Amusement parks have their shine and excitement it’s true, but for some families, the true adventure comes from getting outside. Ziplines and ropes courses, backcountry hikes, caving, whitewater rafting, you name it, it’s available to you somewhere in the U.S. If you’re ready to test your family’s mettle this summer, here is our list of the must-see outdoor activities parks in the USA for summer 2017.
1. Adventure Forest at Sandy Spring Friends School
Sandy Spring, MD
The Adventure Forest is, for now, the largest aerial adventure park in the country. With 200 bridges, 6 levels of difficulty, and 13 different aerial trails, there’s an option for the whole family. Kids ages 10 and up can take a shot at climbing the new K2 Trees feature, offering a “whole new way to climb trees”, while parties with smaller children can reserve the Labyrinth for birthday parties or special events. The Adventure Forest can have crowds on popular weekends, so consider going midweek or at an off time. Night climbing is open until 10 pm for the night owls!
2. New York Zipline Canopy Tours
Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl, Hunter, NY
Just two hours outside of New York City, Zipline Canopy Tours will give you an unparalleled view of the Catskill Mountains. With three different tours to try and varying heights above the forest floor, you can take it easy with the Mid Mountain Tour or go all out with the SkyRider Tour. Do keep in mind there are height and weight restrictions, so check to be sure everyone in your family meets the company’s safety requirements!
3. Out ‘n About Treesort
Oregon’s Siskiyou Mountain Range can be right out your front door when you stay at one of the fifteen treehouses at this ‘treesort’. Choose from options like the Swiss Family Complex, with separate rooms for parents and kids and a fire pole or rope swing exit, or maybe you’d prefer the well-aloft Majestree 37 feet from the forest floor. Either way, you’ll be tucked up into the trees for an adventure that your family will never forget. Out ‘n About Outfitters will be happy to take your family on a horseback ride, rafting on the Klamath or Rogue River, zip-lining through the canopy, or even provide a hands-on workshop to learn about building treehouses.
4. Family Nature Camp
Bar Harbor, ME
Looking for an educational flavor to your family’s adventures this summer? Check out this camp, hosted by College of the Atlantic near the famous Acadia National Park. You’ll stay on campus in dormitory suites and be taken on daily adventures along the coastline, into the Park, and on Diver Ed’s “Dive-In Theater” Cruise — where Diver Ed brings up sea urchins, starfish, and other ocean creatures for the families to meet. Rated one of the best family vacations by National Geographic Traveler, you be learning and enjoying summer on the coast of Maine.
5. At Boulder’s Edge
Would you rather stay in the authentic (read: primitive) tipi, or in a real-deal log cabin (with a hot tub)? Either way, your family can enjoy the quiet of nature with easy access to Hocking Hills State Park. Visit Ash Cave, an easy hike to take in the spectacular view of the waterfall, and then check out the history of Rock House — once used by native peoples, and later by robbers and thieves. Two miles from the cabin you can zoom through the canopy on Hocking Hills Canopy Tours, or take a scenic horseback ride at The Spotted Horse Ranch.
6. The Lodge at Little Saint Simon’s Island
Little Saint Simon’s Island, GA
With seven miles of beaches and room for only 32 guests, a stay on this privately-owned island will guarantee you and your family plenty of room to roam. Tour the island by foot or use one of the resort’s free bicycles if you’re feeling adventurous, or take a tour with one of the lodge’s naturalists for birding, wildlife-scouting, kayaking, beach-combing, or a guided fishing trip. Kayaks are available for touring the mangroves and you’ll likely see plenty of wildlife: deer, armadillos, dolphins, and more than 280 species of birds. Meals are served family-style, with fresh produce from the island’s organic farm in the historic Hunting Lodge. Staying on the Island is an all-inclusive package, so you’ll never have to choose between taking a nature tour or going all out for dinner — you can do it all.
7. The Ranch at Rock Creek
In the mountains of Montana, luxury meets rugged cowboy life. All-inclusive packages at The Ranch aren’t cheap, but they get you the full Montana experience: fly fishing on world-class creeks, horseback trips up rocky trails to pristine vistas, and “glamping” in plush wall tents or in one of nine beautifully restored cabins. The staff will take good care of the kids too — The Little Grizzlies Kids Club has themed days available, from a day of exploring Rock Creek’s ecosystem and identifying fish to learning about wilderness safety or horse riding. And again — it’s all included, from fine dining to fly fishing instruction. Getting to the ranch does take some time, so make sure you’re prepared and read our tips on how to travel and move long distance with children.