Inspiration For 2014: My Top 10 Family Adventures

How many outdoor trips do you have on the calendar for 2014 already? I have three, with five more in active planning stages. For me, this is the time of year for pulling out maps and guidebooks and poring over my list of adventures I want to take. My document slugged “Trip Ideas” is now 13,423 words long—and growing. I need to get busy.

If you’re looking for some ideas and inspiration for 2014, here are my 10 favorite family adventures at The Big Outside (another list that will keep growing and evolving), as well as a bonus 11th trip that made this list last year but saw its spot usurped this year. All are linked to the original story and photo gallery; several of these include a video. In a few weeks, I’ll share my list of 10 all-time favorite adventures, domestic and international, that are not necessarily for families—although there are definitely trips that could be on either list and there’s no overlap between the two.

Here’s wishing you an adventurous 2014.

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Campsite below Zoroaster Temple, along the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon. Michael Lanza photo.

1. Dropping Into the Grand Canyon: A Four-Day Hike From Grandview Point to the South Kaibab Trail

Sure, any trip in the Big Ditch is worthy of a top 10 list—you could fill a top 10 list just with Grand Canyon hikes. But in this rugged terrain and unforgiving environment, choosing the right backpacking route becomes critical; most trails are rough, many trailheads remote. This four-day, 29-mile hike combines two of the most spectacular and accessible trails coming off the South Rim—the Grandview and South Kaibab—with an easier, less-busy stretch of the Tonto Trail that delivers constant, big views.

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Skiing the Biscuit Basin Trail through the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. Michael Lanza photo.

2. Cross-Country Skiing Yellowstone

I’ve been to a lot of national parks, many of them multiple times. To me, cross-country skiing the almost flat, 2.5 miles of trail through Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin, past one-fourth of the active geysers in the world (and the greatest concentration of them), is one of the coolest experiences in the National Park System. And right up there among the most scenic, wildlife-filled trails I’ve skied are several others in Yellowstone, like the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Tower Fall, and Mammoth Hot Springs—many of them manageable for children and beginner skiers. Every family should take this trip.

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Backpacking near Strawberry Point on Washington’s Southern Olympic Coast. Michael Lanza photo.

3. The Wildest Shore: Backpacking the Southern Olympic Coast

For our kids, who were nine and seven, this three-day backpacking trip on the wilderness coastline of Washington’s Olympic National Park ranks as a favorite for all the expected reasons that children love a wild ocean shore: playing for hours in water, exploring the variety of sea life in tide pools, and picking, awestruck, through the myriad flotsam from civilization like old, salt-worn buoys (my son took one home). For adults, the scores of offshore sea stacks, giant trees, and natural beauty make the Olympic coast one of America’s classic backpacking trips.

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View from the John Muir Trail of Half Dome, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Fall. Michael Lanza photo.

4. The Magic of Hiking to Yosemite’s Waterfalls

Stand at the brink of a thunderous waterfall that drops a sheer 1,400 feet over a cliff. Hike a trail in the heavy shower of mist raining from a clear, blue sky. Dayhike through one of the most iconic landscapes in America—Yosemite Valley. The Valley’s towering cliffs and waterfalls will awe any adult and even the most cynical teenager. But for kids, there are also the thrills of walking through the mist from a giant waterfall, and moments like traversing the narrow catwalk blasted out of granite on the final steps to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. This should be a must for every American.

To see what else Michael has on his list, jump over to his blog, The Big Outside.