I have always wanted to visit one of the 10th Mountain Division huts tucked high within Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Named to honor the men of the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army who trained during World War II in Central Colorado, the system of 29 backcountry huts are connected by 350 miles of suggested routes.
Hitting the trails is a great way to get some exercise and explore an area up close. Strike out with friends, join a group, or sign up for a guided outing.
Find a trail close to home or make a great hike the centerpiece of a family adventure. Consider these places that blend history, great views and a good time.
1. The Grand Canyon.
Why not think big? I’ve hiked within this national treasure with two of my sons when they were ten years old. I observed that kids often scamper up and down the trails with more ease than their parents. Offering some shade and water along the way, the Bright Angel Trail is the best place to start for great views of the inner canyon. Choose day hikes to the Three-Mile Resthouse ( 3 miles one way ) or to Indian Garden ( 4.6 miles one way ). Better yet, reserve a camp site at the Bright Angel campground ( 9.3 miles one-way) or bunks at Phantom Ranch ( 9.8 miles one way) for a fuller experience. Plan well in advance. Reservations for Phantom Ranch can only be made by mail, phone or fax. 888.29.PARKS; www.grandcanyonlodges.com/phantom-ranch. For camping visit www.recreation.gov.
2. Yellowstone National Park.
Within this wonderland’s 2.2 million acres, hiking options are plentiful. The Beaver Pond hike near the Mammoth Hot Springs is a great spot to see wildlife. During a recent visit there were several elk in the parking lot! This gentle, 5 mile loop trail passes through Douglas fir, aspens and fields of grass and sage. Expect spectacular views of surrounding mountains.
Explore the scenic trails near Cooke City and explore fabulous high mountain lakes. Spend the night at the Skyline Guest Ranch for enjoy warm hospitality and a hearty breakfast. Contact: www.YellowstonePark.net/hiking or www.TravelMT.com.
3. Southern California’s Backbone Trail.
Not far from the Hollywood action you’ll find the 68 mile Backbone Trail. Choose from a handful of day hike options. Try the Ray Miller Trail, accessed through the Pt. Mugu State Park. One mile in you’ll encounter a seasonal waterfall. You’ll be worlds away from the urban hustle. (805) 370-2301 www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/backbonetrailsegments.htm
4. Washington DC/Virginia - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal –
Take a break from museum hopping and stretch your legs on this scenic path that passes by several old locks and a lock house. Just 20 minutes from Washington, DC, this hike begins at the Angler’s Inn and follows the canal towpath for 2.3 miles to the Great Falls Tavern. Spectacular in the fall, the trip provides an opportunity to discuss the way locks once lifted boats 600 feet during the years – from the 1830s until 1924 – it was in use. In the same area, consider The Billy Goat trail , a four mile loop hike. www.trailink.com.
5. San Diego – The Silver Strand (also known as the Bayshore Bikeway).
Enjoy the sweet smell and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean on this 11-mile route that follows the path of an old railroad grade. Flat and paved, it’s stroller (and bike) friendly. Check out the Navy ships floating in the harbor. The path connects Coronado with Imperial Beach. Later take in the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. www.Railsandtrails.org
Every day should be Earth Day celebration. Here are some special ways we can honor our beautiful planet. Take part!
Enjoy a Farm Stay.
Get close to the land by planning a farm stay. You’ll wake to a rooster call or the sounds of other barnyard animals welcoming in the day. Share in the chores or simply observe a lifestyle that is likely quite different from your own. Enjoy farm fresh eggs for breakfast before pitching in to help with the day’s chores. Depending on the farm you choose, you can relax on a hammock, go for a horseback ride, pick berries, fish the local stream or read a book under a shade tree. Animals and activities vary by farm. Contact: www.vtfarms.org; www.pafarmstay.com.
Kids to Parks.
Join your children in a grassroots movement to celebrate our country’s local, state and national parks The following day, grown-ups are encouraged to take their children and grandchildren to one of thousands of treasured parks across the country. Kids can tweet about their participation or send photos that will be posted on a national map. Check the site for park activities and other family-friendly suggestions. Contact: www.BuddyBison.org.; www.ParkTrust.org.
Be an Eco-traveler.
Costa Rica was an early leader in the ecotourism movement. Visit Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the country’s Osa Peninsula, for an intense wildlife and biologically diverse experience. Choose to embark on this Tropical Adventure and you’ll find your family on the “Twigs, Pigs and Garbage Sustainability Tour”, joining wild cat researchers in their efforts to conserve jaguar and pumas and exploring nearby tide pools. Contact: 800-345-4453; www.Wildland.com; www.laparios.com.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Monona, Wisconsin.
Visit the nature center inspired by Wisconsin naturalist and author Aldo Leopold for outdoor activities designed with the busy family in mind. Explore walking trails supported by season specific backpacks, offering exploration guides and an activity kit. Visit the Leopold Interpretive Trail and the special “touch table” that encourages young children to get a feel for nature items like feathers, bones, fur and rocks. Ask about spring break and summer camp programs just for kids. Contact: (608) 221-0404; www.naturenet.com/alnc/dropinprogs.htm
First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn.
Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing:
LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.
The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses. You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond. Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill.
Contact:For class registration: www.llbean.com
Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.
The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families. When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.
Match the Hatch. Montana.
Great places and great experiences and best when shared with people you love. Spend a day on the Madison River with Joe Dilschneider, owner of Ennis, MT-based TroutStalkers and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. You’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Madison River, the Yellowstone River, a long stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on Montana Rivers, where the scenery is as compelling as the lure of a trout on the line.
Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.
With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan.
Contact: www.BlackberryFarm.com .