Nothing beats a crisp, late-fall hike, especially when you make it a family hiking adventure. And while family-friendly hiking can be found in any state, here are seven destinations to add to your travel bucket list to check out any time of year.
Sunrise Nature Trail
Mount Rainier National Park
CREDIT: NPS Photo/Jasmine Horn
Springtime is the right time to check out the Sunrise Nature Trail. On your hike, you’ll pass through flower-filled mountains to reach the ridge-top views of Mount Rainier and the cascades. A 1.5-mile loop with gentle elevation gain, this trail is not heavily traveled, which bodes well for those looking to escape crowded trails for a more serene outdoor experience. Keep an eye out for marmots and elk traveling along the trail with you.
Zion National Park
This 2-mile (round-trip) trail begins at the end of Zion Canyon in a natural amphitheater and ends in the Zion Narrows, a passageway between two sandstone walls. Kids can enjoy playing in the river at the end of the trail, especially on a hot day. And for those with stroller riders, you’re in luck: the Riverside Walk is a paved, stroller-accessible trail.
Giant Logs Trail
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest, Ariz.
CREDIT: NPS Photo/Andrew V. Kearns
The 0.4-mile Giant Logs Trail takes hikers along a path of colorful logs with perfectly preserved bark and growth rings, ending at “Old Faithful,” a petrified tree whose base is 10 feet across. Kids will enjoy checking out the “rocks” along this trail, which are actually fallen trees, having crystallized and hardened into rock. Plaques along the way explain the history and geology of the petrified forest, and the Rainbow Forest Visitor Center near the trail offers exhibits on dinosaurs, which kids enjoy.
Assateague Island National Seashore
CREDIT: Assateague NPS
The Woodland Trail is a 1.5-mile loop through a pine forest of Assateague Island. Assateague’s wild ponies, the inspiration for the popular children’s book Misty of Chincoteague, can be seen wandering freely in the fields and marshes of the 37-mile-long barrier island. And youngsters can enjoy the view from atop the trail’s observation platform, where visitors can watch the small, shaggy ponies frolic.
General Sherman Tree Trail
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park, Calif.
The General Sherman Tree, which is 275 feet tall and 36.5 feet across, is the largest living tree in the world. It’s hard to picture just how big that is until you stand at its base having made the half-mile trek up the trail to see for yourself. Continue along the 2.2-mile Congress Trail to see some of Sequoia’s largest landmarks, including the General Grant Tree (the world’s third largest giant sequoia) and a fallen tree that acts as a tunnel over the road.
Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde, Colo.
CREDIT: Tobi 87
Ancestral Puebloans built the cliff dwellings preserved in Mesa Verde national park. The 0.25-mile Cliff Palace trail takes you on a guided tour of 150 rooms nestled in the side of the canyon. This is a good trail for slightly older kids, who will enjoy climbing five ladders to and from the cliff dwellings and walking among the houses of this ancient population. Younger kids will enjoy the half-mile trail to Spruce Tree House, where they can climb into this well-preserved cliff dwelling.
Artist Paint Pots trail
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
After you watch Old Faithful erupt, head to the Artist Paint Pots trail for an easy 1-mile hike that leads to small geysers, hot springs and steam vents. At the peak of the hike, you’ll find the trail’s namesake, a pair of mud pots that bubble and spit mud several feet into the air. This hike shows off a variety of Yellowstone’s features in a small area, and a boardwalk covers part of the trail, making it an ideal hike for small children.