Kids love the outdoors. They love to get mucky and splash about in water and climb trees, rocks and anything else that’s higher than their heads. So a carefully planned outdoor vacation that’s full of great activities in great amazing has surely got to be a sweet experience for all the family.
Our advice as real people with real kids is that you should organize your family trips to match the curiosity and physical ability of your kids. Even if the curiosity is small at the moment, it will soon grow if they’re exposed to a stimulating environment. Interaction with the physical world will help them become healthy and happy individuals. These trips needn’t be expensive, though any money you do spend will be worth the experience.
Choosing an exciting place to explore doesn’t mean finding a dangerous and scary place. Of course, your adventure should suit the comfort levels of all family members. To gauge what these might be, involve your older children in the planning and decision making.
Often a trip will need planning in advance; this might take weeks. If in doubt about anything then ask the advice of professional guides and use the Internet to research your destination and planned activities.
The websites of the various national and state parks are often useful. They will list licensed and qualified guides and free tours guided by rangers as well as activities provided by the parks, routes with grades and times and a lot of other useful information.
Here are ten suggestions for family-friendly adventures:
Peek-a-boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch are both good hikes in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Slot canyons are created by flash floods and can be as narrow as 3 feet, and the Colorado Plateau is full of them. Squeezing through narrow canyons might require some physical dexterity and special attention to safety. Some of them require technical support and wading through cold water. One needs to be aware of the possibility of flash flooding. Rangers and guides can advise you. Peek-a-boo and Spooky are suitable for beginners.
Zion National Park also boasts slot canyons. The Subway and The Narrows are two of the best.
This is a wonderful water-centred hike to Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park. After a healthy walk pass through the rain of mist below the fall. Then reward yourself by going through a tunnel blasted out of solid rock, right behind Tunnel Falls in Columbia Gorge. Let the kids play in one of the lakes or creeks.
Every kid needs to see Old Faithful at least once in their lives. The Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park has one fourth of the geysers in the world. Thermal regions are always fascinating. You might want to ski along the Firehole River in the Basin too.
Everglades National Park
Tiger Key is one of the Ten Thousand Islands of the Everglades and is an awesome place to camp. Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico is a magnificent sight. The kids will also love seeing starfish, mussels, sea anemones, manatees and sea turtles. The sea pounds huge boulders and stacks.
Zion National Park
Zion’s Hidden Canyon and Angel’s Landing are rugged hikes but well worth the challenge. The thin ridge at Angel’s Landing is quite safe, with chains in place to prevent falling. The ridge drops off a thousand feet on both sides. The trek to the summit is a quarter of a mile. The Hidden Canyon hike crosses a ledge along the face of a cliff.
The Salmon River, or the River of No Return, flows through the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. The section of the river known as the Middle Fork is a particularly popular destination for white water rafting and kayaking. There is some fantastic canyon scenery to be seen, and Middle Fork has 300 rapids along its 100-mile course.
Gunsight Pass Trail
The Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier National Park is a must for lovers of wildlife. On this 6,900 foot trek, one might see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, lynx, moose, elk, deer, and cougars. Other wildlife destinations include Yellowstone National Park (bison, wolves), the Everglades (alligators) and Glacier Bay (brown bears, sea lions, seals).
You probably won’t find dinosaurs at Dinosaur National Monument (though their bones can be seen in situ at Dinosaur Quarry) but you may see coyotes, mountain lions, bears and prairie dogs.
Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska is an ancient place. Some of the icy terrain here is formed by rain that fell thousands of years ago. You can see ancient glaciers up close from a kayak. There are lots of places to hike to as well, including Grinnell Glacier Trail. If you’re interested in exploring glacial landscapes but Alaska is too far away, you can hike in the North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Olympia National Park (Washington), Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park ( British Columbia). These hikes will really open your kids’ minds to the majesty of nature.
If mountain climbing is what your family craves, try 14,505 foot high Mount Whitney in California. The wind can be strong, and cold, but once you step into the sunshine on the summit the wind dies down and you’re treated to a stunning view. The climb takes four days and requires some preparation and physical training. It is suited more for adults and teens. You may require professional guides for mountain or cliff climbing.
The climb takes four days and requires some preparation and physical training. It is suited more for adults and teens. You may require professional guides for mountain or cliff climbing.
This trek is a bit further afield. It’s in the Italian Dolomites, in fact. A trek along Alta Via 2 can take a week. Great walls of rock hundreds of feet high tower over this ridge. When you reach one of the many huts, reward yourself with a bowl of minestrone soup and a plate of penne.
Outdoor Revival – Reconnecting us all with the Outdoors