The 8 Best U.S. National Parks for People Over 65, Experts Say
If you're looking to explore later in life, these parks should be at the top of your list.
One of the best parts of retired life is the ability to travel. Maybe you dream of translucent blue waters and white sand beaches and finally getting some time to relax—or perhaps you'd rather take this time to explore. If your adventurous side is calling, maybe you want to check a few U.S. snational parks off of your bucket list. In that case, travel experts have the perfect recommendations just for you. Read on to discover the eight best national parks to visit if you're over 65.
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Badlands National Park
A recent study from Aging in Place found that Badlands National Park in South Dakota is the most accessible national park, specifically for those who use wheelchairs. There are approximately three wheelchair-friendly trails to explore, and when it's time to grab a bite to eat, you can rest assured that 92.3 percent of restaurants at the park are accessible.
Beyond these features, Badlands attracts visitors from across the world, offering different options for camping, hiking, or just taking in the park's "rugged beauty." You can enjoy it all, whatever your level of mobility.
Grand Canyon National Park
If you've always wanted to see the iconic Grand Canyon, it's really never too late. This is the second-most accessible national park, per the Aging in Place data, and according to Adam Marland, travel photographer and writer for We Dream of Travel, it's a great option for older adults.
"The entire South Rim has a paved walkway, but can also be driven," Marland says, noting that this portion of the park tops his to-do list.
However, he wouldn't recommend the North Rim to older visitors. According to the park's website, the North Rim is commonly called the "other side" of the Grand Canyon and is only seen by 10 percent of visitors.
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Yosemite National Park
Another popular national park, Yosemite is a great option for visitors of all ages, Marland tells Best Life. But there are specific advantages for older adults, especially if you don't want to overdo it on walking or hiking.
"The entire Yosemite Valley is driveable and most of the waterfalls and iconic sights can be seen from parking areas," Marland explains. "This includes the best views in all of the park, such as Tunnel View, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and Horsetail Falls, among many others."
Yosemite also offers year-round guided bus tours, ranging from a two-hour Valley Floor Tour to an all-day tour to Tuolumne Meadows and back—and thanks to the different terrain throughout the park, there are hiking options for all ages. "Most of Yosemite's most popular trails are flat, circling Yosemite Valley at a low altitude," Carlos Grider, travel writer at A Brother Abroad, says, making the hiking experience both comfortable and enjoyable.
Saguaro National Park
Situated just outside of Tucson, Arizona is Saguaro National Park, which is a great choice for those over 65 looking to take in views of the scenic Southwest. "It's a pretty low-key park with a lot of flat (or mostly flat) trails surrounded by beautiful desert scenery and mountains, so you can enjoy the vegetation and the views without an overly strenuous workout," Daniel Gillaspia, founder of the travel blog Upon Arriving, says.
Saguaro also offers a driving route through the park, and traveling in the fall and spring is the best time for those who want to avoid "extreme temperatures," Gillaspia adds.
"It's also a great place to birdwatch for woodpeckers and look for local wildlife like desert tortoises, Gila monsters, etc., which can be done from easily accessible trails," he explains.
Acadia National Park
If you're looking to take in beautiful seaside scenery, Acadia National Park in Maine is a must-see, Jenny Ly, professional travel blogger and entrepreneur at Go Wanderly, tells Best Life. "In addition to having the highest rocky headlands on the Atlantic coast, Acadia is ruggedly beautiful, making it a fantastic travel destination in and of itself," she says.
You can opt to drive up and down the park's coast, or you can take a wheelchair-accessible shuttle. Also, Ly recommends that you take a detour and check out nearby Bar Harbor. "Take a range-led boat tour or a commercial whale viewing trip out of Bar Harbor for a change of pace from the typical national park experience," she says. "And don't forget to have a lobster roll while you're in town!"
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Virgin Islands National Park
Older adults seeking a national park with a tropical vibe should look no further than Virgin Islands National Park. Antonina Pattiz, founder of the travel website Embrace Someplace, recommends relaxing at Trunk Bay, one of the world's most famous white-sand beaches, or exploring the world's first marked underwater trail, which is especially great for beginners.
"Averaging 133,000 visitors per year, it's one of the most underrated national parks in America, which always baffles me because it's sheer paradise," Pattiz says.
The Virgin Islands offer a great option for those over 65 looking to plan a winter vacation, she explains, with temperatures hovering around 78 degrees Fahrenheit between December and February. History buffs will also feel at home here, as you can explore everything from prehistoric sites to architectural remains of plantations.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone should also be on your list later in life, travel experts say. This beautiful park is wheelchair accessible—number three on the list from Aging in Place—and it doesn't take too much effort to see the sights, Sam Opp, full-time travel blogger at Find Love & Travel, says.
"What makes this national park a great choice for older adults is that many of the main attractions have flat steady boardwalks, and it is less than a mile to reach many of these attractions," Opp explains, adding that both Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Springs don't require too much of a trek.
The wildlife is also not to be missed at Yellowstone, namely the American buffalo, which can be seen while driving through the park, she adds.
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Zion National Park
Checking out Zion National Park in Utah is also an option, whether you're seeking a full-fledged adventure or just some light exploration, according to Carly Brown, owner and author of the travel blog Seek Out Serenity LLC.
"Although this park is sometimes known for its extreme activities, such as rock climbing or canyoning, it also provides several easy-rate trail options for senior hikers, some of which are even paved and wheelchair accessible," she says.
Bus tours are another option, Brown adds, and if you plan to frequent Zion or other parks, seniors over the age of 62 can purchase a Lifetime Park Pass for $80 or an Annual Park Pass for just $20.