There is an attitude prevalent amongst singles and couples alike, that once you have kids your adventurous lifestyle is over. For good.
I once believed this to be true as well. But after standing on the family side of the fence for the last 10 years, I can now tell you it is not true. Outdoor pursuits might need to be modified, might require more work, and greater flexibility, but they need not end!
The first step is finding something that inspires you: a hike, skiing a new ski area, visiting a new mountain range. The second is grabbing your stuff and walking out the door. I cannot help you with the second but I hope to help you with the first.
Below is a collection of the family-friendly iconic hiking trails in the west, pre-approved by outdoor adventurers WITH kids. Now you have no more excuses.
1. Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Roundtrip Length: 3.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Amble alongside gorgeous mountain lakes and enjoy a relatively easy hike with a lot of visual punch. At Leigh Lake enjoy views of the Middle Tetons including, Teewinot Mountain, Rockchuck Peak, Mt. Woodring and Mt. Moran. This is also a great first overnight trip with your kids and according to adventurer, Amy Hatch from GarageGrownGear.com, it can easily be combined with pack-rafting, canoeing or stand-up-paddleboarding.
2. Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah
Round Trip Length: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 641 feet
Perhaps you recognize Delicate Arch, as it graces many Utah license plates. For this reason, it is probably the most famous arch in America and a stunning icon of the southwest. The hike begins by crossing a bridge, passing a historic cabin, and then climbing steadily over sandstone for 2 miles before dropping you at Delicate Arch. Keep a close hand on your little ones as there are sections with exposed cliffs.
3. Dream Lake via Bear Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park
Round Trip Length: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Experience the high mountain lakes and towering summits of the Rocky Mountains by hiking with your kids to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Start at Bear Lake and take the trail branch toward Nymph Lake. The trail climbs steadily, passing Nymph Lake and views of Long’s Peak. Enjoy a picnic with your family at Dream Lake with amazing views of Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain.
4. North Falls at Silver Falls State Park, OR
Round Trip Length: .8 mi from North Falls TH
Elevation Gain: 90 feet
The roaring falls of the Pacific Northwest should be on everyone’s list, and among my favorites are the waterfalls found on the Trail of Ten Falls Loop (roughly 8 miles total) within Silver Falls State Park, OR. There are a variety of trailheads and junctions which allow you to do either the entire loop or separate segments of it with children. North Falls and South Falls Loop are the most impressive. While they are great in the summer, I’d suggest the winter or early spring as they are the powerful due to rain.
5. Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, UT
Round Trip Length: .5 miles
Elevation Gain: 118 feet
Mesa Arch is a short hike to stunning scenery. The arch perfectly frames the canyons and vistas etched below. For stunning photos and cooler temperatures, visit early in the morning or in the evening near sunset.
6. Hiking the Grand Canyon via the South Kaibab Trail, AZ
Round Trip Length: 7 miles to Phantom Ranch / 9 miles via Bright Angel
Elevation Gain: 4460 feet
A great option for families that want to experience the Grand Canyon up close and personal but also want a challenge. Hike the South Kaibab trail down into the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch. Spend two days resting and exploring at the ranch before hiking back out via the Bright Angel trail. Kristen Loomis of BraveSkiMom.com did this hike with her sons when they were age 10 and 13.
7. Inspiration Point / Channel Islands National Park, CA
Round Trip Length: 1.5 mi from North Falls TH
Elevation Gain: Minimal
The Channel Islands encompass a total of five islands approximately 30 miles off the California coast. Anacapa Island, plays host to a 2 mile trail system that offers unparalleled ocean views. Use caution when accompanying children as many of the hikes are near steep, exposed cliffs.
8. Grove of the Patriarchs – Rainier National Park, WA
Round Trip Length: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 0 feet
A short kid-friendly hike that is certain to wow every member of the family. Enjoy crossing the Ohanapecosh River via a suspension bridge to an isolated grove of trees that have survived for thousands of years. This hike showcases ancient Douglas fur, western hemlock, and western red cedars and is a great hike regardless of the weather or season. For more information on hikes in Rainier National Park visit Moosefish.com.
9. Navajo Loop, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Round Trip Mileage: 1.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 550 feet
Immerse your family in the world-famous hoodoos and spires of Bryce Canyon National Park! This short hike descends steeply into what is know as “Wall Street”. You’ll have a break from the heat in the narrow passages and slot-canyon like trails. Enjoy pizza and a soda at the park pizzeria adjacent to the lodge afterwards!
10.Horseshoe Bend, AZ
Round Trip Mileage: 1.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
The dramatic cliffs and magical slot canyons on Navajo Tribal Lands near Lake Powell are among some of the most photographed locations in the world. The hike to Horseshoe Bend is relatively easy and flat, the most difficult obstacle being the sand. Keep a hand on your young children as the cliff side is unobstructed but then, so are the views. Be sure to check out Waterholes Slot Canyon. Hiking permits must be obtained for Waterholes Canyon at the Tribal Parks Office.