Best Hikes in the United States for Families
When it comes to family hikes, we’ve been on plenty. Some of them have been fun and filled with remarkable landscapes. Others have made us question our sanity.
Or our kids’ sanity, depending on the situation.
Regardless, we know the value of getting out there with your family and exploring the outdoors. Not much compares with spending a day in nature with the people you love! Plus, it’s good for you. 😉
But, no matter how much you love your kids, it’s important to remember that not all hikes are family-friendly. Distance, difficulty, and terrain are all things to take into consideration when you are hiking with kids.
We wanted to put together a list of the best family-friendly hikes in the United States. But, we realized that – although we have lots that we know and love – we’ve only been on a handful of the options available in the U.S. There are so many more!
So, we reached out to our community of bloggers and asked them to share their favorite family-friendly hikes with us. The result is a 2 part series of Family Friendly Hikes. Part 1 is the Continental United States and is what we have for you today, and Part 2 will be exclusive to hikes in Hawaii!
No matter where you live in the United States, you should be able to find some inspiration for your next hike…or, an idea for a trek to add to your next vacation.
Northwest U.S. Hikes
Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mt. St. Helens, Washington
On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted devastating the area, forming lahars, spewing lava and ash into the air, and killing wildlife and people. What remained was a large crater and an area devoid of life. However, over the last few decades, that life has returned abundantly. You can still see the remnants of the destruction, but you can also find wildflowers, wildlife, and beauty where once there was none.
It is an incredible place to visit to appreciate the sheer magnitude and strength of mother nature. When you visit, you can make it very family-friendly by starting your visit inside the Observatory for a movie about the eruption and other learning opportunities. Then, head outside to take it all in while you hike the Eruption Trail to Boundary Trail #1, then back around via the Observatory Walk. This paved path makes for a family-friendly way to get stunning views of the crater as well as appreciate the life that continues to flourish in the wake of the eruption.
Wahkeena Springs Trail, Oregon
When you think of waterfalls in the Portland area, Multnomah Falls is typically the waterfall that you think of first. However, just a short distance away is another hike that should not be discounted: Wahkeena Springs Trail.
After only approximately 1/4 mile of moderately steep switchbacks, you will reach Wahkeena Falls, an exciting destination all on its own. To be fair, if your kids are little or you have anyone in your group with knee or back problems, we recommend stopping here. After the falls, the switchbacks get more intense. However, if you continue, roughly 0.8 miles into the trail you will reach Lemmons Point with sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge. If your kids are older, consider braving the remainder of the hike for a total of approximately 2 miles and 1100 ft of elevation. You can find where the springs themselves bubble up out of the ground and take a moment to relax by the water.
If you are considering this hike, read our post on Wahkeena Springs. You can even watch a hyper-lapse of our return back down the trail to get the full picture!
Southwest United States Hikes
Pine Valley, Utah
Guest Contributor: Jessi Bang from The Rambling Raccoon
Pine Valley Recreation Area is located in the beautiful and scenic Pine Valley, Utah and has an elevation of 6,900 feet. This valley offers a great escape from the summer heat of the Southern Utah desert. Pine Valley Reservoir is a beautiful place to fish, explore, get away-time from your everyday life, and take tons of photos! There are limitless family-friendly hikes in this area, all of which offer picturesque views and an amazing family experience.
With its lush scenery and beautiful mountains, you really can’t go wrong spending a day here, or even better – camping!
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Whipple Trail is our favorite hike to do in Pine Valley. You can explore the flowing waterfalls and the beautiful mountain views, take in the towering pine trees and crisp, mountain air. If you do the entire trail, up and back, you’re looking at a 10.6-mile round-trip hike. That doesn’t mean you have to do the entire thing! Go up as far as you’d like and come back the way you came! This hike is not only family-friendly but dog-friendly as well! It’s also a beautiful place to visit, no matter what time of year it is.
You can read more about Pine Valley on this post.
Keep in mind that if you are in the Southern Utah area, the adventures, hikes, and scenery are some of the most beautiful you’ll see anywhere! Visit The Rambling Raccoon to see all the adventure possibilities!
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Guest Contributor: Danielle Schleig from Wanderlust While Working
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs features some incredible red rock outcroppings set against a backdrop of Pike’s Peak and the Rocky Mountains. With such varied and beautiful terrain, it’s a perfect place to get some hiking in with the family. While there is a short wheelchair-accessible path through the major formations, the best views in the park are on the Palmer Trail that wraps around the exterior.
The trail is only a few miles long with limited elevation gain, making it doable for the whole family. It’s best to park in the P2 lot and walking around the Palmer trail down to the Siamese Twins rock formation. From there you can make your way back up the Palmer trail or walk through the interior of the park following the Scotsman Trail back to the Central Garden Trail. All in all, a beautiful (and free!) place to wander for an afternoon. Check out this Beginner’s Guide to Garden of the Gods for more details on the rock formations, wildlife, and other activities.
Riverside Walk and the Narrows: Zion National Park
Guest Contributor: Julie Thorne from More Than Main Street
A list of amazing hikes in the USA would not be complete without including the Riverside Walk and The Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah. The Riverside Walk is an easy hike that you must take to get to the entrance of The Narrows. It is about two miles roundtrip, handicapped accessible, and has breathtaking views all on its own.
However, the ultimate goal at Zion is hiking The Narrows. It is truly an experience unlike any other! Hiking through the Virgin River with canyon walls shooting up thousands of feet beside you is incredible! The best part about hiking The Narrows? You determine how far you go since you literally turn around when you’ve had enough. You can do as much or as little of the day hike as you wish, which in turn makes it possible for all ages and levels of hikers. The Riverside Walk and The Narrows should be added to every adventure lover’s bucket list!
Congress Trail in Sequoia National Park
Guest Contributor: James Ian from Parks Collecting
One of the best family hikes in the United States is the Congress Trail in Sequoia National Park. Sequoias are the largest species of trees in existence. The largest trees of them all are in Sequoia National Park and the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park and have each been given names.
The path along the Congress Trail is not steep and is paved the whole way, making it possible to do with a stroller. There are short dirt tracks branching off to the sides to other trees, but these are easy to walk along with young children. The trail starts with the Sherman Tree Trail, from the parking lot through a tunnel carved in the trunk of a tree that fell across the path, to the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on earth.
From there, the trail passes through pine forest until it gets to more enormous sequoia trees. The trees along the Congress Trail are named after political and historical figures and entities. You will encounter giants like the President Tree, the Chief Sequoya Tree, and the Room Tree (which has a hollowed-out trunk big enough for the whole family to walk into at the same time). There are also small groves of giant trees called the Senate and the House. Read about all of the trees along the Congress Trail here. This is a really fun trail that kids will love to see and explore!
Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Parks
Guest Contributor: Ladona Stork from Walking the Parks
The trail to Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National parks leads to a stunning waterfall that will impress the whole family. The trail starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead with a walk through a beautiful forest. One of our favorite sections of the 3 mile round trip trail is where it parallels Glacier Creek. The sounds and scenery are incredibly relaxing.
The paved trail slowly gains elevation of only 250 ft, making it quite comfortable for an average hiker and perfect for kids. Although I have seen strollers on this trail, it seems a little too steep for easy pushing.
You’ll want to pack a small picnic for when you arrive at the falls. Alberta Falls is surrounded by huge boulders that are ideal for settling in to enjoy your snack before you grab some amazing photos. Family photos in this spot could easily be on your next Christmas Card!
To make access to hiking super easy, Rocky Mountain National Park runs a Park and Ride shuttle service all summer. Park in the big Park-and-Ride lot or at the visitors center and hop on the shuttle to avoid fighting for parking at the trailhead. Kids will love the adventure of the bus ride, and you will love the no stress way to enjoy this popular hike.
Northeast United States Hikes
The Pinnacle in Lake George, NY
Guest Contributor: Amanda Patsey from Patsey Family Travels
The Adirondacks are full of wonderful hiking opportunities ranging from easy flat trails to more adventurous mountain climbs. This state park in New York is absolutely huge, and a popular place to visit in the Adirondacks is Lake George. Located just under 20 minutes from this popular vacation destination is a great family-friendly hike, resulting in breathtaking views of Lake George.
The Pinnacle is a short hike at only 1.5 miles out and back and has less than 500 feet of elevation gain. The walk is perfect for kids of all ages because it is not terribly steep and does not have any rock scrambles. My kids (4 & 8) loved the hike, especially for the muddy sections they had to maneuver around when we visited in the early summer. At the top of the trail, you are rewarded with an amazing view, and some great places to take a break and have lunch. We loved that this hike was a quick one, but it is a great bang for your buck type of hike!
Bubble Rock Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine
Guest Contributor: Margie DQ from DQ Family Travel
Bubble Rock is an easy and scenic family-friendly hike located in Acadia National Park in Maine. While it does have an ascent, it was gentle enough for my two kids, ages 7 and 9. The trail length is just under 2 miles.
Bubble Rock Trail is well known in Acadia due to its uniqueness. It is literally a giant rock that is perched at the edge of the cliff. It was left there during the last Ice Age and has not budged since. The trail begins in a forested area, then changes to some rock scrambling to ascend. Once you reach the top where the Bubble Rock overlook is, you will be treated to some gorgeous views of Acadia National Park, the Atlantic Ocean, and the huge rock itself. This trail was definitely a family favorite for us.
Rickett’s Glen State Park, PA
Guest Contributor: Karen Dawkins from Family Travels on a Budget
Ricketts Glen State Park in northeastern Pennsylvania offers adventurous families stunning views of waterfalls, great hiking, rock climbing, and camping. There are 21 falls in the Glens Natural Area, all of which can be reached on one long loop hike. The less adventurous can see Adams falls, a 36′ fall that spills into beautiful pools below, on a quick walk from the parking area. It’s an easy, two-minute hike from the lot. The park’s Lake Jean has a sandy beach where summer vacationers can go swimming, fishing, and boating. The park is part of the Audubon birding trail, so bring binoculars and take time to listen.
Our favorite trail is the Highland trail, which wanders through the hemlock forest, through some stunning rock formations and the Midway Crevasse, to the Onondaga Falls. It’s an easy to moderate hiking trail with rewarding views of the waterfall at the end. The trails at Ricketts Glen Park are well-marked and easy to follow. Bring sturdy shoes for the hike, bottled water, and a camera. Visit Family Travels on a Budget to learn more about Ricketts Glen State Park.
Ringing Rocks County Park, Bucks County, PA
Guest Contributor: Shobha George from Just Go Places Blog
Ringing Rocks County Park in Bucks County Pennsylvania is a great destination to visit with kids. The park is a short drive through the countryside past the super pretty artsy town of New Hope located on the Delaware River. Overall the Ringing Rocks County Park is 123 acres, but its biggest attraction is the 7-acre boulder field.
What makes Ringing Rocks special? The field of boulders – large and small – that children can clamber over and tap with a hammer. No one knows why these boulders make the sounds they do or even how the boulder field got into its current location. When tapped with a hammer, the boulders produce different ringing sounds that make the sound like bells. It’s also worth bringing different sizes/types of hammers to produce different sounds. It’s definitely a surreal experience watching children roaming the park with hammers!
Once the kids get tired of climbing rocks, there is also a hike you can take to see Bucks County’s largest waterfall aptly named High Falls. The high Falls waterfall is seasonally dependent and in summer can be quite dry. We were able to walk over, and around the waterfall, it was so dry.
Menemsha Hills Reservation, Martha’s Vineyard
Guest Contributor: Shobha George from Martha’s Vineyard Tourist
When you want a change from hanging out at the beach, or the weather makes it a non-beach day, consider hiking one of the many trails that are part of the conservation land in Martha’s Vineyard. The hike at Menemsha Hills Reservation has been consistently voted among the best ones to do in Martha’s Vineyard. The land is owned and managed by the Trustees of the Reservation which takes care of conservation land for public use throughout the state of Massachusetts.
Menemsha Hills is an easy hike of about 3 miles on the north shore of the island and suitable to do with children. There is parking at the start of the trail (and handy portable toilets). As you would expect, there are lots of tree-shaded paths which are great for hiking in the summer heat. There are lookout points where you can get water views of the Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands. Even though the hike goes through the second highest part of the island, there is only a small uphill bit to walk, which is easy to manage. Children will love exploring the woods but make sure you do a tick check on them after you finish the hike.
If you want a family-friendly hike, any of these options would be a spectacular place to start. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Family-Friendly Hike Series for the best family-friendly hikes in Hawaii!
We plan to update this list regularly as we explore even more of our country. Tell us below if you have a hike you think should make the list!