20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA

Best Outdoor Family Vacations and Adventures in the USA

Last Updated on May 25, 2024

Planning a family trip and looking for kid-friendly outdoor destinations in the US? The country is filled with beautiful landscapes and stunning scenery which you can explore through all sorts of outdoor activities. Go on a kayaking trip in Alaska, ski down the slopes of Whiteface Mountain, learn to surf in Hawaii, or hike through one of the country’s many national parks.

You’ll find destinations that are perfect for outdoor family vacations, surrounded by wilderness, and featuring many kid-friendly activities for children of all ages.

Keep on reading to discover all the best outdoor destinations for a fun and adventurous family vacation in the US!

Related – 25 Best International Outdoor Family Vacations Outside the US


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA



20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


20 Best Outdoor Family Adventure Vacation Destinations in the USA


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Lake Placid, New York

Adirondacks viewed from ski jump tower
Lake Placid is a popular outdoor vacation spot and a great destination for adventure-seeking families.

By Tamar from World by Weekend

Within the Adirondack mountains of New York sits the town of Lake Placid. This small mountain town came to prominence as the home of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. Today, Lake Placid is a popular outdoor vacation spot and a great destination for adventure-seeking families.

During the summer months, Lake Placid and the surrounding Adirondack mountains are popular destinations for hiking and boating. But the real fun comes when you visit Lake Placid in winter.

Skiers can follow in the footsteps of Olympic alpine legends by skiing Whiteface Mountain. Alpine skiing is a perfect family activity for teens and tweens, and kids as young as four can participate via lessons.

If you’re heading to Lake Placid with children who are too young to ski, then add winter sledding to your agenda. The neighborhood Kiwanis Teddy Bear Park has small hills that are perfect for a quick slide down with small children.

In addition to the many outdoor activities Lake Placid has to offer, it’s also home to some fantastic brew pubs. Both the Great Adirondack Brewing Company and Lake Placid Pub & Brewery are great places to warm up after a day of winter adventuring. The pubs offer a family-friendly atmosphere, hearty eats, and tasty microbrews that will be the perfect end to a day in Lake Placid. 

For your visit to Lake Placid, consider a stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites. This family-friendly hotel includes breakfast with your stay. There’s also an indoor pool and jacuzzi – perfect for a snowy evening. You can also check out the vacation rentals, you’ll find plenty of convenient cabins or condos, some with a fireplace and hot tub.

Valdez, Alaska

Valdez Alaska
Valdez is a great family-friendly vacation spot with outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and exploring the great outdoors.

By Heather from This Noshtallgic Life

Valdez, Alaska has endless outdoor adventure opportunities for families who love the mountains! It is a must for families who love hiking, kayaking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Summer is by far the most popular time to enjoy all the fun things to do in Valdez. However, Valdez also offers some of the most breathtaking winter scenery as it is surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. Known for its world-class skiing and snowboarding, it is a heli-skiing mecca.

Hiking is one of the best ways for families to enjoy Valdez since it has plenty of trails for all ages and skill levels. Some popular trails include the John Hunter Memorial Trail and Keystone Canyon Trail where huge waterfalls cascade down from the mountains. 

Right in town other easy walking trails lead to tidal flats for exploring and overlooks with incredible views. Dock Point Trail is a great choice as is the Overlook Trail.

Getting out on the water in a kayak is a must-do and is suitable for families with children ages 8 and up who have experience paddling. Valdez Glacier Lake and Prince William Sound are both breathtaking spots for kayaking with a local guide. Another option would be to go on an amazing glacier cruise for the day!

The Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn is an ideal accommodation because it is in the heart of the city, is clean, and friendly, and includes a buffet breakfast for guests. This family-friendly hotel is located right on the waterfront, offering stunning views of the harbor and mountains. It’s the perfect base for exploring Valdez.

You can also have a look at the vacation rentals if you want to stay outside of town, in a more secluded area.

Valdez is only a 6-hour drive from Anchorage. On the way, there are numerous fun stops on the Glenn Highway for families such as the Musk Ox Farm at mile 50 and Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site at mile 101.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best family adventure vacation destinations in the US

By Meg from Fox in the Forest

If you’re searching for one of the best outdoor adventure vacation spots for families then you cannot miss Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

After all, this incredible outdoor oasis is the fourth most visited national park in the country and is home to amazing family-friendly activities that are also well-located near Estes Park.

Therefore, the park is easily accessible by way of a 90-minute drive from Denver International Airport.

Additionally, plan to visit in May since the park is less crowded. Plus, all the major attractions are open and the weather is pleasant, with stunning wildflowers like Indian Paintbrush, Forget-Me-Nots, and Alpine Aven in full bloom.

Once there, be sure to take the family on a drive along Trail Ridge Road, not only is the trip perfect for kids of all ages but this is the highest continuously paved road in the country. In fact, it reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet and features stunning views of the region.

Additionally, other fun, family-friendly things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park include exploring Deer Mountain, hiking the Upper Beaver Meadow Loop, and exploring Little Horseshoe Park Trail. Try to bring children upwards of 7 on these hikes since some of them do require a fair bit of walking.

And for an affordable, family-friendly place to stay in nearby Estes Park, book a cottage at The Inn on Fall River and Fall River Cabins. These riverside cottages feature full kitchens and fireplaces that families will love.

Puerto Rico

By Karen from Forever Karen

Located in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico provides an excellent destination for adventurous families. With year-round warm weather, you can swim, snorkel, spend time on the beach, and explore the island’s lush interior. 

You’ll want to avoid visiting between June and November due to hurricane season. January and February provide the best months for visitation due to cooler temperatures and lower humidity.

Staying in Old San Juan puts you within walking distance of its grand forts and heritage buildings, rich with history, and makes it a central location to explore the island. Staying at Hotel El Convento allows you to walk to attractions and restaurants downtown. You’ll also have exclusive access to the El Convento Beach Club.

Alternatively, you’ll find plenty of vacation rentals around the island, pick one near the coast or up the mountains to enjoy the best views.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro, was built to defend the colonial city from pirates. Kids will enjoy exploring the tunnels and cannon batteries spread out over six levels here.

Outside of Old San Juan, the El Yunque Rainforest provides a family-friendly outing. Located in the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains, you can find cascading waterfalls and beautiful pools which beg for a swim.

Remember to use mosquito repellent and avoid the area after heavy rain, as the mud makes the trails impassible.

Off the northeast coast, Isla de Vieques is an area of natural beauty. During the day, kids will enjoy spotting wild horses which roam the island. However, at night, Mosquito Bay glows as microscopic organisms emit light. To enjoy the experience, book a kayaking tour during a new moon when the skies are darkest.

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson is one of the best US destinations for a family adventure trip

By Sarah from Two Outliers

A charming mountain town with an old western feel, Jackson, Wyoming is one of the best outdoor adventure destinations for families. Located just minutes from Grand Teton National Park, there is no shortage of family-friendly adventures to be found near Jackson. 

To keep the whole family entertained, rent kayaks from the Colter Bay Marina and explore Jackson Lake by water. You can also rent bikes from Dornan’s in Moose and bike the paved path that runs approximately 20 miles from Jackson to Jenny Lake through Grand Teton National Park. 

There are plenty of incredible hikes in Grand Teton National Park that are suitable for kids, such as Phelps Lake Overlook (2 miles), Taggart Lake (3.8 miles), Jenny Lake (7.5 miles), and Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls (1.8 miles).

The historic Mormon Row is another great spot to visit with kids to learn about how the area was settled in the 1890s and to enjoy one of the best views of the Tetons.

From Jackson, you can also take a day trip into Yellowstone National Park to see the famous Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, and other impressive geysers and geothermal hot springs.

The best time to visit Jackson for hiking and exploring the national parks is during the late spring through early fall (May through September). Jackson is also home to one of the country’s best ski resorts, so visiting during the winter (November through March) is a great option if you want to hit the slopes. 

The Cowboy Village Resort is a family-friendly place to stay in Jackson, featuring rustic individual log cabins each with a kitchenette and living area. During the winter, they offer a complimentary shuttle to the ski resort.

Moab, Utah

Dinosaur in Moab, UT

By Candice from CS Ginger

It can be difficult to get kids engaged and interested in the outdoors these days. If you’re looking for a place to liven up your family’s spirits for the outdoors consider a trip to Moab. 

Moab is one of the best outdoor destinations for families. Located in the Utah red rocks, just shy of 4 hours outside Salt Lake City, this town’s stark and intriguing landscape offers a variety of kid-friendly adventures around every corner. 

Some of the most magnificent sights await your family in Arches and Canyonlands national parks, both of which are just short drives outside of Moab. While there, a family of any age range can enjoy exploring the landscape and taking short, easy hikes. 

For families with older children, some more extreme options might be on the table, like canyoneering, mountain biking on slick rock or even taking a whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River. 

Moab Giants is a fun place to visit for people of all ages. But the kids in your group will definitely enjoy imagining these gigantic dinosaurs once roaming the land in Moab. 

Spring is the perfect time to plan your family’s Moab adventure, before the sweltering heat of summer hits the desert. And while you’re visiting, be sure to stay at Hyatt Place Moab. It’s the perfect oasis for your family’s outdoor getaway. 

Here’s to great family adventures. Enjoy your time in Moab! 

Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Broken Bow, OK

By Jody from My Travel Obsession

If you are looking for a hidden gem in the southern part of the US, look no further than Broken Bow, Oklahoma! The locals refer to the entire area as Broken Bow, but it actually includes the towns of Broken Bow, Hochatown, Broken Bow Lake, Beavers Bend State Park, and the Mountain Fork River.

This area is perfect for families who love the outdoors and are looking for an adventure vacation! Spring and summer are the most popular times to visit.

On the water, rent a boat and spend the day on the lake or rent kayaks and take a 5-mile trip down the Mountain Fork River (ages 6 and up). There are also many family-friendly beaches where kids can swim in the lake, such as Beavers Bend Land and Water Park (open to the public & free of charge).

Off the water, there are many great hiking trails for all ages & skill levels in Beavers Bend State Park. Friend Trails Loop is a popular, highly rated, moderately difficult 1.5-mile trail or check out the 1.2-mile, easy Tree Trail.

Or visit Rugaru Adventures and do some zip-lining. There are no age restrictions, but participants must weigh between 70-250lbs

One thing that draws people to this area is the amazing cabins! In Broken Bow, you’ll find small secluded cabins, high-end luxury cabins, huge cabins to fit your entire extended family, and everything in between! They are gorgeous and many have resort-style amenities and jaw-dropping outdoor spaces! 

Oklahoma Sky” is just one example – a beautifully decorated 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom cabin that sleeps 6.

Pro Tip: Some cabins do not provide bed linens & towels, though many do – be sure to check before booking.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Jockeys Ridge, Outer Banks, NC

By Sam Opp from Roam NC

The Outer Banks is a widely fun outdoor destination for families based in North Carolina. Being the stunning beach town that the Outer Banks is, the best time to visit is definitely the summer. Plan to spend at least 5-7 days making your way down the Outer Banks Coast and soaking in all the beach vibes.

During this season, you can find so many fun activities for all ages to enjoy. For example, visiting the traditional lighthouses that line down the Outer Banks, including Bodie Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and Currituck Lighthouse. 

One of the best free things to do in the Outer Banks is heading to one of the gorgeous beaches to relax or even collect seashells. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the wild horses that live along Corrolla beach!

To continue the adventure-filled vacation, head to Jockey’s Ridge to sandboard on the sand dunes, hike the designated trails and enjoy lunch while soaking up the sun. 

A great place to stay is the TownePlace Suites by Marriott Outer Banks Kill Devil Hills, which is in a prime location to visit the attractions. 

It is important to note that each destination can be accessed easily by car, so renting a car for your stay may be the best option so that you can quickly get from location to location. 

Oh, and do not forget to try Duck Donuts; you will not be disappointed!

White Mountains, New Hampshire

white mountains

By Ruma from New England Cities

The White Mountains are a perfect blend of all kinds of activities, whether on land, air, or water. Here, activities include trains, helicopter rides, zip lines, amusement parks, and many more, around every corner for people of all ages.

Because the White Mountains offers 1,200 miles of trails, eight AMC huts, campgrounds, waterfalls, and whitewater rapids, it’s one of the best vacation spots in the US for adventurous families.

Trying to spot wildlife, hiking, biking, and winter sports are among the best experiences while staying there. Some of the best kid-friendly trails include Smarts Brook Loop in Thornton, Foss Mountain in Eaton, and Thompson Falls in Gorham. There are also several scenic drives in the area you can go on to take in the gorgeous views over the mountains.

Late spring to mid-fall is the best time of year to visit White Mountain. The summer months are warm and a popular time for hiking and biking. Booking hotels and attractions in advance, like mountain rides, is recommended for the best hassle-free experience.  

The best way to reach the White Mountains is to follow I-93 to US 3 to Franconia Notch. There is an option for commuting here by train, bus, or international ferry.

Hampton Inn Littleton is a perfect family-friendly hotel accommodating all its customers’ needs, with an indoor pool, free breakfast, and spacious family rooms. Nearby don’t miss Chang Thai Café, one of the best restaurants in the White Mountains.

You’ll also find plenty of gorgeous vacation rentals and cabins in the wood.

Here, families get to explore nature’s wilderness and have great adventures during their vacation.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park

By Anjali from Travel Melodies

Southern Utah’s gem, Bryce Canyon National Park, is a fun outdoor family adventure destination. Bryce Canyon is full of natural beauty and outdoor adventures for families with kids of all ages.

The national park is world-famous for its unique natural rock formations known as hoodoos. It lets you witness the one-of-a-kind geology and offers several easy hiking trails perfect for families with kids.

For a head start, you must stop by the visitor center before you begin the exploration.

Start your day early so; you don’t miss a breathtaking sunrise over Bryce amphitheater. Sunrise Point is close to the visitor center and is the best place to watch the sunrise.

Rim Trail is the best hiking trail to take on with young kids. Completely paved and flat, this trail runs along the rim and offers the best views of the amphitheater below.

Sunrise Point, Bryce Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point along the Rim Trail are famous for their awe-inspiring views.

You can take up Queen’s Navajo Combination Loop Trail if you have older kids with some hiking experience. This trail takes you below the canyon and lets you admire the different perspectives of the horseshoe-shaped amphitheater.

You can motivate your kids to complete the Junior Ranger program. With games & activities designed for kids of all ages, it’s a great way to keep them engaged. Don’t forget to pick up your copy from the visitor center.

Other exciting family-friendly activities at Bryce Canyon are driving the 18-mile scenic loop, enjoying a sunset over the canyon, and stargazing.

You can also plan to explore Bryce Canyon as a part of a broader road trip that includes all five national parks in Utah. Known as Utah’s Mighty 5, this action-packed road trip is sure to enthuse families who love adventures.

Plan around fall or spring since the park gets super busy during summer. The best airports to fly in for Bryce Canyon adventure are Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Cedar City, or St. George.

Best Western PLUS Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel and Best Western PLUS Ruby’s Inn are great places to stay near the national park. And, of course, you can camp at the park, even during winter. The area is also filled with beautiful cabins surrounded by nature.

Adirondack Region, New York

Adirondack Mountains

By Melissa from New York Discovered

The Adirondack Mountain region of New York State has more acreage than any other protected outdoor area in the country, giving you and your family countless opportunities for outdoor adventure. The natural beauty of the area combined with the quaint, cozy villages scattered throughout the region and the plethora of outdoor activities will keep you busy for days.

Hiking is a must when visiting the area, with over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to extremely challenging. For the family with older children and experienced hikers, taking on some of the Adirondack high peaks should be on your itinerary. For those looking for an easier hike and families with younger children, Bald Mountain in Old Forge or Panther Mountain in Saranac Lake are perfect options. 

Water sports – including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and white water rafting – bicycling, wildlife viewing, and waterfall viewing are also great options when visiting the area.

For the thrill seeker, visit the area’s theme and water parks, like Six Flags in Lake George or Water Safari in Old Forge. Scenic drives are also plentiful in the area for the family looking to go at a more relaxed pace.

The best time of year to visit the Adirondack Mountains will depend entirely on what you want to do. If you are a snow sport fanatic, wintertime will be the best. If you want to experience the beauty of the unparalleled fall foliage in the area, visit in late September and October. Summer will treat you to the warmest weather to enjoy all the outdoor activities the region has to offer.

When visiting the Adirondack Region, the most recommended accommodation option is camping. You will find plenty of campgrounds scattered throughout the region, but one worth mentioning is Moose Hillock Camping Resort.

For indoor accommodations, check out Water’s Edge Inn in Old Forge, located right across the street from the region’s largest water park.

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee/North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, United States

By Melissa from Navigation Junkie

The Great Smoky Mountains lie on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina and contain over 500,000 acres of stunning mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and roaming wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountains offer activities for children (and adults) of all ages, making it the perfect destination for an outdoor family vacation.

Hiking is a must when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. For an easy hike with young children, check out the Clingman’s Dome trail. The trail is paved and will take you to one of the most scenic areas in the Smoky Mountains.

For a more difficult hike check out the Chimney Tops Trail of Rainbow Falls hike. Visiting a waterfall or two is another must-do activity when visiting the Smoky Mountains. Some of the most popular waterfalls are Laurel Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Grotto Falls.

The area also offers plenty of opportunities for white water rafting, bicycling, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and plenty of scenic drives, including the popular Cades Cove loop and the Roaring Forks Motor Trail.

Families visiting the Great Smoky Mountains can also visit nearby Gatlinburg and take a ride up to Anakeesta, a mountaintop adventure park with a zipline, treetop skywalk, mountain coaster, and challenge course.

The Gatlinburg Skylift Park will bring you to the Gatlinburg Skybridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the US. The views from the bridge will leave you in awe!

The best time of year to visit the Great Smoky Mountains is the summer or fall months. The summer months will allow you to enjoy all the outdoor activities the area has to offer with warm temperatures, while the fall months will treat you to the beautiful collage of colors as winter falls near.

When visiting the Smoky Mountains, there are plenty of family-friendly accommodation options within Gatlinburg just a short drive from the mountains. For those wishing to experience all the area has to offer, renting a private cabin in the woods with a hot tub is the best way to go.  

Yosemite, California

Yosemite National Park in Winter

By Gabriel from Chef Travel Guide

If you are dreaming of an outdoor adventure for a family trip to California, Yosemite is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. From the jaw-dropping 2400-foot tall Yosemite Falls to the breathtaking valley view from Glacier Point, few destinations rival this majestic national park.

There are countless activities to keep your family engaged and having the time of their life, ranging from hiking to Mirror Lake to having a picnic along the Merced River.

You can challenge the kids to a game of who can spot the climbers scaling the walls of the 5000-foot granite face of Half Dome or El Capitan.

Yosemite is home to countless trails for a day of hiking with the family, with options for all age groups and abilities, including paved options for a bike ride around the valley.

If you can get away during the late spring or early fall, you will be treated to great weather in Yosemite without the large crowds during the busy summer season. 

The shoulder season is also a great time to visit as hotel reservations do not need to be booked as far in advance, and Yosemite cabin rental prices are lower. 

If you want the ultimate experience in Yosemite, book a night at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and wake up to a view of the majestic national park from your room.

There are several options to get to Yosemite Valley from other top destinations in California. You can make the 3.5-hour drive from San Francisco or add Yosemite as a second stop after visiting Lake Tahoe by taking 395 south. 

Don’t miss out on this outdoor destination that will be an important and memorable trip for your next family vacation or getaway in California.

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington sunset

By Karen from Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Families will love a vacation in Burlington, Vermont due to its proximity to many marvelous outdoor adventures. The vibrant city of Burlington is located on Lake Champlain in the northwest corner of Vermont. Views across the lake to the Adirondacks are gorgeous, especially at sunset.

The whole family will enjoy adventures on the lake. Rent kayaks, paddleboards, or a sailboat to explore the beautiful coves and beaches. Alternatively, take the group on the Spirit of Ethan Allen boat for a narrated cruise to learn about the history and nature of the lake.

Hiking trails abound in Burlington for all abilities. Explore the Intervale trails near the Winooski River or venture to Lone Rock Point for unequaled views across Lake Champlain.

Burlington has one of the best biking trails in the United States. The Island Line Rail Trail runs over 13 miles from downtown along the shore of Lake Champlain.

Bikers enjoy stopping at the lifeguarded beaches along the way for a dip. The centerpiece of the rail trail is the Colchester Causeway that crosses the lake on a narrow bike path with views of the Green Mountains on one side and the Adirondacks on the other. Bikes can be rented on the trail.

Kids will enjoy the ECHO Center, a science and nature museum on the waterfront. A tour of the Lake Champlain Chocolates store is also a family favorite.

The Starlight Inn, with its movie themed rooms, is a great place to stay. It’s located across the street from the Sunset Drive-In Theater in Colchester so you can enjoy family-friendly movies on a summer night.

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Olympic National Park Ruby Beach

By Jane of Family Road Trip

There’s no place in the US quite like the Olympic Peninsula when it comes to diversity and exploring different ecosystems on your outdoor family adventure. One minute you can be exploring old-growth rainforests, the next alpine forests, sub-alpine meadows, then the incredible rugged shores of the Pacific Ocean.

For an outdoor adventure like no other, a road trip around the Olympic National Park in Washington state is bound to deliver. Granted, it can be wet and rainy a lot of the year – well it is the Pacific Northwest! – but all that rain leads to the lush landscapes in this International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Summer is the most popular season for visiting Olympic National Park which dominates much of the peninsula. Easily accessible within a few hour’s drive from Seattle, waterfalls and beach hikes feature prominently in an Olympic Peninsula family vacation, with dozens of trails from beginner through to experienced to match your family’s fitness levels.

Camping is also very popular here, with spots at Sol Duc Falls and Hoh Rainforest booked out months in advance. Campgrounds may be closed outside of the peak season, but there’s still plenty that can be explored in winter too, with Hurricane Ridge a popular home for tubing when the meadows turn into a snowy wonderland.

If you’d prefer a coastal adventure, camp along Kalaloch Beach or near to Rialto Beach where you can enjoy 70 miles of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Famous for its craggy rock formations and driftwood-filled shores, wildlife spotting and tide pooling are popular family activities.

For a more comfortable place to stay, check out the many vacation homes you’ll find outside the park.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

By Ada from Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: A Travel Blog

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northeastern Minnesota is the perfect outdoor adventure destination for families. America’s most popular wilderness area is a one-million swath of lakes, rocks, and forest located inside the Superior National Forest.

The most popular access points to the BWCAW is either via the small town of Ely or the Gunflint Trail, a 57-mile wilderness highway that starts in Grand Marais.   

With countless canoe routes of various length and difficulty to choose from, it can feel daunting to plan a first-time trip to the Boundary Waters. Consider staying in a cabin near the edge of the Boundary Waters such as Gunflint Lodge or Kawishiwi Lodge.

From your Northwoods cabin you can day trip into the Boundary Waters. This is a great way to get comfortable in the wilderness setting and hone your family’s canoeing, hiking, and wildlife viewing skills.

The best time for families to experience the Boundary Waters is late July and early August. That’s when the water’s the warmest for swimming, the mosquitoes have tapered off, and the blueberries are ripe.

It’s also when overnight camping permits are in highest demand. If you plan to visit during this timeframe book your trip as soon as permits become available in late January if you’re planning on camping there. To make light work of planning your Boundary Waters camping trip, use a local outfitter to figure out a route. Your outfitter can set you up with canoes, all necessary camping gear, and even your meals.

Maui, Hawaii

By Jessica from UpRooted Traveler

With its stunning beaches, incredible wildlife, and diverse landscape, Maui is the perfect outdoor playground for your family. 

If your family is looking for some rest and relaxation, there are plenty of kid-friendly beaches. For example, Pu’unoa Beach in Lahaina has shallow, clear waters and incredibly calm waves, thanks to the nearby coral reef.

For bigger kids, Kapalua Bay is a shallow cove, which offers kids the opportunity to go snorkeling with the sea turtles that like to cruise through the bay most afternoons.

Another popular activity is driving the Road to Hana, a windy 65-mile road leading from the surfer town of Paia to the teeny town of Hana, along the island’s east coast.

While kids may generally not love road trips, there are so many incredible stops on this one that they’ll never be bored – for example, they can stop at Coco Glen’s, an ice cream shop serving delicious coconut ice cream out of an Airstream, or Pa’iloa Beach, a striking black sand beach with hidden caves and lava tubes for kids to explore. 

While Maui is a paradise year-round, one of the best times to go is from November through May, which is the humpback whale season in the Hawaiian Islands. If you visit the island during this timeframe, be sure to book one of the best whale-watching tours in Maui, where your kids will watch in delight as these magnificent school-bus-sized creatures leap out of the water around you.

While you’re here, make Grand Wailea your home base. The kids will love its amazing system of pools, which includes nine pools, four water slides, and a lazy river.

Zion National Park, Utah

Outdoor Destinations Adventures for Families - Zion National Park

By Jenna from Up and Away Magazine

One of the most popular national parks in the United States (and the most visited national park in Utah), Zion National Park is a phenomenal outdoor destination for adventurous families. Known for its towering red cliffs, slot canyons, rivers, and scenic byways, the park can be well explored in five days and caters to all ages and fitness levels.

Families with small children will love Weeping Rock and Riverside Walk. As the name suggests, Weeping Rock is a short 0.4-mile out-and-back walk leading to a large rock feature dripping with moisture, which has resulted in a lush hanging garden. While the trail is typically open year-round, as of early 2023 it was temporarily closed due to a major rockfall.

Alternatively, Riverside Walk is located off the final shuttle stop in the park and is a two-mile paved out-and-back trail that meanders along the Virgin River. The hike is wheelchair accessible and offers plenty of shade and good opportunities to spot wildlife. It ends abruptly at the point where The Narrows begins.

Speaking of The Narrows, this adventure is a must for families with slightly older children (about 5 or 6 years and up). It involves hiking through the narrowest section of Zion Canyon via the Virgin River and there is no way to do it without getting wet. You can make it as long or as short as you’d like, depending on your turnaround point.

Just note that The Narrows closes when river flow reaches a certain level, so the trail is not always open – particularly during early Spring.

And of course, families with pre-teens and teenagers with an adrenaline addiction can’t visit Zion without trying to score a permit to hike Angels Landing – which has been rated one of the top ten most dangerous hikes in America.

While Zion National Park is open year-round, Spring and Fall are the best times to visit in terms of weather and crowds. Summer can be hot and crowded, and, while beautiful, winter is cold and there is often snow on the ground.

In terms of Zion lodging, Zion Lodge is the only formal lodging in the park and is excellent for families. Alternatively, stay at the Holiday Inn Express (one of the best Holiday Inns in the country!) or at Red Rock Inn Cottages in nearby Springdale.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon

By Brodi Cole of Our Offbeat Life

If you’re looking for an unforgettable outdoor vacation with your family in Arizona, look no further than Grand Canyon National Park. With its breathtaking views, diverse wildlife, and endless opportunities for exploration, this natural wonder is a must-visit destination for families of all ages.

The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is during the shoulder seasons of March through May and September through November. During these months, temperatures are cooler, and crowds are thinner, making it easier to enjoy all that the park has to offer without feeling overwhelmed.

At Grand Canyon National Park, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Visitors can ride a bike along the various trails on the South Rim or hike one of the many trails throughout the park such as Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail.

You can even explore the 1.8-mile Trail of Time on the Rim Trail, watch a sunrise or sunset over the canyon from one of the lookout points, or attend a junior ranger program or guided tour to learn more about the park’s history and geology.

When planning a trip to the Grand Canyon National Park, it is important to be prepared. Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for hikes and other outdoor activities.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that are suitable for being outdoors. Be aware of changing weather conditions by packing layers and rain gear in case of sudden storms. You may be chilly in the morning and hot in the afternoon!

For families looking to stay inside the park, El Tovar Hotel is excellent. This historic hotel offers comfortable accommodations with stunning views of the canyon. Plus, it’s conveniently located near many of the park’s top attractions.

Florida Keys

Key West

By Sara from Mindful Travel by Sara

The Florida Keys are a paradise for families looking to get away from it all and enjoy the sunshine, beautiful beaches, and warm waters. With plenty of activities that both parents and kids can do together, you’ll never be bored in the Florida Keys!

From snorkeling in crystal-clear turquoise lagoons to visiting Anne’s Beach in Islamorada or even seeing rescued sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon Florida – there is something for everyone!

Snorkeling is a great way to explore Florida Keys’ underwater life, such as sea turtles and manta rays. The Florida Keys also offer plenty of kayaking tours for families that explore mangrove islands, giving you the chance to observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

If you’re looking for something more laid-back, consider a ride on the Conch Tour Train in Key West, which takes visitors through Old Town and offers fascinating commentary about Florida Keys’ colorful history.

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon Florida is home to the world’s only hospital dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing sea turtles that are injured or ill. The Turtle Hospital offers a range of educational programs designed for children, allowing them to learn more about Florida’s sea turtle population and how they can help keep Florida’s waters healthy and safe. While visiting, your family will be sure to have a memorable experience!

With so many activities to choose from, Florida Keys is the perfect destination for families hoping to spend quality time together and make wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.

The best time to visit is from November to April and the best way is to drive from Miami and enjoy the wonderful views from the car.

For family-friendly hotels and resorts, check out Parrot Key Hotel & Villas or Grassy Flats and Beach Club.

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Best Outdoor Family Vacations and Adventures in the USA
Best Outdoor Family Vacations and Adventures in the USA
Best Outdoor Family Vacations and Adventures in the USA