We love to travel as a family. It can be tricky to travel with five kids, and usually, our family dog NGO, but it’s always worth it. It can be hectic, overwhelming, tiring, but we’re always making memories.
One of the goals we have set as a family is to visit all 59 United States National Parks. We LOVE the national park system! It is such a beautiful part of our country, and such a wonderful sentiment to set aside protected land to just be enjoyed by it’s citizens. Did you know that the national park system encompasses 84 million acres? There are so many different types of areas to see, from the Everglades, to the 8 National Parks in Alaska, one of which is only accessible by plane, and all of them in between!
My husband and I have visited a few parks without all five children. But we decided to start fresh with our goal now that we have an official map. We only count a visit if all 7 of us go! If we ever have the blessing of adopting, I guess we will have to start all over! It is also our secret wish, as parents, that when our children are grown, and maybe when they even have children of their own, that they will want to come meet us at some national park, so that they can accomplish their goal! We have visited three so far, but two were in Hawaii, so we are off to a good start!
1. Haleakala National Park
This park is located on the island of Maui. It is 183 acres and is comprised of a dormant volcano of the same name, which is also known as the East Maui Volcano. This is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. It is a very popular place to visit at sunrise, but with 8 kids in our group, we chose to go a little later than sunrise. It had some of the most gorgeous views of our whole time in Hawaii! In order to get there, you drive up a very steep and winding road, also while going from sea level elevation to 10,000 feet in a very short time. This made some in our group feel a little dizzy and nauseous. With respect to this, check out the certificate our 5 year old got at the top!
We actually left our National Parks passport books in a bathroom at the top of Haleakala. We had already gotten one stamp in that book at the national monument of Pearl Harbor, which is located on Oahu, another Hawaiian island. No duplicating that! So my husband and my brother ended up making the sunrise trip the very next day in order to retrieve the passport books. They had to leave the hotel at 3 am, but said the views and scenery were well worth it!
2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
On the Big Island, or the island of Hawaii, is the Volcanoes National Park. This island is also home to the highest point in the state of Hawaii, called Mauna Kea. In the national park, there are two active volcanoes, which are erupting at different speeds and times depending on the timing of your visit. Of course, the best views of these are at night, but with five children, it’s sometimes hard to make it out to nighttime. We did manage to have dinner inside the national park, and then drive back over to the volcano in order to see the lava flow, and I’m glad we sacrificed sleep for it. The drive back to the hotel was long and somewhat scary being without cell reception or any services for more than an hour, but again, making memories.
In this national park, there is also the Thurston Lava Tube, which is an amazing structure that was formed from flowing lava. It was such a lush, prehistoric looking place, you could have spent a day just exploring that area. At every turn, you nearly expected a dinosaur to jump out!
As always, I was happy to explore, but then was also happy to get back to our beautiful resort. Here are some pictures of our room, just to enjoy after a day of seeing lava and driving on one way roads with no cell reception!
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
It is far less exotic than the Hawaiian national parks, but the most visited United States National Park, is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park encompasses more than 500,000 acres and is located in both Tennessee and North Carolina. It has so many amazing attractions, such as Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee, the Appalachian Trail, and the historic Cades Cove. You could easily spend a week in this national park and not see everything. We were there for one beautiful summer day, and although we had been there before, made our stop official, and put our third stamp on our map!
There are so many beautiful places to explore in the United States. Although we have traveled abroad to New Zealand, Australia, England, the Bahamas, and more, we truly love the diversity and beauty of America. The national parks system is a wonderful way to see different parts of what we have to offer, and with little to no admission fees at many. We can’t wait to get another sticker for our map on our next adventure!