For many families, visiting a national park is a top contender when planning a family vacation. Bay Area families are lucky in that we have tons of gorgeous national parks just a road trip away with mountains, caves, massive trees and waterfalls to explore. National Parks Week falls on April 17-25 this year and it’s a great time to visit with special events in the parks (and digital experiences if you want to learn from home). Scroll through for some major outdoor inspo!

Yosemite National Park

If you haven't taken your kid crew to Yosemite, now is the perfect time. The crowds haven't returned and it's absolutely gorgeous there. Take your holiday card photo at Tunnel View, visit the Giant Sequoias in Tuolomne Grove and check out the waterfalls on the Mist Trail. You'll find all our Yosemite recs here

Airbnb Nearby: This cozy mountain home is only 30 minutes from the south gate of Yosemite, so it's the perfect home base for your national park visit. There’s a town nearby where you can stock up on snacks for your adventures, too.

Muir Woods National Monument

From the Redwood Forest. . . this land was made for you and me! Muir Woods National Monument is one of the last old-growth redwood forests on the planet and one of the only native salmon runs in California. Plus, there’s more than a few opportunities for your tiny treehugger to duck into a massive tree hollow and ham it up for your Instagram feed. Sequoia Sempervirens are the tallest—and one of the oldest—living things on earth. Fun fact: the tallest tree in Muir Woods is over 250 feet and most trees are between 600 to 800 years old. 

Airbnb Nearby: This too-cute cottage in Mill Valley is the perfect home base for your Muir Woods adventures. Kids will love the loft bedroom and you'll love the quiet isolation of the wooded property. 

photo: Kate Loweth

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Gorgeous views, hikes galore, dark skies for stargazing and tons of interesting history await your visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Stop at the Visitor Center when you enter the park to watch the short video about the area's volcanic history and to learn what trails are open for business. Then make your way farther into the park to stop at the bubbling mud pots with the very distinct (and horrible) smell of sulfur. Read our guide to Lassen here

Airbnb Nearby: This newly-built log cabin is the perfect spot to hunker down in Shasta County. You'll love the balcony with its amazing views and the proximity to Lassen. 

photo: Kate Loweth

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument is a must-visit spot when you bring the family to Siskiyou County. Here you can check out free flashlights from the visitor center and explore the many (VERY DARK) caves that were formed when lava flowed through the area thousands of years ago. For the youngest explorers, check out Mushpot Cave just a short walk from the visitor center. This is the only cave that has its own lighting in the tunnel. Skull Cave (pictured above) is a popular choice because of its massive size. 

Airbnb Nearby: This cozy cabin is about an hour away from the monument, and only 30 minutes away from Ashland. There’s plenty of year-round fun right around the cabin as well, like boating, fishing, kayaking, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Pinnacles National Park

This one is an under-the-radar favorite for Bay Area families. It's only been a national park since 2013 but we think it deserves a lot of love. Kids will find the caves and rock formations fun to explore. They recently added some glamping cabins for those who want to sleep in real beds. It can get hot, hot, hot here in the summer so we like it best in winter or spring. 

Airbnb Nearby: This ranch house is just 2 miles from the park's east entrance and you'll feel miles away from civilization. Grill up some dinner outside after a long day of hiking in the park. 

Redwood National and State Parks

This Northern California national and state park in Humboldt County is well known as the home to the world's tallest trees and it also has vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways and nearly 40 miles of rugged coastline. Redwoods have shallow root systems and soak up moisture from the coastal fog. Plan to pack warm and waterproof clothing for your visit, even in the summer. 

Airbnb Nearby: You won't want to leave this two-story coastal cabin that's just a short drive from the park as well as loads of gorgeous beaches. It sleeps six and even has a BBQ for grilling and horseshoe pit. 

Sequoia & King's Canyon National Parks

There's nothing like roaming among sky high, towering trees to give you a new perspective on life. And isn't that what traveling is all about? Take your little sprouts to explore Sequoia National Park and King's Canyon National Park for the ultimate immersion into nature. Make your list so you don't forget to visit some of the favorite areas of the park: Giant Forest Grove of the Big Trees and Giant Forest Museum, Big Trees Trail and Wolverton Recreation Area. Walk among the world's largest trees and spy the creatures that call this forest home. Find more info here

Airbnb Nearby: You can enjoy hiking, swimming and boating when you stay in this cabin that's only 15 minutes from the entrance to Sequoia National Park. On this 380-acre ranch you can even hike to a 60 foot high waterfall.

Death Valley National Park

Families know that the best time to visit the hottest place on earth is  in the dead of winter. While other parts of the country are swimming in snow, the Death Valley mercury settles in around a pleasant 65 degrees most days, which makes for just-right hiking, biking or driving weather so you and your kidlet can seek out some of the park’s unusual sights, like Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, The Racetrack or Ubehebe Crater. Find more info here

Airbnb Nearby: Embrace the wild west at this cute cabin that's just 7 miles from the park's entrance. There's also a second cabin if your crew is larger. 

Joshua Tree National Park

The twisty tree shapes, Cholla cactus forests, and blobby boulders in Joshua Tree make wonderful Dr. Seuss-style memories for your kiddos on this desert adventure. For a quick day trip from the incredibly kid-friendly Palm Springs, stick to exhibitions along the main roads; for a hike, the one-mile loop trail through Hidden Valley is a good introduction for little ones. Start your adventure at the West entrance, then work your way along the road exiting the park at the South. The most scenic sections will be located close to the road at the beginning of the trip. Learn more about staying and playing in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree here.

Airbnb Nearby: For a totally "out of this world" adventure, book a few nights at this restored Futuro House in Joshua Tree. This totally off-the-grid home has fresh water in the outdoor shower and a fire pit where you can eat under the stars. Solar power is available to charge your small electronics but there's no WiFi, just board games to enjoy in this gorgeous area of California.

—Kate Loweth

 

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