Our Family's Top 20 Adventures from 3 Years Road Tripping America
Backpacking, hiking, camping, paddling and just enjoying nature!
Over the last three years, our family of five has explored the United States while traveling full time in our Airstream trailer. We’ve been able to experience many different climates, adventures, and expand our outdoor adventure capabilities. We camp, rock climb, mountain bike, backpack and paddle whenever we can in addition to just living regular life. We haven’t visited all lower 48 states (yet) with a noticeable lack of time in New England, so many of our adventures are concentrated in the west. Although we’ve had too many amazing experiences to count (both large and small), here’s a list a quick of our 20 most memorable family adventures:
We knew this would be epic before we even got there. Beautiful sandy beaches, snorkeling, dark night skies, amazing sunrises, and historic Fort Jefferson all made this particular New Year’s Eve camping trip one of our all time favorites. Learn more.
The Pacific Northwest is green and gorgeous and the Oregon coast has its own rugged appeal. On a whim we decided to rent a boat and crabbing gear from Kelly’s Brighton Marina just north of Tillamook. Although the clacking, wiggling crabs scared the kids at first, soon they were pulling crab pots out of the water like champions. Kelly’s then will help you cook and clean the crabs on the spot for a delicious seafood feast! Learn more.
We spent a month in Driggs, ID this summer and just over the Teton Pass is Jackson Hole and the Snake River. We hooked up with Lewis & Clark River Expeditions for a trip down an 8 mile section of some pretty exciting whitewater. Learn more.
Our first backpacking trip with the kids was on Stockton Island in the Apostle Islands National Seashore. We took a ferry from the mainland over to Stockton and spent 3 awesome days exploring the island, watching out for bears, and teaching our kids the ins and outs of packing and carrying gear in the backcountry. Learn more.
Our first winter on the road the kids were missing Utah and the snow, but we managed to find something to sled on at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. We rented sleds from the Visitor Center and spent a few hours sledding down the gypsum sand hills. Not quite as wet and cold as snow, but we had a blast! Learn more.
Manatees are the most gentle, benign sea creatures we’ve seen and swimming in a crystal clear spring with hundreds of them was magical! We were able to rent kayaks from Hunter’s Kayaks nearby who also transported our boats, paddles, and life jackets down to the launch area for us. We had a leisurely paddle to the spring entrance, tied up our boats and swam into the warm spring water. Learn more.
Crater Lake National Park has boat tours that explore the surface of the lake inside the crater, as well as drop you off on Wizard Island for a hike to the top. Although we were hesitant at first (mostly due to the price tag for a family of 5) we are so glad we booked the tour! Learn more.
Mountain Biking is my favorite outdoor activity and Minnesota surprised us with some epic trail systems despite not really having any “mountains”. Ironton is aptly named as the soil is filled with the mineral and is a deep red color. Not only was it great to ride, the scenery was beautiful. Learn more.
We stumbled upon this gem of a park as we were searching for a place the kids could earn their 100th Jr. Ranger Badge. We volunteered for a park sponsored Earth Day clean up and paddled 7 miles of the Buffalo National River while picking up all sorts of garbage. Can’t wait to go back and paddle a larger section. Learn more.
We met the nicest park ranger who took us down into the canyon to help kill an invasive species of plant. Since that’s not an option for most people, enjoy the hike around the rim of the canyon while viewing the Native American Ruins, and camp under the stars. During the spring the wildflowers are just incredible! Learn more.
Not many people have heard of Chiricahua National Monument, but it will forever be one of our favorite parks. Thousands of volcanic ash hoodoos covered in green lichen dominate the unique landscape and there are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy the scenery. We opted to take the shuttle from the Visitor Center to the top of the scenic drive and hike the 10 miles back down along the Echo Canyon, Hailstone, Mushroom Rock, Big Balanced Rock, Heart of Rocks Loop and Sarah Deming trails. Learn more.
We took 42 days to circle Lake Superior one summer and came down from the Upper Peninsula into the “mitten” of Michigan. Along the west coast of the state is Sleeping Bear Dunes and in one particular spot you can jump down the dunes to Lake Michigan. Be aware that it can take you 3 minutes to get down and over 30 minutes to climb back up. Learn more.
Giant, ancient trees are spread throughout multiple sections of both California state and National Parks. We spent two weeks among the coastal giants one summer and enjoyed exploring the different ecosystems the park had to offer. From the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park near Myers Flat to Jedediah Smith Redwoods state park near Crescent City there is definitely plenty to explore! Learn more.
Sometimes a “good” adventure can be just as ideal as the “perfect” adventure. Looking back on this hike we probably should have planned a little farther ahead and hiked dinner up with us, but even though it wasn’t perfect we still loved the views, the wildlife, and the scenery along Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. Hiking back down around sunset was pretty magical and we managed to scrounge up a quick dinner once we got back to the campground after dark. Learn more.
Driving I-80 across Nevada you would never guess there was a hidden gem of a lake located high in the Ruby Mountains. Just south of Wells, NV Angel Lake is located at nearly 8500 feet elevation and the road to get there is windy, twisty, and there are seriously NO guardrails. Totally worth the heart pumping drive once you get up there. We enjoyed swimming in the alpine lake, the dark skies at night, and hiking to the waterfall. Learn more.
Far from swampy, damp forests of trees, the Everglades were more like open meadows in a forest. We enjoyed paddling a section of the 9 mile pond trail through mangroves and open glades. Learn more.
We fell in love with Voyageurs National Park and can't recommend this lesser known National Park to enough people. We rented canoes from a local outfitter and paddled out on the lake, but you can also take a water taxi to the peninsula, hike in and rent a canoe from the park service on one of the inland lakes. Remote backcountry & a paddle? Yes please! You can also hike Blind Ash Bay and pick blueberries and raspberries, or participate in the Old North Canoe program at one of the many visitor centers. Learn more.
Hard to imagine the mighty Mississippi River is only 18 feet across at the source. Located in Itasca State Park, MN we had a great evening swimming and jumping over the rocks. Learn more.
Definitely the longest and hardest hike we've done with kids. Totally worth it though. We had lunch at the top of Vernal Falls, a snack at the top of Nevada and hiked the John Muir Trail back down. I don't think any of us could walk the next day. Learn more.
People were surprised when I insisted I wanted to visit Arkansas to mountain bike. Not only do they have the most amazing pump track and skills park I've ever seen, but the trails are unreal. I can't wait to go back. Learn more.
Stay energized outdoors with CLIF:
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.