Bursting with vibrant geography and scenery from coast to coast, the good ol’ US of A makes a brilliant backdrop for family vacations, weekend adventures, and everything in between. Whether you’re hitting the highway RV-style or simply setting up camp in the backyard, the land of the free offers endless activities and explorations — for roamers and ramblers of any age.
Here’s the family-friendly favorites that topped our list:
1. Hiking Utah’s national parks
From the jaw-dropping hoodoos of Bryce Canyon to the exotic wildlife of Zion National Park, there’s something for everyone in southwestern Utah’s striking nature reserves. Families can stay in the historic lodge at Bryce Canyon and explore the ancient rock formations of the stunning Bryce Amphitheater, or wander past gorgeous waterfalls, mesas, and hanging gardens in Zion’s Virgin River Narrows. Hiking aficionados will love Zion’s Angel’s Landing — one of the world’s top-rated treks — and kids won’t want to miss the Night Sky stargazing sessions, hosted by Bryce Canyon’s friendly team of Astronomy Rangers.
2. White water rafting in Maine
Steps from the start of the Appalachian Trail, Maine’s serene Katahdin region is packed with adventures for the whole clan. Thrill-seekers can skydive beside towering Mt. Katahdin, while the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers offer guided kayak adventures for paddlers of all ages. When it’s time to unwind, simply pitch a tent at Baxter State Park’s mountain-lined South Branch Pond Campground and fire up those s’mores.
3. Wild adventures in Big Sky Country, Montana
The world’s first national park, Yellowstone is beloved for its sprawling scenery and family-friendly Western hospitality. Nature lovers will be drawn to the area’s diverse wildlife, from wildflowers to free-roaming animals, while adventurers young and old can raft the Yellowstone River, scale the Spanish Peaks or even hop on horseback to channel their inner cowboy. Head over to the hot springs for a chance to witness a geyser eruption: From Old Faithful to Echinus and Grand, this wild Western reserve boasts more geysers than anywhere else on Earth.
4. Outdoor activities in Ohio’s Hocking Hills
There’s no shortage of natural wonders in Ohio’s Hocking Hills, and families will be enchanted by its caverns, waterfalls, and striking sandstone formations. Daredevils will love the activities on tap at nearby Hocking Peaks Adventure Park, with kid-friendly options ranging from ziplining to biking, kayaking, and even tumbling down the breathtaking hills inside a giant inflatable ball. The lodging at nearby Boulder’s Edge is perfect for history buffs and kids alike: Families can choose from Native American style teepees or antique log cabins for an experience to remember.
5. Wandering the Great Smoky Mountains
Dust off the old atlas and stock up on snacks: The nation’s most popular national park is actually a road trip through magnificent mountains. Rolling through the winding valleys and lofty peaks of Tennessee and North Carolina, this unique route boasts over 800 miles of nature trails and more than 270 miles of roadways. With plenty of family-friendly routes, hikers of all ages can spot a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, and over 1,600 varieties of flora and fauna. Top tip: Hit the trails early to witness the serene haze that gives these stunning mountains their name, then refuel in nearby Asheville, a beloved hippie enclave packed with food, drink, and entertainment options for the whole gang.