Happy Trails! 8 Great Hikes for Families—from Day Trips to Overnight Treks
Taking a family hike is a fun and rejuvenating way to immerse yourself in the epic landscapes of the United States. Whether you opt for a quick day trip or a guided multinight journey, the waterfalls, mountains, canyons, lakes, and woodlands you experience along the way will connect you and your family to nature and to each other.
To help get you going, we’ve gathered eight rewarding options in destinations across the U.S. with options for every member of the family—active types, animal lovers, new parents, grandparents, and hikers with disabilities.
Let’s hit the trails!
Llamas haul your sleeping bags, tents, and other gear to campsites during these multiday guided hikes from Wildland Trekking. Freed from the burden of schlepping heavy backpacks, your crew can venture into the backcountry with minimal grumbling. There might be some humming from the llamas, though—that’s how they communicate. In addition to enjoying the soundtrack, youngsters and others who aren’t speedy hikers will appreciate the ruminants’ moderate walking pace.
During Wildland Trekking’s 4-day Thunder Lake Llama Adventure, the animals rest at camp while you and the kids take day hikes to meadows, forests, waterfalls, and lakes. At the trip’s end, lead your pack animal back to the Wild Basin trailhead and hum a sorrowful goodbye.
Recommended kids’ ages: 5 years and older for private trips, 12 years and older for scheduled group trips
Group size: 5 people
Wilderness Inquiry’s Families Together tours make the outdoors accessible for people with disabilities via adaptive equipment and volunteer guides. On the 6-day Glacier National Park Family Adventure trip, the group journeys to glacial lakes, waterfalls, and trails near Logan Pass, the highest point on the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road. Wheelchair users travel by way of a kind of rickshaw adapted for rugged terrain, while other trekkers can learn about the surroundings from a sign language interpreter or guide offering descriptions for anyone with a visual impairment or low vision.
Wilderness Inquiry also offers canoeing and kayaking adventures. Additionally, trips may be adapted for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, multiple sclerosis, and autism spectrum disorders.
Recommended kids’ ages: no minimum
Group size: 7-18 people
Utah’s otherworldly red rock formations and desert scenery take center stage on REI’s 5-day Family Zion and Bryce Hiking trip. In Zion National Park, hike through canyons with flaming-red walls and stroll amid the cottonwood trees along the Virgin River. At Bryce Canyon National Park, you’ll trek to panoramic overlooks showcasing the park’s iconic rock spires known as hoodoos. And at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you’ll view Native American pictographs and swim at the base of a waterfall.
The outdoor gear and clothing company’s family trips include children’s games to make learning fun, and groups stay at campsites for two consecutive nights to minimize repacking. Guides prepare meals and ready the tents, which makes things easier—though participants should be prepared to hike 3 to 6 miles per day.
Recommended kids’ ages: 8–17 years
Group size: 4–12 people
Straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park rewards visitors with waterfalls, lush forests, and misty mountain ridgelines stretching to the horizon. On fascinating day hikes, the naturalist guides of A Walk in the Woods deepen tourgoers’ appreciation of the setting with kid-friendly info on the region’s trees, insects, wildlife, and human history.
On the two-hour Exploring Nature with Children Walk, kids learn how to forage for food, name a tree by its bark, and search for salamanders near creeks. Other options cover everything from wildflowers to waterfalls. A Walk in the Woods also leads customized backpacking tours for families.
Recommended kids’ ages: 3–12 years
Group size: at least 4 people
Lasting Adventures enriches your encounters with Yosemite National Park’s towering sequoias, granite monoliths, waterfalls, and lakes on day-long or multinight hiking trips. Since the operator’s family day hikes are private, guides can tailor the beginner, intermediate, and advanced itineraries to your group’s interests. The 6-hour Yosemite Valley Tour for beginners combines iconic sites with the less-visited Indian Caves and can include stops at museums and the Ansel Adams Gallery.
The company’s 2- to 5-day camping trips likewise balance signature and off-the-beaten-path sites. Hikers on the 4-day May Lake to Snow Creek trip see Tenaya Lake, ascend mountain trails, and camp opposite Half Dome. Lasting Adventures also offers day hikes and overnight camping trips in Washington State’s Olympic National Park.
Recommended kids’ ages: 6 years and older for beginner day hikes, 8 years and older for beginner overnight trips
Group size: 4–12 people for day hikes, 8–10 people for overnight trips
The trips offered by the Sierra Club help support the nonprofit’s mission of conserving the environment. And maybe after some incredible hiking, rafting, biking, and bison-spotting, your family of happy campers will become ardent conservationists, too. Led by volunteers to keep fees moderate, the organization’s family-focused trips include options for parents and kids, grandparents and grandchildren, and other multigenerational combos.
On the weeklong family camping trip to the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, you’ll hike through valleys and canyons and across streams as you get to know the underrated park from a base camp. You might spot bison, prairie dogs, wild horses, and elk. One night, the group attends the western-themed Medora Musical, an outdoor variety show with singers, jugglers, dancers, and a fireworks finale.
Recommended kids’ ages: 5 years and older (depending on the trip)
Group size: 12-15 people
For a do-it-yourself hiking getaway, choose from more than 20 miles of trails at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. The sound of rushing water pulls you along the trails. To reach an overlook for Blackwater Falls, with its 57-foot drop, you climb down (and then back up) 200-plus wooden stairs. The tannic acid in hemlock and spruce needles that fall into the water darkens it, giving the fall its name.
Kids will also like the 35-foot-high Elakala cascades. An easy half-mile trail through birch, maple, and hemlock trees leads to a wooden boardwalk over the falls, and paths take you down the gorge to other ripples. In the park, you can camp or stay at the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge, which has a restaurant, small indoor pool, and tennis courts.
Recommended kids’ ages: infants and older
You gotta like a hiking organization that lists the pace for its “Toddle Waddle” as “wandering,” a realistic understanding of how toddlers take to a trail. Getting out of the house often feels daunting for parents of babies and preschoolers, and enjoying the outdoors can seem like a distant dream. But Hike It Baby, which has 250 branches in the U.S. and Canada, aims to remedy that by encouraging outdoor walks for adults and their kids.
The no-fee-required organization doesn’t provide guided tours—instead, it’s a community of local families interested in raising a generation of nature lovers. Many rambles are in neighborhood, county, and state parks. Any member can host a local hike, welcoming parents, grandparents, nannies, and caregivers to the outing.
Posted details for the jaunt include whether the terrain is stroller-friendly and if bathrooms are nearby. Among the range of offerings: adult-paced hikes for those with babies in carriers; city hikes for stroller-pushers; hikes with toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners; and access hikes inclusive of people with differing abilities. Mileage ranges from 0.5 to 5 miles.
Recommended kids’ ages: babies through 5-year-olds
Group size: up to 20 people, not counting infants in strollers or carriers