Sharing marshmallow-smeared grins around a crackling camp fire, wading hand-in-hand through squeal-inducing river water, high-fiving after cycling up the final stretch of a dusty desert switchback: These are the experiences that bind a family together; weaving together sparkly memories your children will cherish for a lifetime.
In an age when our phones and tablets have become like an extra appendage, the need to unplug and embark on outdoor vacations in WiFi-free pockets of the planet have become vitally important.
Help your family detach from the Twitter tweets and glowing screens of the digital world and refocus on the bird tweets and glowing sunsets of the nature world with these wilderness travel destinations perfect for an idyllic nature vacation with kids.
1. Camping The White Rim Trail in Utah
is not, which makes it a best-kept-secret and the perfect place to go for families looking to escape crowds and trail traffic. Circling the wooded glens and vistas of the canyon is The Rainbow Rim Trail, which is one of the most scenic mountain biking trails in the world. Because the weather at this elevation is cooler than the famous South Rim, it’s the perfect place to bike, hike and camp.
4. River Rafting or Kayaking in Moab
will take you through towering redwoods, glistening vineyards, gentle farm towns and cliff-side beaches—Napa Valley offers families the opportunity to skip the outdoor showers and campfire-scented hairdos and overnight in a charming yet reassuringly modern bed and breakfast instead. Small children and beginner cyclists will appreciate the flat, smooth bike paths and nature newbies will favor the “baby-step into wilderness” vibe of road of the trip. In Northern California, you may be surrounded by nature, but a bathroom (and wine bar) is never far away.
7. Electric Bike Riding in Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas
Although “nature” isn’t a word many may associate with Las Vegas, the neon city is in fact world renowned for the plethora of outdoor adventure options only a short driving distance away. Not only are the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks within a few hours drive, but the world-famous Red Rock National Conservation Area is also just 20 minutes from The Strip; practically in Sin City’s backyard.
While Red Rock canyon is a popular road and mountain biking destination, the hilly terrain can make it a challenge for short legs or cycling novices. By renting a specialized turbo bike (or booking a guided tour), you can jet around the park with the help of an electric-assist motor and hydraulic-assist brakes. You’ll be doing the pedaling, but the bike’s electric engine will give you the added push to make the miles zoom by—literally.
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Kids too attached to their phones? How to inspire them to unplug
Convincing your kiddos to turn away from their group texts and tune into the family outing can be an exhausting battle at times. Here are a few tips to encourage your tweens and teens to embrace the outdoors and partake in a needed digital detox:
Lead by example
You can’t expect your kids to do what you’re unable to do yourself. Model the behavior you want them to demonstrate by putting away the phone during meal times and leaving the camera at home during scheduled family outings and vacations. Avoid the pull of Facebook status updates and “That’d make an awesome Instagram post” moments by taking a disposable camera on your next trip or better yet, opt to take mental photographs instead. Studies have shown that you’re more apt to remember an experience better when you don’t take a picture of it.
Incorporate nature into your every day life
While week-long backpacking trips into the remote backcountry may be a great way to force a digital detox, you can also start small by finding ways to introduce the natural world into your daily routine. You can have the family spend an evening stargazing or bird watching in the backyard with a telescope or bird-identification book (save the apps for another time). Or you can embrace micro-adventuring and set up a tent in your backyard or mattress on your roof and “practice” sleeping with the creepy crawlies under a kaleidoscope of shooting stars and glowing planets.
By welcoming Mother Nature into your home and making adventuring as normalized as other “good for your health” necessities like eating veggies and exercising, disconnecting from gadgetry will be such a part of your kids’ lives that it will seem second-er-nature.
Embrace the rotten weather
Show your children that summer isn’t the only season for enjoying the outdoors by partaking in outdoor adventures year-round—come rain or shine. Rain, snow, sleet or heat are not reasons to stay inside, because there’s beauty in activities like autumn leaf collecting or rain puddle splash tag. It can be easy to say “It’s raining so we’ll just play video games today” but with a little imagination and practice, your kids can discover how magical and exciting “no cell phone-needed” activities can be.