Five outdoor travel experiences any family can try

Good news parents: Most kids’ favorite vacations involve sleeping bags and campfires instead of five-star luxury and turn-down service. Traditional camping trips are a crowd favorite, but if you’re looking for something a bit further off the beaten path of family travel, check out one of the following outdoor travel experiences any family can enjoy, no prior wilderness knowledge necessary.

outdoor travel experiences

1. Spend a night in a fire tower lookout.

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Un-used or seasonally manned fire tower lookouts dot US Forest Service lands, especially in the Western states. Many of these lookouts are available for seasonal rental. Our fire lookout stay at Pickett Butte, Oregon included two nights in an isolated three-story high tower, with plenty of room to play, hike, and let our dog roam. We enjoyed downtime, plenty of paperbacks, roaring campfires, and the excitement of sleeping above the treetops while the wind blew. Fire lookouts are available to reserve via Recreation.gov, just like state campground sites.

2. Book an overnight river rafting trip.

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Untried on the river? Don’t try to plan an overnight float trip by yourself. We’ve seen the results first-hand (and they usually involve stuck rafts and miserable families). When we wanted to explore Oregon’s backcountry via the Rogue River, we entrusted our vacation to OARS, who took care of everything from experienced rafting guides to three-course meals. Rafting tours are available in most states, with the most popular overnight trips for families in California, Oregon, Utah, and Idaho.

3. Go dog sledding.

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A day trip that involves speed, snow, and happy, barking canines? Sign us up! The best dog-sledding tours will include educational opportunities for kids to learn about the history and practice of dog sledding, as well as time to greet the dogs, learn about their care, and see where they eat and sleep. We loved our dog sledding tour in Big White, British Columbia, as well as our summer tour of a dog sledding training facility in Juneau, Alaska.

4. Rent a state park yurt.

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Want to camp in the Pacific Northwest in the off-season, but don’t have an RV or camper to keep warm? No problem: rent a state park yurt. Reservable via Recreation.gov, state park yurts in Washington and Oregon (as well as other states across the US) provide families with just enough comfort to still be considered a camping trip. Yurts along the Pacific coast provide heat, electricity, and beds… perfect for a weekend of whale watching or winter storm viewing. Reserve early: yurts are very popular!

5. Take a hut-to-hut ski or hike tour.

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Perhaps you grew up taking overnight backpacking trips, but your children aren’t quite old enough to carry full packs of gear (yet). Or maybe you’d like to get into the sport, but are first-timers. Enter hut-to-hut hiking or skiing, where families can enjoy the backpacking experience combined with the comfort and security of a winterized (and sometimes stocked) hut at the end of each day’s journey. Our favorite hut-to-hut trips are located in the heart of the White Mountains, run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Families can opt to trek on their own, or base in one of AMC’s family-friendly lodges such as the Highland Center Lodge for a guided day trip. Just in time for summer, AMC has extended their guided family vacations.

Photo credit: Amy Whitley, Flickr Creative Commons

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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