Get your family outdoors! We asked our adventure families about their favorite spots to hit the rock, trail, and water.
Pisgah National Forest, N.C. (featured)
Pisgah National Forest has plenty of trails for toddlers including the short hike to Looking Glass Falls and the many interpretive trails at the Cradle of Forestry Center. The center also has a café that will keep hungry toddlers happy.
Best Family Weekend Adventure: New River Gorge, W.Va.
If there’s one place that rose to the top of the favorites list over and over again, it’s the outdoor mecca of the New River Gorge. “I like the New River Gorge for the whole experience. We camp, hike, and climb there,” says Jonathan Horst.
Best Camping For Parents WHO Want To Play: Davidson River, N.C.
The campground at Davidson River near Brevard, North Carolina, is a playground for everyone in the family. With access to hiking, mountain biking trails, and swimming holes, “one parent can hang with the kids by the river while the other parent rides,” says Freese. “That way, everyone gets their time in the woods.”
Best URBAN Sanctuary: James River, Va.
“We spend a lot of time at the James River in Richmond,” says Chris Hull. “You can hike, bike, and fish, and the swimming in the summer is fantastic. It’s wilderness in the middle of the city.”
Best Running Trails: Bent Creek, N.C.
Bent Creek is Asheville, North Carolina’s go-to trail system. Though the forest sees a lot of visitors, Bent Creek has over 30 miles of trails, enough to allow you feel alone in the woods. “Running and biking out there is amazing,” says Chilton Curwen.
Best Easy Family Backpacking Trip: Sam’s Knob, N.C.
Clocking in at only 3.2 miles round-trip, the hike to Sam’s Knob is easy enough for kids. Pitch your tent at the summit for amazing views of sunset and sunrise. “I camp at Sam’s Knob every year. That’s a tradition I have with my dad,” says Chilton Curwen.
Best Family Mountain Biking Trails: Jackrabbit Trails, N.C.
Located on the peninsula of Lake Chatuge near the North Carolina and Georgia border, this trail system has 15 miles of singletrack that’s great for all skill levels, beginner to advanced. “These are awesome trails for kids,” says Freese.
Best Action-Packed National Forest: Monongahela National Forest, W.Va.
From the top-tier climbing at Seneca Rocks to the beautiful vistas at Spruce Knob, West Virginia’s highest peak, Monongahela National Forest will keep your family entertained and awed.
Best Day Hike For Older Kids: Dragon’s Tooth, Va.
“I’m a big advocate for the Appalachian Trail,” says Dan Caston. “It’s a New Year’s Day tradition of ours to hike Dragon’s Tooth.” With it’s manageable distance (4.3 miles) and fun rock scramble to the peak, Dragon’s Tooth will keep your teen challenged and entertained.
Best For New Paddlers: Big South Fork National Forest, Tenn.
While some parts of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River may not be suitable for newbies, other areas are perfect for beginners. For older kids ready to test the water, the Cumberland Plateau is a great place to try your hand at whitewater paddling.
Best Climbing For Kids: Red River Gorge, Ky.
“The Red River Gorge is a great area in its own right as far as world-class rock climbing,” says Eric Horst. But, because all of the approaches in the Red River Gorge are from the base, “it’s a good choice for people with kids,” he says.