The 10 Best U.S. National Parks for People Over 75, 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, you might want to check a few U.S. national parks off of your bucket list. In that case, travel experts have the perfect recommendations for you—and you'll even find some beaches at these retiree-friendly spots. Read on to discover the 10 best national parks to visit if you're over 75.
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Badlands National Park (South Dakota)
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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 (Arizona)
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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 visitors with mobility concerns. 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 (California)
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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 drivable 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.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)
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Hawaii is a mainstay on travel bucket lists, but if you've waited to venture to this tropical paradise, consider adding Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to your itinerary.
"If you're looking for a great national park perfect for seniors, look no further than Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!" Trysta Barwig, travel expert and founder of This Travel Dream, tells Best Life. "This picturesque park has some of the most stunning views in Hawaii." According to Barwig, the park is home to a range of wildlife and Kilauea and Mauna Loa—two of the most active volcanoes in the world. "If you're lucky, you might spot some lava flow if the volcano is erupting," she says.
Tabitha Bailar, author and owner of Travel Compositions, also recommends Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the older set. "You don't have to be in shape or have complete mobility to see the main highlights of the park, like steam vents and giant craters," she points out. "At night you can see the glow of the lava from the overlook parking lot without even having to walk."
Several trails are flat—and you have some paved options, but for those who have limited mobility, there's still no shortage of things to do. "Even if you never get out of the car, the change in terrain down Chain of Craters Road is diverse enough to keep interest," Bailar says. According to her descriptions, you'll see everything "from lush tropical flora, to dry ohia forests and craters, to barren lava fields, and finally end at sea cliffs with crashing blue waves."
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Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
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Marland also recommends heading to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah later in life—as everyone's impressed by the views here, regardless of age. "No one ever forgets their first time standing at the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater viewpoint and gazing out upon the magnificent hoodoo-filled world below," he says. "It is truly one of the most unique sights this world has to offer."
In fact, Marland argues that Bryce Canyon is has ample exploration opportunities for "people of all abilities" and is the place to be for "visitors old and young."
"Most of the best vistas come from viewpoints which are paved and near parking areas," he explains. "Those who want to get up close and personal with the impressive orange-and-white spires can do so by taking a locally-renown horse or mule ride into the Queen's Garden, or by lacing up their hiking boots."
Visit Utah even has an entire guide for older adults that want to take on Bryce Canyon National Park, noting that the Rim Trail between Sunset Point and Yovimpa point is "the must-see" thanks to its "short, easy trails with rewarding views."
"With so many ways to enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park, it deserves a spot on every senior traveler's national park checklist," Marland concludes.
Saguaro National Park (Arizona)
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Situated just outside of Tucson, Arizona is Saguaro National Park, which is a great choice for those over 75 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 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.
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Acadia National Park (Maine)
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If you're looking to take in beautiful seaside scenery, Acadia National Park in Maine shouldn't be missed, 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!"
Virgin Islands National Park (U.S. Virgin Islands)
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Older adults seeking a national park with a tropical vibe will want to plant a trip to 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 75 looking to plan a winter vacation, she explains, with temperatures hovering around 78 degrees Fahrenheit between December and February. History buffs will feel at home here, too, as you can explore everything from prehistoric sites to architectural remains of plantations.
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Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
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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 require extra 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's 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 either.
The wildlife is not to be missed at Yellowstone, namely the American buffalo, which can be seen while driving through the park, she adds.
Zion National Park (Utah)
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Checking out Zion National Park in Utah is yet another option for older adults, 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.