we had to climb DOWN the ladders. If you’re hiking with kids, it’s probably easier to climb up. 

There are some great views of Echo Lake and the ocean from the top. This trail is accessed from the same parking lot as Echo Lake, so you can cool off after your hike with a trip to the lake!

Trees along Canada Cliffs Trail
Steel Ladder on Beech Cliffs Trail
Rock Wall on Beech Cliffs Trail
Granite Rock on Beech Cliff Trail
Granite Rock in Maine
Echo Lake in Acadia National Park
Echo Lake View from Beech Cliff

Kid-Friendly Hikes Acadia National Park: Day Mountain Trail 

Day Mountain Trail was another quiet trail in Acadia. It’s 2.6 miles out and back up and over Day Mountain. The elevation gain is only 564 feet, so it’s a fairly mellow trail, with some uneven terrain. We did this on our last day and paired it with a short trip to Hunters Beach.

View from Day Mountain Hike in Acadia
Day Mountain Peak in Acadia
Boardwalk on Day Mountain Hike

Acadia with Kids: Hunters Beach Trail 

This is a short path to a beautiful beach. We did this after doing Day Mountain Trail. The walk down is only .3 miles, and the beach itself is gorgeous. We did some walking on the rocks. The wet rocks are super slippery, so be very careful! 

Rocks at Hunter Beach Acadia
Rocks on Hunter Beach Acadia
Hunter Beach Acadia National Park

Traveling to Acadia National Park?

For more Acadia, stay tuned for my post Vegan Acadia (coming soon!). 

For more on New England, see my posts on:

Photos to Inspire you to Visit Zion National Park

zion national park

I went to Zion National Park about 10 years ago (before I had a kid) and it was one of my favorite national park experiences to date. I traveled with my friend from Henderson, Nevada, where she lives. We came for an overnight trip and stayed at a local bed and breakfast. We spent two full days exploring the park.

One of the awesome things I remember most about our experience was the bus system that runs through Zion. It was so nice to just be able to hop on and off the bus, rather than worrying about finding parking at each stop.

southwestern desert
Desert landscape en route to Zion from Nevada.

The landscape at Zion is absolutely beautiful. We did a couple of the smaller trails and scenic points on our first day, and then did the hike to the Emerald Pools before heading back to Nevada.

zion nation park entrance sign

Zion National Park Hikes: Weeping Rock Trail

Weeping Rock is just as it sounds – water is coming out from the sides of the rock. This is because the rock is made up of sandstone and shale. The sandstone is more porous and absorbs snow/rain, but the shale is not, so the water goes out to the side when it reaches the shale.

water dripping at weeping rock zion national park
Water dripping at Weeping Rock.
wall at weeping rock zion national park
Weeping Rock at Zion National Park
weeping rock zion national park 2
Weeping Rock at Zion National Park
close up of rock colors at zion national park
weeping rock
weeping rock at zion national park 3

Unfortunately, at this writing, Weeping Rock Trail is closed due to a rock fall (read more here). There’s no estimated dates to reopen.

Zion National Park Hikes: Emerald Pools Trail

The other trail we did was the Emerald Pools trail. This took a little longer and we opted to start first thing in the morning. This trail was more challenging, but gave us some beautiful views.

Right now, the trail to the lower Emerald Pools is closed for repair, but it’s scheduled to reopen Spring 2020. See more here and make sure you check the park website for updates.

Trees and cliffs at zion national park
Hike to the Emerald Pools at Zion National Park
red rock cliffs and blue sky at zion
Red Rock cliffs and blue skies at Zion National Park
Rock Detail at Zion National Park
Cliffs at Zion National Park
Dramatic cliffs at Zion National Park
Red Rock Cliffs at Zion National Park
Cliffs at the Emerald Pools at Zion National Park.
Stream at Zion National Park
Stream at Zion
zion national park landscape
stream and mountains
Stream and mountain landscape at Zion National Park

More Things to See at Zion National Park

We rode the bus for a few more stops during our trip to Zion National Park. We visited Court of the Patriarchs, Zion Lodge, the Grotto and Canyon Junction. The pictures below are from our wanderings around these area and are in no particular order. I’m hoping to share just the overall vibe of the park. It’s so beautiful and the landscape is so breathtaking. It’s definitely worth a visit.

rocks and water at zion
rock wall at zion
stream and cliffs at zion
stream and rock at zion national park
zion national park trails
water on the rocks at zion
zion landscape
damselfly at zion national park

Planning your Trip to Zion National Park

Always check the national park website before you go to see current conditions and any trail closures.

If you can swing it, try to check the park out during the shoulder season. We went toward the end of September, and it was still busy but much less crowded than the summer months.

utah desert

Want more Southwestern travel tips?

Coming soon: see my post on my outdoor guide to Las Vegas.

Family Fun in Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

cuyahoga valley national park travel with kids ohio

We drove from Philadelphia to Chicago to visit family. The drive was long – 13 hours when all was said and done – and we did an overnight stop just outside of Cleveland near Cuyahoga National Park. We wanted to burn off some energy before we drove 6-7 hours the rest of the way to Chicago.

yellow wildflower in cuyahoga national park

Fun Things to do in Ohio: Cleveland’s National Park

We headed to Cuyahoga Valley National Park mid-morning to squeeze in a quick hike and get some time in nature. Since we only had a few hours to explore and my son loves spotting animals, we decided to hike to Beaver Marsh and try to spot some birds and beavers from the boardwalk overlook.

One thing that I found really interesting about Cuyahoga Valley National Park is that the park is really spread out. To get from one area to the other, we drove through some areas that were residential and didn’t seem connected to the park. I’ve never experienced that before and found it really interesting.

grass leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Trails: Beaver Marsh

We parked at the Ira Trailhead and walked along the Towpath Trail until we got to Beaver Marsh. It was an easy hike that’s great for all ages, but especially younger kids. The path is flat and it’s a pretty quick walk (depending on the pace of your kiddos).

Once you get to the boardwalk, it crosses the marsh and you can look and spot all kinds of turtles, fish and frogs. There are also birds like great herons and other water birds. Unfortunately, we did not see any beavers as we’d hoped, but we did see their dam and various trees that had been felled/chewed by them, which was cool.

There’s also beautiful water lilies and lily pads, which I think are so cool to see!

We hung out for about an hour and walked back and forth along the boardwalk looking for turtles, fish and frogs. After that, we headed back to the car to get on the road to finish our road trip to Chicago.

beaver marsh at cuyahoga national park
beaver marshcuyahoga valley national park
purple calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) at Beaver Marsh
lily pads at beaver marsh
lily pad and flower in beaver marsh
blue heron in Beaver Marsh at Cuyahoga Valley

Want more on our trip to the Midwest?

See my posts on:

What to see in Haleakala National Park with Kids

What to see in Haleakala National Park with Kids

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to take my son to the Haleakala Summit. I was here on my first trip to Maui in 2000 and again in 2017 with my sister where we came early for the sunrise, which was beautiful (post coming soon!). This time around, I was hoping to do a little hiking. I wanted to stay nearby to minimize the drive to get up the mountain. 

Makaweo Upcountry Maui: Where to Stay if you’re visiting Haleakala National Park

After a little research, I decided to stay in Makaweo in Upcountry Maui. It flies a little under the radar due to the fact that it’s not on the beach. However, it’s up the mountain and about a 20 minute drive from the coast. So, once we arrived, I realized it’s actually really convenient to the beaches on both sides of the island as well as Haleakala National Park. 

From Makaweo, we could easily get to:

  • Kahului and all the shops nearby
  • Paia and Ho’okipa at the start of the road to Hana
  • Baby Beach and other local beaches along the coast
  • Maui Ocean Center (which we did not make it to because we ran out of time)
  • Haleakala National Park 
surfboard gate

What to see in Haleakala National Park

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Haleakala: Leleiwi Overlook

From Makaweo, we made the drive up to the summit at Haleakala National Park. It’s about an hour drive from Makaweo along a winding curvy road. At one point, we literally drove through the clouds so visibility was low, which was a little treacherous. But at long last, we made it!

We made a stop at the , a scenic point, on the way up. There’s parking and it’s an easy 5-10 minute stop. 

Haleakala Leleiwi Overlook
Haleakala National Park Leleiwi Overlook
Ōhi`a lehua at Leleiwi Overlook

Get Acclimated at the Haleakala Visitor Center

When we arrived at the summit, we made a stop into the visitor center to get recommendations. It’s worth noting that the summit visitor center closes at 12:30pm, because the park opens before sunrise. So if you have questions, or want to get your national parks passport stamped, plan to get there early! 

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Haleakala: Pā Ka’oao overlook

They gave us some tips and we did the (very) short hike to Pā Ka’oao overlook.

Haleaka Crater
Haleakala crater
Haleakala National Park Summit view
Haleakala hiking trails
Ōhi`a lehua

Haleakala Summit

After that we drove to the summit (10,023 feet above sea level). 

At the top, you can see the Hawaiian Silversword plant (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum). This plant ONLY grows at the summit and can live up to 90 years. It’s important to respect the park and NOT pick or take the silversword plants. They’re rare and take a long time to grow. You can learn more about them here.  

Haleakala Summit
Haleakala National Park Summit
Hawaiian Silversword Haleakala

Altitude Sickness at Haleakala National Park

Unfortunately, despite hydrating throughout the drive and eating a big breakfast, as SOON as we got to the summit, my son started complaining about a headache. I had done enough research to know that he was experiencing altitude sickness, so we immediately headed back down the mountain to eat lunch and hydrate.

I’d recommend doing some research into altitude sickness if you’re planning to visit, or talking to your doctor who can give professional medical advice (I’m not a doctor). I had done some research prior to our trip to learn that the symptoms can be subtle and come on quickly.

Haleakala Crater with Kids

The park entrance visitor center is only located at 7000 feet above sea level. So that might be a good place to stop and acclimate a bit before heading to the top. We stopped on the way out to get my son’s national park passport stamped. In hindsight, I would have made this my first stop! 

Despite our abrupt exit, the views we experienced at the top were amazing and worth the two hours round-trip drive. 

For more on Haleakala National Park, you can read my post about our visit to the coastal portion of Haleakala and our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.

Road to Hana Guide: Pipiwai Trail, Waimoku Falls and Haleakala’s Bamboo Forest with Kids

Waimoke Falls at Pipiwai Trail

I always thought the road to Hana ended at Hana. Spoiler alert: it does not. 

It continues on. There are a lot of great stops along the way, including Hamoa Beach and the Coastal Portion of Haleakala National Park, which includes the Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o and the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls. 

We stayed the night before in Hana, so we were able to get up early and drive 45 minutes to the park’s entrance. There’s an entrance fee of $25 per vehicle (see here for other options), but the ticket is valid for three days, so we were able to use it for admission into the Haleakala Crater two days later.

Hana has food trucks, where we stopped for smoothies, banana bread and coffee before we headed out. 

The Drive to Haleakala National Park, Kīpahulu District

The drive was about 45 minutes, and the road is a lot less well-maintained than the road leading up to Hana. Parts are very narrow and not as well marked. We left around 8:30am and hit very little traffic. There was lots of parking available at the Haleakala National Park visitor center. When we left around 3:30pm, the parking lot was packed and it took us about an hour and a half to get back to Hana. So leave as early as you can to enjoy the park! 

Haleakala National Park: Stop in the Visitor Center

We stopped into the visitor center to talk to the park rangers about the park’s current conditions and recommendations. Certain areas of the park are prone to flash flooding, so it’s good to check in before leaving.

Click to see the National Park Service’s website on the the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park.

Maui Hikes with Kids at Haleakala National Park: Pipiwai Trail and Seven Sacred Pools

When we visited, there were two options: the Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o, which is a shorter loop trail, and the Pipiwai Trail that takes you through a bamboo forest, past two waterfall overlooks to the massive Waimoku Falls. It’s about 4 miles round trip. 

We chose the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls. Four miles roundtrip is a little ambitious for a six year old, but totally doable.

If you’re setting out on a long hike with kids, make sure you bring:

  • LOTS of water. The trail is hot. It’s mostly under cover of trees, but it’s still hot and humid, so stay hydrated.
  • Bring plenty of snacks – or maybe even some lunch. Kids are always hungry – especially on an uphill walk. Even if your kids don’t eat along the way, a snack at Waimoku Falls can give them the energy they need to make the hike back.
  • Sunscreen. The trail is mostly undercover of the forest, but the sun is strong and bright when you’re in it. 
  • Bug spray. At certain parts of the trail, the mosquitoes are relentless.  

Our Favorite Parts of the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls

landscape at pipiwai trail

Haleakala National Park Waterfalls: Makahiku Falls

There are two spots along the trail that are scenic overlooks to smaller waterfalls, including Makahiku Falls. This a nice spot to sit and enjoy the view – or maybe have a drink or a snack. 

Makahiku Falls on pipiwai trail
view from pipiwai trail

See the Giant Banyan Tree on the Pipiwai Trail

There’s a beautiful banyan tree along the trail. It’s another great place to stop and sit. 

banyan tree maui

Explore Haleakala’s Bamboo Forest

Part of the trail is a boardwalk path through a beautiful bamboo forest. The bamboo is massive, and as you walk through, you can hear the tap-tap sound of the bamboo knocking against each other.

bamboo forest on pipiwai trail
Bamboo Forest
Bamboo Forest Pipiwai Trail
Bamboo Forest at Pipiwai trail

Waimoku Falls on the Pipiwai Trail

This waterfall is well worth the hike. Even my son – who asked me “are we there yet?” – was thrilled with the final destination. The pictures, I think speak for themselves. 

Waimoku Falls
Maui waterfall

Haleakala National Park: Pipiwai Trail Review

Roundtrip, the hike probably took us about 4.5 hours. Our pace was steady, but we took breaks along the way. 

Once we got back to the visitor center, we opted to skip the shorter loop to pools at ‘Ohe’o, mainly because my son was exhausted after the hike. If you are traveling with older kids – or happen to visit the park on a cooler day, you could easily squeeze both in.

After our day trip to Haleakala National Park’s Kīpahulu District, we drove the Road to Hana back to Makaweo where we explored upcountry Maui (post coming soon!).

Want more information on traveling to Hawaii with Kids?

Kids Hawaii Volcano National Park: Best Hikes for Families

Kilauea Iki in Volcanoes National Park

About 10 years ago, I did a quick trip through Hawaii Volcano National Park with my mom and my sister. We stopped at the visitor center, drove to a couple of overlooks and walked through Thurston Lava Tube (which is closed now from the recent 2018 eruption). We didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, so it’s always been on my list of places to go back and visit and really spend some time exploring. 

We stayed in the town of Volcano, which is about a 5-10 minute drive from the park. It happened to time that there was a tropical storm hitting the coast the day we arrived at Volcano National Park, so the weather was rainy but there weren’t too many crowds, which was lovely. It was totally worth staying nearby to save us all the drive time and give us a chance to spend more time enjoying the park.

One con of staying in Volcano is there’s not much there in terms of food or (affordable) restaurants.  (see my favorite Vegan restaurants on the Big Island here).

Hawaii Volcano National Park is one of the Coolest Place to Take Your Kids

Volcano National Park is one of the coolest places I’ve been. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a volcano. They have warning signs for cracks in the earth. Which is insane.

Caution sign at Hawaii Volcano

Second, the plant life up here is really incredible. They have plants unique to the volcanic landscape, including the Ohi’a tree, which is the first plant life to appear after a volcanic eruption.

Ohia Tree

Third, the landscape is constantly changing. Of course, ALL landscapes are constantly changing, but because it’s an active volcano, you’re almost able to really see the changes in real time. Many trails were closed due to the 2018 eruption – including Thurston Lava Tube, which I had kind of assumed we would get to see.

When You Visit Hawaii Volcano National Park

When you get there, I recommend going to the visitor center first thing. They have exhibits for the kiddos to look at, a gift shop (we bought sweat shirts because the park is located at 4K feet above sea level and gets CHILLY compared to the coast).

You can also talk to the park rangers to find out what trails are open and recommended. I had done a ton of research up front, but since the landscape and conditions of the park are constantly changing, it’s important to know where is safe to go and open on the day that you’re there.

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Hawaii Volcano National Park

Best Hikes in Volcano National Park: Kilauea Iki Crater

If this is open when you’re visiting, definitely check it out. There’s an overlook that is breathtaking that lets you look down into the crater.

Kilauea Iki Crater overlook
Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook

There’s also trail you can take that brings you into the crater. The landscape inside is amazing – it’s covered with lava rocks and there’s slow growth coming from the cracks. The Ohia trees, ferns and other plants. The trail into the crater was challenging downhill going into the crater and uphill going out.

Click here for the National Park’s current conditions on the trail.

Wild Ginger and Kilauea Iki crater
Wild Ginger on the Kilauea Iki Crater Trail
Rock pile marker at Kilauea Iki crater
Rock piles mark the trail in the Kilauea Iki Crater
Unfurling fern at Volcano
Unfurling fern on the Kilauea Iki Trail
Cracked lava rock and Ohia tree at Kilauea Iki Crater
Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Ohia tree and cracked lava rock
Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcano National Park
Ohia Tree in the lava rock cracks
Growth in the Lava Cracks. Kilauea Iki Crater
Kilauea Iki crater
Kilauea Iki Crater

Best Kid-Friendly Hikes in Volcano National Park: Sulphur Banks Trail

This is an easy trail you can do from the visitor center. The smell is not great (and the smell can be dangerous for young kids/people with respiratory problems) but the landscape is breathtaking. 

You can visit the NPS website for current conditions.

Sulphur Banks Trail
Sulphur Banks, Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Sulphur Banks Trail
Sulphur Banks
ferns and landscape at Sulphur Banks Trail
Ferns on the Sulphur Banks trail
ōhelo flower
ferns unfurling
Ferns in Hawaii Volcano National Park

Best Hikes in Volcano National Park: Crater Rim Trail Hawaii

We did a portion of this from the visitor center. It gave a great view of Kilauea Caldera. We hiked via the steam vents hike from the visitor center, but you can also do a loop trail via the Sulphur Banks.

See the National Park site for up-to-date trail information.

Trees along Crater Rim Trail
Trails at Hawaii Volcano National Park
purple wildflower in Hawaii volcano
Purple Wildflower, Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Steam Vents at Hawaii Volcano National Park
Steam Vents
Kilauea Caldera
Kilauea Caldera.
yellow wildflower at hawaii volcano
Yellow Wildflowers

Big Island with Kids: More Things to Do

After Volcano, we headed to Punalu’u Beach and the Kona coast. See my post on more things to do on the Big Island with kids here.