But there’s no need to turn around the family van and head for home — parenting experts are sharing how to enjoy America’s precious gems with kids in tow.
“We first ensure we are visiting at a safe time of year,” Minnesota mother of two Maura Marko — who has explored seven of the 10 parks on the naughty list, detailing her family’s travels on the We Found Adventure site — told The Post.
“For example,” she continued, “we visited Big Bend National Park and Kings Canyon during the winter months, ensuring we wouldn’t need to be too concerned with the dangerous heat indexes these places are known for.”
Marko and other bloggers drew upon their trailblazing travels for kid-friendly advice for visiting the Grand Canyon (No. 1 on the list), Isle Royale National Park in Michigan (No. 3), Denali National Park in Alaska (No. 7), and Mount Rainier (No. 10).
Lisa Lightner, a suburban Philadelphia mom of two sons, says she visits the Grand Canyon every few years. Her advice includes:
- Don’t climb over or under a railing.
- Don’t let your guard down.
- Be vigilant at night if you stay in one of the cabins.
- Be careful going for that selfie.
“We were at the North Rim, and there’s this path with a railing where you can walk out to get photos,” Lightner recalled of one trip.
“Many people were climbing under and over the railing and crawling out even further, where there was a steep ledge, to get that ‘perfect selfie,’” she noted.
Lightner, who runs the special education resource site A Day In Our Shoes, says the trails, lookouts, and plentiful lodge windows are “sufficient enough” to get great views and photos of the Grand Canyon.
“I was most concerned about wildlife when visiting Isle Royale,” Marko said.
“Moose can be very dangerous, so while we were all keen to see them, we were also worried as we definitely didn’t want to find ourselves between a cow and her young,” she continued. “Thankfully, when hiking with children you are generally making so much noise you rarely encounter wildlife as they have all been alerted to your presence long before you spot them!”
Marko was glad she took a wilderness first aid course at her local REI store before embarking on park pursuits with her children.
She also recommends checking with a doctor before taking these trips, noting that one of her children has a severe allergy to bee venom. Her allergist equipped her with extra EpiPens in case of emergency.
Malala, who pens the blog Mom Of Mamony, recommends kids participate in the Junior Ranger program; visit the canine rangers; hike a kid-friendly trail like the Horseshoe Lake Trail or the Savage River Loop Trail; take a sightseeing bus tour to try to spot Denali’s big five (moose, bears, Dall sheep, caribou and wolves); and go on a flightseeing tour with a glacier landing.
“When we first arrived at the park, we were immediately told there was a bear sighting on one of the trails we were hoping to hike,” Malala told The Post. “We had to change our plans because of this.”
That’s why one of Malala’s top tips is to be flexible. Her other advice:
- Discuss with children beforehand what to do if there’s a bear/wildlife encounter.
- Leave no trace — stay on the trail; don’t feed the wildlife, even the cute squirrels and chipmunks; pack your trash.
- Stop by the visitor center and ask the park rangers about the latest wildlife sightings. Avoid those areas.
- Always keep kids at arm’s length. Do not let them wander away on the trail.
- Pack your backpack with the essentials — water, bear and bug spray, sunscreen, compass, sunglasses, first aid kit, whistle, snacks (keep all food in tight containers or even better, bear-proof canisters).
- Check the weather and dress accordingly. Wear sturdy boots.
- Avoid being outside at dawn, dusk and nighttime when animals are most active in the park and during inclement weather.
- When on trails, stay within a group and make loud noises. Consider putting bells on backpacks.
- There is no cell service inside the park, so make sure to download any information you might need ahead of time (maps, tickets, etc.).
Marcie Cheung, a Seattle-area mom who runs the Marcie in Mommyland site, says she visits Mount Rainier at least once a year with her husband and two kids, who are 7 and 10 years old.
“The only times we’ve been mildly concerned [about safety] is when there is snow or ice on the ground and we’re worried that the kids might slip and hurt themselves,” Cheung told The Post. “Mt. Rainier has always felt very safe for our family.”
Here’s her guidance:
- Stick to marked trails.
- Pay attention to traffic warnings.
- Check the Rainier site for updates about closures or road conditions.
- Make a timed-entry reservation to visit the park, a system introduced this year.
- Browse Seattle family blogs and websites to get ideas for kid-friendly hikes or activities.
“I’m surprised how often we see people doing lengthy hikes without carrying water, with poor footwear such as sandals, and starting late in the day when the heat exposure is highest,” Nelson told The Post.
“For families in particular, we have been grateful to have sun hats for the kids, plenty of snacks, and we always hike with a first aid kit,” he added.