Although Disney World or Atlantis are alluring this time of year, why not do something a little off the beaten path, like hiking? Hiking is a great family activity because it provides great exercise and gives you a chance to play outside with no electronics to interrupt you!
Although there are a ton of places to hike here in the US, not all of them are conducive to a family vacation or safe enough for little ones. Check out this list of family-friendly hiking spots in the US -- no matter which coast you are on, there's a great mountain to climb near you! However, be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, comfortable shoes, jackets and umbrellas, and a first aid kit, just in case. For a complete list of what you should bring on a family hiking trip, check out this list on Family Capers.
If you're planning a trip out west or call this coast home, there are many great places to hike that are perfect for your family.
Yosemite. This park is a huge tourist destination because of the incredible views. Not all points in this park are great for kids, like Half Dome, for example. However, there are great sights to see that don't require aggressive mountain climbing, like Glacier Point, which can be reached by hiking or by roadway. You also don't want to miss Mariposa Grove, which has the Grizzly Giant, one of the largest trees in the entire world. Plus, all these sites are free to see once you're in the park!
Yellowstone National Park. You can't call yourself outdoorsy without visiting the incredibly beautiful Yellowstone National Park, which is located right on the border of Wyoming and Montana. This park is a great place to visit with your family and an even better place to hike! You can't miss the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is the most popular family hiking spot in the park. Formed over thousands of years, this trail goes 20 miles and can climb 1,000 feet. There are also plenty of places to stop and take the sights in, like Artist Point. You also can't miss Old Faithful, the renowned geyser.
If you are in Hawaii, it might be hard to tear yourself away from the gorgeous beaches and frozen drinks. However, take a break from tanning, grab your family and hit some trails!
The Big Island. The Big Island is often referred to as the islands' awkward older brother since it's overlooked during travel bookings for more popular islands like Kauai. However, the Big Island boasts great family hiking and beautiful parks, like the Akaka Falls Park. This park has a very short, low-intensity hiking trail, great for young children, that takes you to two beautiful waterfalls. You also have to visit the volcanos, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea is an active volcano that has been spitting and oozing since 1983 and is a sight you can't miss. There's a three-hour guided hike that takes you around the volcanos as well as an 11-mile pass so you can drive by these majestic mountains.
Kauai. If your family members are more advanced hikers, visit the beautiful island of Kauai, which has one of the hardest trails in the country -- the Kalalau trail. This 11-mile hiking trail is rocky, rough and very steep, and is not for the faint of heart. If you're going to attempt this, be sure to bring plenty of water and food. But the hike is well worth it, especially the first two miles, which will take you to Hanakapi'ai Beach and the 100-foot drop of Hanakapi'ai falls.
Although the West Coast and Hawaii have spectacular mountains and hiking, don't think you can't find incredible trails east of the Mississippi! From Acadia National Park in Maine down to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, there are tons of great family places to visit and hike through on the East Coast.
Acadia National Park. This picturesque national park is located on the Southwest Harbor of Maine right on the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine. This gorgeous park is perfect for the family who wants a spot that's been practically untouched by humanity. Like some of the other parks mentioned, this park has trails for more advanced hikers as well as trails more suited to novice younger hikers and families. Plus, with more than 47,000 acres to explore, you'll never have to cross the same sight twice. To take a break from the hiking, check out the beautiful town of Bar Harbor.
Shenandoah Valley. This gorgeous stretch of mountains in Virginia is a perfect day trip for those visiting Washington, D.C., since it's just an hour and a half from the nation's capital. The Shenandoah National Park also boasts more than 500 miles of trails ranging from very rugged to more intermediate. The hikes include gorgeous views of waterfalls, mountain summits and even ghost towns! More than 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through this park, including a 3,812-foot overlook from Hazeltop Mountain. Plus, there's horseback riding and lodging if you plan on making this a weekend or two-day event.
Now grab your family, your hiking boots and backpack for a beautiful vacation a few thousand feet above sea level!
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