Supporting our National Parks in the United States is very important. As families with autism travel around the U.S they will find that there’s a wide range of National Parks to suit all interests. For those planning their family vacation, we are featuring the ten best US National Parks for kids with autism.
Home of the highest waterfall in North America Yosemite is the perfect place to witness the 2,424 feet Yosemite Falls waterfall. For those who like to hike; climbing to the top of Lembert Dome, 2.8 miles trek rewards visitors with a magnificent view of the meadows. The campsites are open from July through September for those wishing to stay overnight.
Autism Travel Tip: Yosemite requires a lot of walking so packing a pair of closed and well fitting shoes is a must. Check out the complete accessibility guide to make the most of your trip.
Grand Canyon National Park
There’s so much to experience at the Grand Canyon that families should bring camping gear to experience the longer hikes. Travelers can ride a mule up the Bright Angel Trail for a unique experience. The North Rim is less crowded and remains more natural than other areas of the park for those who wish to stay away from crowds.
Autism Travel Tip: Families should consider bringing plenty of water and using the bathrooms before going on a tour or hike. Since this historic site built before accessibility guidelines were set in place the narrow rugged terrain can be challenging for some.
Yellowstone National Park
Families visiting should see the wonderful wildlife in Hayden Valley after visiting Old Faithful. The valley offers a fabulous place to witness wildlife in its natural habitat. Breathtaking views can be seen by touring the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, a 20-mile long canyon. And to end the day on a memorable note a trip to Yellowstone Lake to see the snowcapped mountains in the distance is recommended.
Autism Travel Tip: Accessibility is not always ideal. Most of the facilities at Yellowstone were built decades ago.The areas around the different pools might be challenging for those with a smell sensitivity.
Zion National Park
This park can be seen best by driving or taking specially designed shuttle buses. Checker game fans should tour Checkerboard Mesa, a 900-foot hill checkered in orange, brown and white Slickrock. And for fearless tourists who want to take that perfect selfie angel Landing is a must see.
Autism Travel Tip: The Mt. Camel highway features a mile long tunnel that may not be suitable for kids with autism.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
This is our personal favorite as it offers a two-hour Bison Tour and sandboarding on the dunes. When we went we saw bison, coyotes, and elk among other animals. The guide told us that during spring and part of the fall season one can even see some of the 20,000 Sandhill cranes.
Autism Travel Tip: There’s a visitor center with facilities. Moreover, if kids wish to try sandboarding make sure to have them dressed in long pants and a long sleeve shirt to minimize the bruising when they fall.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
This park with its diverse landscape including craters is spectacular with ample hiking opportunities. Families should stop by the visiting center and grab a map with all the points of interest. There’s a walk in the past with the living history presentation offered by docents for those interested. For guests who don’t want to walk much, there’s the Crater Rim Tour where one can see craters while enjoying a scenic drive. Those visiting in July should attend the annual Hawaiian Cultural Festival & BioBlitz.
Autism Travel Tip: One of the fascinating areas the Thurston Lava Tube is dark and may be challenging for visitors with autism due to its uneven terrain and dark conditions. In some areas, there is a slight smell( from the lava) that may bother some.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
This park is basically accessible by cruise ship, charter boat or even kayak. What makes it unique are the majestic views of the water. The only developed area here is Bartlett Cove where you can find the visitor center. For those who are adventurous, there are hiking trails to explore.
Autism Travel Tip: There’s a lot of walking involved if you opt to not take a boat tour. The only area you will find facilities is Bartlett Cove.
Channel Islands National Park
With five islands packed with unusual fauna and flora to discover, there’s much to explore at the Channel Islands. Families will get a kick of watching sea stars, urchins and more in the various tide pools located on the islands. In addition, the park boasts bird watching and whale watching opportunities for those who visit.
Autism Travel Tip: These islands have rudimentary infrastructure so camping can be a challenge for kids with autism. The mainland visitor center has all that you need for facilities. All locations are not necessarily wheelchair accessible.
The best trail to experience this park and all the wildlife here is the Anhinga Trail. This trail will take about 45 minutes of your time walking. Visit the observation tower part way up Tram Road to experience an aerial perspective of the marshlands.
Autism Travel Tip: This park gets a lot of rain so do not forget to pack a poncho! Visitor centers border the park so guests should get familiar with their locations before their trip. There’s a lot of walking involved here, consider dressing in comfortable clothing.
Grand Teton National Park
What’s unique about this location is the ability to go horseback riding on nearly all of the trails. Bring your own horse or go on a trail ride. Take a scenic drive or walk to experience the beautiful scenes located at Grand Teton. For a more relaxed experience consider bird watching to see all of the beautiful species located here.
Autism Travel Tip: Restrooms are only found at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center, Jenny Lake and Colter Bay visitor centers and the Flagg Ranch Information Station.
Have you ever been to any of these National Parks? What tips would you share for new visitors?