14 of the best family hiking vacations in the USA

When looking for active family vacations, family hiking trips are a great option.

Whether planning full-on hiking family vacations or adding day hikes on kid friendly hiking trails, family hiking trips are a great way to get outdoors and be active.

Even better, most hiking trails are free or low cost, making family hiking trips a budget-friendly vacation as well!

Stone bridge over a waterfall with forest all around, and title saying "14 of the best kid friendly hiking trails in the US."

Originally published 2019. Updated 2023.

Plan for your family hiking trip

If you’re planning your first family hiking vacation, don’t be intimidated!

With just a little advanced planning, you can even go hiking with an infant! Our sweet Ellie took her first day hike at 15 months old.

Once you have the right gear, pick a trail that is suitable to your skills and abilities. Don’t plan to hike the Appalachian Trail your first time out! Work up to it.

Beginner’s Guide to Hiking

Learn everything you need to know about hiking in this beginner’s guide to hiking at state and national parks

I asked some adventurous travel blogging friends to help me create a list of the best family hiking vacations in the USA. We’ve gathered some of the most amazing mountain trails, forest trails and level ground trails through beautiful and diverse landscapes across the United States.

So, whether you’re looking for the best family hiking vacations or a day family hiking trip to add to your vacation, this list is sure to help!

Best family hiking vacations in the USA

Alabama: Red Mountain Park

Mix history and hiking for a unique experience in Birmingham, Alabama.

Red Mountain Park was an active ore mine in Birmingham from 1863 to 1962, supporting the steel industry that built Birmingham.

When ore production ended, the land sat unused until developers repurposed it to create a 1,500 acre recreation area.

The park’s 12 miles of hiking and biking trails run along the ridges and valleys of Red Mountain. Along the way, you’ll discover remnants of the mining history like mine shafts (do not enter). You’ll also see the new Red Mountain, covered in wildflowers, stunning rock formations and more.

A dog park, rope bridges, zip lines and a climbing tower add to the adventurous fun. If you hike to the end of the trail, you’ll see Birmingham off in the distance. Maps and trail markers provide information about the various relics and rocks that make this such a unique piece of history.

Relics of ore mining visible near family hiking trails at Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, AL

For a family hiking vacation, there are several great hiking and rock climbing trails in Birmingham. There’s also a lot of history, the zoo, the botanical garden and more for a memorable family trip.

Arizona: Desert Botanical Garden

Don’t get fooled by the name, the Desert Botanical Garden is a great place for a family hike.

Nestled amid the buttes of Papago Park in Phoenix, this is the only botanical garden in the world to focus solely on desert plants.

With several trails, there’s much to see.

  • The Desert Discovery Trail showcases desert plants from across the world.
  • The Sonoron Desert Trail illustrates how desert plants are used for food and tools.
  • The Sonoron Desert Nature Trail shows the important relationship between plants and animals of the desert.
  • And, the Wildflower Trail highlights the beauty of desert wildflowers.

This is also a great place to watch roadrunners, jack rabbits and lizards who are lucky enough to call the park home. Allow a minimum of four hours to explore all the trails.

Pro Tip: If traveling late spring through early fall, go early or late. Avoid the mid-day heat!

Cacti and red dirt trails at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ

This day trip can be part of a great family hiking vacation in the US when you enjoy the many fun things for families in nearby Tempe!

California: Lake Tahoe

There are so many incredible places to hike in California, but Lake Tahoe is one of the best.

For beginners, take easy trails through pine trees to the shore of the lake,.

More advanced hikers might enjoy the tougher trails through the mountains that offer incredible views of Lake Tahoe below.

A popular day hike trail is the Eagle Falls Trail. A relatively easy climb, this trail offers many places to stop and rest. I even saw a lady practicing hula hooping on the rocks! The trees on the mountainside actually twist like a corkscrew as they grow. Tree trunks, stripped of bark, reveal the unusual trunks below.

View of Lake Tahoe from the Eagle Falls hiking trail with mountain in the background and a dead tree in the foreground.

Florida: Miccouskee Greenway Trail

Near Tallahassee, the Miccouskee Greenway Trail is a rustic, yet easy, sand and crushed stone trail that parallels the Miccouskee Canopy Road.

The canopy roads in this area are historically significant, first used by Native Americans and then by the Spanish to travel through the region under the shaded protection of the trees.

The trail is about 6.5 miles long, or 12 miles round trip and includes about 500 acres of hardwood and pine forest and some occasional open field areas.

It’s popular for hiking (go early in the day), biking and horseback riding. Dogs are welcome, but must be leashed. It’s hard to believe this natural trail is only 5 miles from Tallahassee.

The Miccouskee Greenway Trail is a level family hiking trail in Tallahassee under a canopy of trees and Spanish moss.

Illinois: Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is located approximately 90 miles southwest of Downtown Chicago, making it one of the most popular day trip hiking destinations in Illinois.

This beautiful park is filled with sandstone canyons, most of which boast beautiful waterfalls.

The prettiest are found in the following canyons: St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia, particularly in the winter when they form icefalls. The spring melt and rains create large falls.

The 13-miles of trails at Starved Rock provide opportunities of hikers of all abilities. The trails fill by midday, so it is best to get an early start. Get more information on Illinois hiking at Let’s Camp S’more.

Kids playing in a basin near a waterfall at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.

Indiana: Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park in West-Central Indiana is a 2,382-acre recreation area that is popular with people all over the Midwest, including Indianapolis and Chicago.

This beautiful park features sandstone gorges and canyons that were formed by erosion from melting glacial waters.

There are 11 hiking trails ranging from easy to very rugged, so hikers of all abilities can enjoy this gorgeous park. Most of these trails are accessed by crossing a 200-foot wooden suspension bridge over the Sugar Creek.

A park favorite is Trail 3, which cuts through canyons and is highlighted with three ladders. This trail can be treacherous in wet conditions. You can get more details about Turkey Run from Let’s Camp S’more.

Two people hiking along a trail at Turkey Run State Park In Indiana

Maine: Tumbledown Mountain

If you ask most people what the best hike in Maine is, most answers would be the hikes in Acadia.

But, Tumbledown Mountain in the western mountains of Maine might be even better for family hiking trips.

The moderate hike up rocky hills is pretty tough, but family hikes with rock scrambles are pretty awesome.

The real reward happens close to the summit when you hit the oasis of a crystal clear alpine lake with a island in the middle. At that point, a bit more of a hike provides views far over the mountains and lakes of this uninhabited part of Maine– heaven on earth.

Read more about my hike to Tumbledown Hiking in Maine.

Woman looking up at camera from a rock outcropping at Tumbledown Mountain hiking trails in Maine with green trees below and a lake off in the distance

New York: Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail

The big attraction at Niagara Falls, New York might be the falls, but for smiles like this, walk along the Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail.

Young girl smiling with wildflowers and the Niagara River in the background at the Niagara Gorge hiking trails.

It’s an easy path next to the Niagara Scenic Parkway that offers stunning views of the Niagara River from Lasalle Waterfront Park all the way up to Devil’s Hole State Park.

Park benches along the path invite you to linger and appreciate the power of this river.

There are small pathways among the foliage that allow you to get closer to the water’s edge — though obey safety signs.

This is an easy hike, of sorts, though it could take all day if you hiked from one end to the other and back — approximately 15 miles!

North Carolina: Linville Falls

Linville Falls, a dog friendly hiking area, is one of the most popular trails in North Carolina.

Part of the 440 acre Linville Gorge area, the falls are the highlight. They tumble 90 feet over the rocks with great views from many spots.

In spring, rhododendrons show off with pink flowers against shiny, green leaves. In the fall, trees show off crowns of gold, red and orange, drawing visitors from across the nation to see the display.

A visitor’s center provides restrooms and park information. Parking is available, but the park’s popularity on weekends makes it hard to find a spot.

Read our review of hiking Linville Falls to learn more about hiking here.

Linville Falls Hiking Trail in North Carolina, a waterfall and pool at the base of the trail.

Ohio: Hocking Hills

The Hocking Hills area in Ohio, which is about an hour south of Columbus, comprises nine state parks and nature preserves, three state forests, a national forest, and several local parks.

For family hiking trips, this is one of the absolute best destinations in the country!

The most popular trails in Hocking Hills are Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave (also the largest recessed cave in the state of Ohio) and Cedar Falls.

For a great place to stay, consider Hocking Hills Cabins, ideal for a family hiking vacation getaway.

Hocking Hills waterfall with stone bridge above, one of the best family hiking vacation destinations in the US

Pennsylvania: Ohiopyle State Park

Ohiopyle State Park is a 19,000-acre park located along the Youghiogheny River Gorge in southwest Pennsylvania.

While this park is known for its whitewater sports, it has over 100 miles of hiking trails for hikers of all abilities. Many of these trails feature waterfalls and scenic overlooks. All trails are marked with colorful blazes.

The Ferncliff Peninsula, which is a National Natural Landmark, features a 2-mile loop hike with prehistoric plant fossils along the eastern edge near Ohiopyle Falls. The peninsula is circled by the river, providing numerous spots to watch the boaters.

Pennsylvania State Parks

Discover the best hiking trails in Pennsylvania with this Pennsylvania State Park Guide.

The rapids at Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania offer a great view as you hike the miles of family friendly trails

Rhode Island: Audubon Society of Rhode Island Nature Center and Aquarium

One of the best places for an easy summer outing in Rhode Island is at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Nature Center in Bristol, Rhode Island.

The simple walking trails behind the nature center offer a mix of ecosystems that give you a taste of the best of Rhode Island, from meadows to saltwater marshes.

If you visit in the late spring or summer, you can see the butterfly garden and stroll through the meadow dotted with wildflowers. You will then head into the woods and cross over the East Bay Bike Path to a quarter-mile long boardwalk over a saltwater marsh lined with cat tails and reeds. The reward at the end is a beautiful view over the Narragansett Bay.

The nature center and aquarium add to the fun of this adventure, making it great for families with younger kids who want easy family hiking trips and those with a strong interest in science.

A wooden boardwalk at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island Nature Center offers easy family hiking trails for young families

South Dakota: Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota is a great place for a family hiking vacation because it has a number of different hiking trails depending on your skill level.

Part of the Black Hills National Park, the trails are cut through centuries old forest.

The canyone itself was formed about 30-60 million years ago.

Trails range from 1 to 4 miles in length, but the joy is in exploring along the way. Pause to appreciate waterfalls and peaceful glades with no one else around.

Pro Tip: The Canyon Rim trail is fairly short, but very difficult. The trail is fairly vertical and quite challenging.

For family hiking vacations in the USA, Spearfish Canyon is a real treat.

South Dakota's Spearfish Canyon has a variety of hiking trails under massive evergreens.

Virginia: Tuscarora Trail

The Tuscarora Trail in western Virginia is suitable for day hikers or avid adventurers.

It even serves as a bypass route for a section of the Appalachian Trail.

My favorite is the Eagle Rock Trail which begins in Dry Gap. The Eagle Rock Trail about 3 miles long and features only one steep climb, an easy-to-moderate hike for active family hiking trips.

The trail “ends” at Eagle Rock Overlook, which has stone benches to enjoy a snack and a rest as you take in the stunning blue, green and purple hues that inspired the name ‘Blue Ridge Mountains.’

The views from a rock overhang are well worth the photo op, but common sense suggests staying back from the edge.

Allow a half day to hike up the mountain, soak in the view and walk back down.

Woman standing on Rock overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Eagle Rock Trail for family hiking vacations.

Wherever you travel, family hiking vacations in the US are a great way to explore the great outdoors and discover the unique ecosystems of the area. Family hiking trips can include easy trails for beginners and more challenging trails for advanced hiking families.

Learn more about hiking:

For more information on planning a family hiking vacation, these posts will help:

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