It’s been a rough year, and if you and your entire family are basically punching the walls of your home, know that we’re right there with you. Whether your kids are heading back to school in person this fall (terrifying) or sticking it out for some form of homeschooling or distance learning (um, terrifying), by the time the weekend rolls around, the kids and adults alike are desperate for a break — and maybe some fresh air? Because no, dammit, 2020 shall not doom you to such “leisure-time activities” as reading mommy blogs and making chicken nuggets from scratch! Although, no judgment if that’s your thing. But it’s worth remembering that leaving the house is good and healthy, even during a pandemic, if you do it safely. It’s also worth remembering that anything can be “kid-friendly” if you deem it to be so. Especially when it’s fall, it’s beautiful out, and adventure awaits you. So get outside and go see the world — and bring those small fries with you (the kids, not the chicken nuggets, although sure, bring both).
And you don’t have to make an epic family plan to scale the Himalayas, either (please don’t fly in plane right now ok?) because some of the most gorgeous mountains — and woods, waterfalls, lakes, you name it — are probably within driving distance of your home, right here in the good ol’ (lol JK it’s pretty crap right now) U.S. of A. In fact, the general awesomeness of the U.S. State & National Parks and landscape may be one of the only things Americans agree upon these days, so let’s cling to it with all our might, shall we?
We’ve done the travel planning for you and rounded up some of the best child-friendly hikes in the United States — from the obvious icons to the unexpected spots you’ve maybe never heard of. Just make sure you stay safe when you hit the trails, both for the health of your family and for others. Bring water and sunscreen, give other hikers a wide berth, and make sure the whole family (kids age 2+, that is) is wearing face masks unless you’re literally the only group on the trail that day.
And enjoy! After all, which do you think your kid will remember in 10 years: the rando toy you got her for her birthday or the time you two trekked up a mountain together?
A version of this story was originally published in September 2017.