Backpacking can be a lot of work in and of itself – even more so when children come along. It’s not always an activity designed for families, however, nowadays getting to the outdoors can be a beneficial experience for children. It’s also a great way for growing families to spend time together, and to teach children valuable lessons. Most families take their kids to popular places like Yellowstone, Crater Lake and the Grand Canyon, here are a few other spots that you can backpack with kids too.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
While the Canyonlands is home to one of the most terrifying hikes, The Maze, the area is also home to plenty of family-friendly areas, too. From short and easy hikes on ‘Island in the Sky’ that bring you to ‘Whale Rock, the cowboy camp at the Needles trail, and Pothole Point where there are small ecosystems going on inside potholes, children will enjoy it while their parents get in a good hike. There are special activities that go on here, too, like admiring pictographs, or taking kids to get their ‘explorer packs’ to help them conquer the trails.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
What could possibly be more fun than running up and over hills, to the top of sand dunes, pretending you own the desert? What about sandboarding or swimming in Medano Lake? Although there aren’t difficult rocks to climb here or steep mountain peaks to conquer, families with kids will appreciate the opportunity a unique backpacking experience, minus all the strenuous navigating.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park is a gorgeous place for families to experience all the joys backpacking can offer, in all seasons of the year. In the winter, families can snowboard, ski, sled, and even do snowshoe walks, and in the summer, there are several trails open that have stroller access and are safe for small children. Kids can learn about wildlife, glaciers, volcanoes, and take in the beauty of the outdoors by doing something fun.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
If the name doesn’t sound intriguing enough, then imagine how the kids will feel when they’ve learned that there are ‘frozen trees’ in a rock forest. Of course, this isn’t actually the case, but it will give your kids room to explore their imaginations. Head to the Rainbow House Museum, where you’ll find the Giant Logs Trail-a short hike that leads to Old Faithful. If kids are older, they can participate in one of the many educational activities to learn about Earth Science and how trees become ‘petrified’ over time. There are also great backcountry hiking routes here for families that like the adventure.
Muir Woods National Monument, California
If your kids like fantasy, then strolling around this Redwood forest will certainly spark their curiosity. Located near San Francisco, families can get out into nature and explore. The park has an awesome (free) activity for families where you can decipher riddles throughout the forest, whose answers will reveal secrets about the depths within the trees. At the end, you might just find a treasure box to reward you for your efforts on a difficult backpacking quest!
Presidential Trail, South Dakota
Many kids have seen Mt. Rushmore in their textbooks, but those from other states far away may have never thought they could see it up close. This might go for many parents, too, so why not check off this sight of your bucket list as a family? Instead of just seeing the monument, choose to hike around it. The Presidential Trail is family-friendly and offers a nice walk (less than a mile) where the mountain can be viewed unobstructed. Kids can learn about how the monument was sculpted, while parents can enjoy a nice day out, taking in the views of the nearby Black Hills.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
If your kids are a bit fearful of fiery, volcanic pits, then it’s best not to bring them here. However, if your children are courageous (and more adventurous than you are!), then Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the ultimate backpacking, family-fun adventure. With 70 million years of Earth’s volcanic history all in one spot, children will be fascinated by the magical landscape of the park. Additionally, kids can visit the Thurston Lava Tube, where lava once flowed out of, and experience what it may have been like when a volcano erupted here.