USA & Canada | Destination Guides

10 best outdoor family vacations you can take this year

Recently updated on May 15th, 2024 at 11:47 am

Ready to reconnect with nature? Whether you’re a family that loves the beach, the mountains, or somewhere in between, these are the best outdoor family vacations in the USA and Canada. From spotting incredible wildlife like moose and turtles to seeing the most iconic natural wonders like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone’s geysers, here are ten of the best places in North America where you and your family can get back to the great outdoors. 

1. For glaciers, moose and bears: the Canadian Rockies

colourful canoes on blue lake surrounded by forest and Canadian Rockies

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; the Canadian Rockies is one of the most extraordinary places on earth, making it one of the best places in Canada for an outdoor family vacation. From the snowy peaks to the electric turquoise lakes and the lush forests filled with wildlife, this is nature at its best. Spanning across Alberta and British Columbia provinces, the Rockies offer plenty of family fun.

Hit the beautiful national parks like Banff, Jasper and Yoho to go hiking among waterfalls, meadows and ancient glaciers. Drive along the Icefields Parkways for mesmerizing views and stop for picnics and photos along the way. You can even go kayaking on the sparkling lakes or take a gondola ride to admire the panoramic mountain views. A family trip to the Canadian Rockies is sure to ignite a lifelong love of the great outdoors.

EXPERIENCE IT WITH TRAFALGAR: Secrets of the Rockies and Glacier National Park 

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2. For turtles, beaches and volcanoes: Hawaii

rugged green mountains by the ocean in Hawaii

There are few better places for families to get up close to nature than Hawaii. Learn how to surf in Honolulu or marvel at the black sand and Hawaiian green sea turtles of Punalu’u Beach on the Big Island. Visit the thrilling Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and learn about the island’s fascinating geology. Go snorkeling to meet manta rays, go for a trail walk to discover the stunning Kohala Waterfalls or spot dolphins at Lanai Island. In Hawaii, ohana (family) is deeply important, meaning the island is incredibly kid friendly. With pristine beaches and unique wildlife on every island, Hawaii is one big natural playground for the whole family.

EXPERIENCE IT: Best of Hawaii 

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3. For mighty trees over 3000 years old: Sequoia National Park

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of awe and wonder you get when faced with an ancient tree. Sequoia National Park is full in California is full of these marvels, and makes a fantastic destination for a family outdoor vacation, The park is home to the awe-inspiring Giant Forest, where you’ll marvel at the towering sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree: the largest tree on Earth! The park’s diverse landscape provides opportunities for hiking, with trails ranging from easy walks to challenging treks leading to stunning vistas like Moro Rock. You can also explore the fascinating Crystal Cave, a marble cavern adorned with striking formations. In summer, the park’s rivers and lakes are perfect for picnicking, fishing, and swimming, while winter brings the chance for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

4. For hot springs and iconic wildlife: Yellowstone National Park, Montana

steaming turquoise geyser in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the United States, first opened all the way back in 1872. It’s also one of the best places in the USA for families to reconnect with nature. Set mostly in Wyoming, the park encompasses over 2.2 million pristine acres. You can spot incredible wildlife such as bison, elk and bears from designated viewing areas and go on guided hikes through the ancient forests and vast canyons. You also can’t miss the geothermal jewels of Yellowstone – the spouting geysers. You’ll see turquoise hot springs, bubbling mud pots and spouting geysers, including the renowned Old Faithful geyser where you can watch its waters arc high into the air. 

EXPERIENCE IT: Scenic Parks Explorer

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5. For astonishing rock formations and desert: Arches National Park, Utah

red sandstone arch in Arches National Park

Outdoor family vacations are all about the wonder of exploration. When you’re out there in the desert with barren canyons stretching out into the horizon, and mysterious rock formations at every turn, it’s hard to not feel an exciting sense of adventure. Whether you’ve got a budding geologist in your family or you simply love incredible natural landscapes, you’ve got to put Arches National Park on your list. Located in southeastern Utah, Arches offers up the unique opportunity to get up close to its otherworldly sandstone arches and desert landscapes. There are over 2,000 documented arches, including the famous Delicate Arch, and it’s a fascinating place to learn about the magic of Mother Nature. Take your pick of easy trails and challenging hikes and walk to Double Arch, Landscape Arch or Turret Arch. Admire the spectacular vistas and learn all about the park’s amazing ecosystem. 

While you’re in Utah, you may as well explore the rest of the state’s amazing national parks, such as Zion with its towering sandstone cliffs, Bryce Canyon with its unique hoodoo formations, Canyonlands offering vast desert landscapes and dramatic canyons, and Capitol Reef showcasing stunning rock formations and historical petroglyphs. Make sure to try your hand at horseback riding in the Dixie National Forest, feeling like you’ve wandered on the set of a western movie – only in real life.

EXPERIENCE IT: Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks

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6. For mystical elk and glassy lakes: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Colorado, with its majestic Rocky Mountains, is heaven for the outdoor enthusiast. The state boasts an array of activities set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Families can explore Rocky Mountain National Park, where hiking trails lead to alpine lakes and panoramic vistas, and wildlife sightings include elk and bighorn sheep. In winter, Colorado transforms into a snowy wonderland with world-class skiing and snowboarding at resorts like Aspen, Vail, and Breckenridge. Summer offers opportunities for white-water rafting, mountain biking, and scenic drives through mountain passes blooming with wildflowers. You could even check out one of Colorado’s many dude ranches, where you can experience horseback riding, cattle drives, and Western-style hospitality amidst the stunning Rocky Mountain scenery. With its endless recreational options and breathtaking landscapes, Colorado guarantees an unforgettable family adventure.

EXPERIENCE IT: Iconic Rockies and Western Canada

7. For hiking, biking and skiing: Whistler, British Columbia

snowy forest landscape in Whistler

If your family loves to get active in nature, you’ll adore Whistler. This world-class ski destination sits in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia in Canada… But it’s so much more than just skiing. You can take a ride on the world record-breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola to take in the most spectacular views of snowy peaks, crystal-clear lakes and dense forests. Next, get immersed in these landscapes and go hiking and biking through over 50km of beautiful trails. You can even go for a bike ride on the paved valley trail or the famous single-track network at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Whatever you go for, Whistler promises to be the ultimate family bonding destination.

EXPERIENCE IT: Iconic Rockies and Western Canada

8. For waterfalls and ancient forests: Yosemite National Park, California

elk grazing in a meadow in front of forest and rocky cliff in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is another icon of the US National Parks and one of the very best outdoor family vacations to immerse in nature. With breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife, it’s a remarkable place for families to connect with nature. Set in California, you’ll see giant, ancient sequoia trees, cascading waterfalls, wildflower meadows, and towering granite cliffs. Be sure to see the most famous landmarks like El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. Then take your pick of activities from hiking and rock climbing to stargazing at night. Your family is sure to fall in love with Yosemite and its brilliant nature.

EXPERIENCE IT: Northern California

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9. For humpback whales and glacial icebergs: Alaska

humpback whale breaking water in Alaska

Alaska, with its breathtaking landscapes and abundant wildlife, is a superb destination for a family outdoor vacation. Gaze in awe at the glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park and look up in wonder at Denali, North America’s tallest peak. Families can embark on unforgettable adventures, such as whale watching in Juneau, dog sledding on vast icy expanses, or exploring the serene beauty of Prince William Sound. The rich cultural heritage of native Alaskan communities and the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights add a unique touch to your vacation. Whether hiking, fishing, or sitting in a dog sled, you’re sure to be in bliss when you’ve got the Alaskan surroundings to look at.

EXPERIENCE IT: Majestic Alaska

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10. For record-breaking panoramas: Grand Canyon, Arizona

panoramic view over the Grand Canyon

If you want to see the best of nature in the American Southwest, you can’t miss the Grand Canyon. As one of the Natural Wonders of the World, its sheer size and beauty are unparalleled. Anyone who visits here is sure to leave with a profound appreciation for the powers of nature. Carved out by the Colorado River millions of years ago, you can go right down to the canyon floor to learn about the unique ecology of the Grand Canyon. You can also go hiking and white-water rafting, try out your photography skills at sunset, or wait until night falls to go stargazing. If you want to get the best views, you could even take an unforgettable helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. It’s a trip your family will talk about for years to come.

EXPERIENCE IT: Five Epic National Parks

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What are your best places in the USA to enjoy a nature travel experiece? Let us know in the comments below!

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