The Collins family got to experience a ton of hidden playgrounds during their recent cross-country journey. Below are 10 fun zones they recommend for any family seeking a healthy dose of outdoor adventure.
The entire Oregon CoastOregon's gem of a coastline is arguably the most scenic in the Lower 48. Lined with gorgeous sea stacks, and exposed to the North Pacific's wild mood swings, its natural energy is palpable. How you decide to take it in is up to you, but there's no shortage of scenic trails to hike, powerful waves to ride or powdery dunes to slide.
Start your journey in Brookings, in the south, which is four hours from the nearest airport. Then make your way up to Cape Kiwanda.
While the coast of Oregon is its own treasure, the Cascade Range is quite another, as are the small towns hidden within. Sisters is five notches mellower than Bend, its popular Central Oregon neighbor, but it's got all the same outdoor fun at its fingertips, from incredible hiking and biking trails to fishing, rafting, birding and, of course, camping.
If you're into busy days and quiet evenings, this is the place for you.
City of Rocks, IdahoThis tiny park in southern Idaho is home to beautiful granite spires, pinnacles, fins and domes, making it one of the best-kept secrets in the National Reserve system. From 1842 to 1882, it was a popular rest stop for immigrants on the old California Trail, who took shelter in the formations.
Today, campers, hikers, bird watchers and climbers are the most frequent visitors. That said, even in peak season, this city feels empty.
Eden Valley, Utah
Hidden in the hills above Ogden, but below the summits of Powder Mountain and Snow Basin, Eden Valley is one of the most gorgeous corners of Utah. Its panoramic views of the Wasatch Mountains are breathtaking, and the valley is home to year-round fun, including paddling, biking, hiking and horseback riding.
Moab, UtahYes, Moab is surrounded by two of Utah's picturesque national parks, Arches and Canyonlands, and the town is filled with tourists and their trappings, but if you're looking for isolation, escape is very easy. Many of Moab's best adventures reside outside of the parks, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes out of town.
The Moab region is a mecca for mountain bikers, but the hiking, fishing, climbing and camping are also world class.
Buena Vista, Colorado
Never heard of it? You're not alone. And that may be by design. But this tiny town along the Arkansas River Valley is snugged 7,900 feet up in the Rocky Mountains and serves as a gateway to some of the best fishing, hiking and nature watching around.
Like many of Colorado's towns, this was mining territory, and ghost towns can still be found up in the pretty limestone hills. And with access to some of the most scenic mountains in the country, there's no shortage of lost lakes and ridges to hike up to and soak it in.
Flint Hills, KansasSadly, there isn't much left of America's native tall-grass prairie. The vast majority has fallen victim to non-native shrubs and trees. But the undulating splendor of Flint Hills (a region in eastern Kansas that's 157 miles long and 93 miles wide) is highly recommended for anyone who wants to experience what it must have looked like to cross this region hundreds of years ago.
These spectacular rolling hills are just high enough to offer incredible views of the big green ocean of grass. It's best to explore on horseback or ATV, but walking to the horizon is also recommended.
Fayetteville, West Virginia
It's been called one of America's coolest small towns, and a lot of that has to do with Fayetteville's proximity to the stunning New River Gorge, a sacred playground for kayakers, rafters and climbers. There are also a ton of great hiking and biking trails winding into Appalachian splendor. Fayetteville is also home to one of the world's largest single-arch bridges, so on Bridge Day each October, bungee and BASE jumping are legal. Just be warned: There are massive crowds that week.
Shawangunk Ridge, New YorkUpstate New York is filled with adventure opportunities, and for climbing families like the Collins (see video above), that means hitting The Gunks, a climbing zone along the Shawangunk Ridge that overlooks much of New York.
For being just 80 miles out of New York City, and spitting distance from the groovy town of New Paltz, it's surprisingly empty during the right seasons. If you just want to lounge lakeside, jump on a canoe or hike a trail, there's plenty of that too.
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Sure, a good chunk of this island is part of Acadia National Park, and it gets a ton of visitors each year, but, like Moab, escaping the crowds to find your own private hideaway is easy. There are endless nooks and crannies on this stretch of coast lined by islands, bays, coves and cliffs. Naturally, jumping in the ocean is recommended to take it all in, but if you're worried about your sea legs, stick to the lakes or just ride the famous carriage roads.