If you’re looking for an amazing adventure to share with the kids this summer but hoping to avoid the miles of concrete and chaotic crowds that come along with your typical kid-friendly vacation, a more natural destination might just be the ticket.
Some of the most wonderful–and most fun–places in the country don’t involve long lines or piles of cash, but instead are dominated by flowing water, towering trees and some good old-fashioned peace and quiet.
Whether you live on the east coast, out west, down south or way up north–there are likely a whole slew of amazing, and affordable, places nearby to host your next family getaway.
Here are Four Great Picks from Around the Country
Redwood National and State Parks (California and Oregon) – From miles of towering trees to the rugged and stunningly beautiful pacific coast, a visit to the Redwoods really does have something for everyone.
Take a hike or a drive–long or short–in the ancient forest and then sign the kids up for a free activity or program. Blending an exciting mix of adventure and learning, park activities include a junior ranger program, a tidepool walk and campfire program.
Quoddy Head State Park (Maine) – While this park is a bit on the smaller side, it packs a lot of action into its 541 acres. Most notably, the park encompasses the easternmost point in the US, the Quoddy Channel (which separates the US and Canada) and a coastal plateau bog.
The kids will love visiting the candy-striped lighthouse, looking out for whales and identifying rare arctic plants along the interpretive bog trail. Be sure to visit the nearby Cobscook State Park for more kid-friendly hiking trails and some lovely campsites.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Minnesota) – If you’re hoping for a true back country camping adventure–in one of the most remote and pristine places in the nation–then the Boundary Waters is worth a look.
Over 1 million acres in size, this unique wilderness area is made up of a seemingly endless web of lakes and forest, with miles upon miles of hiking trails and canoe routes. Over 2000 campsites are spread across the area, with many accessible only by foot or paddle, so expect some serious solitude. And thanks to the strict limits on motor use within the area, you can also expect real peace and quiet.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee) – One of the many amazing things about this destination is the wide array of waterfalls that can be found down several of the park’s gorgeous hiking trails. If you do make it up to one of the falls, keep your eye out for salamanders hiding in the pools.
But first, sign up for the Hike the Smokies challenge, where families can log their miles and receive prizes at the visitor centers. With 150 official hiking trails in the park, it shouldn’t be hard to find the right trail for even the littlest one in the family.