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Family_travel_russellBy Tom Russell

Adventure travel means something different to everyone — but as parents with three grade-school-aged children, it definitely does NOT mean sleeping in tents and climbing the ranges of Nepal. But you can still add some adventure to your family vacation and see some incredible scenery, as long as you are willing to get outside and get off of the beaten path.

Two years ago, my wife and I took our three kids (then ages 13, 11, and 9) to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for 3 full days of hiking, before heading to the sandy shores of Maine for four days of relaxing on the beach. I had hiked up Mount Washington, the highest peak in the U.S. east of the Rockies, when I was a teenager, and wanted to take my kids to see this amazing part of the country.

Mount Washington is located near Bretton Woods, N.H., and the Mount Washington Hotel is a historic property that sits at the base of the mountain. The White Mountain National Forest has over 1,200 miles of hiking trails that range from scenic day hikes to several-day true adventure treks. There are free shuttles that connect several popular trailheads, and lots of the trails offer a great opportunity for your family to get out and experience the White Mountains first-hand.

Our family hikes included we made the short 60-minute round-trip hike to the top of the "Elephant," a large rock formation in Crawford’s Notch in the heart of the White Mountains, and a longer 3-hour round-trip hike up to the top of Mount Willard. While you definitely want to be in decent shape to make this hike, it was not that bad — even for our three kids. And the waterfalls on the way and views when we made it to the top were well worth the effort.

We’ve found that hiking is a great family vacation activity — it lets you see the scenery first-hand, and it can really help your kids tell their friends back home about what they accomplished. We’ve also gone hiking in Sedona, Arizona,which is another great family-friendly vacation spot if you want to balance rest and relaxation with a touch of adventure.

There are lots of resources available for you to plan hikes in our national forests. The key is to do some research in advance — but don’t plan out every minute — that takes all of the adventure out of your adventure trip! Instead, have a rough idea of what you want to do and see on your trip — and then decide for sure once you’ve arrived and gotten a lay of the land. Most importantly — don’t be afraid to get out and walk around — there is a whole world out there to explore with your family.

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 Tom Russell has three children ages 11-15 whose leisure interests range from tap dancing to science to electric guitar. You can imagine that planning a family vacation for this group can be quite a challenge.   

Tagged: Family time

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