Depending on the age of your kids, there are a lot of outdoor adventure activities available to you that can really spice up a summer family camping vacation and make it one that everyone will remember. Many of these activities, like rock climbing or rafting, are more dependent on a child’s ability and confidence, than age.
My oldest daughter has always been very adventurous and willing to try new things. She began climbing rock walls at six and she loves rollercoasters. My younger ones are much more comfortable just watching, even though they are all very close in age. When considering a family camping adventure, it’s important to tailor the adventure to the entire family, so that everyone has a enjoyable experience.
Whitewater rafting is available in many parts of the country and it’s a great activity to combine with a family camping trip, because many of the rafting companies will handle the camping spot setup, meals and even games and activities, on rafting trips ranging from a few days to a week, or more.
If you are not familiar with whitewater rafting, you might be hesitant about taking children on an adventure, like this. This is a growing segment for rafting companies, though, and many have trips tailored specifically for families. They will recommend specific rivers, sections of rivers, or specific months when the water is slower, in order to provide a rafting experience that everyone will enjoy.
If whitewater rafting sounds a bit too adventurous, an afternoon jetboat excursion is another way to experience the thrills of a river, but in the safe confines of hard-sided boat. A jetboat trip ranges from an hour to a half day, which makes it a great activity to spice-up a family camping vacation without centering the entire vacation on the adventure, itself.
Kids love to climb and when they get to wear cool looking helmets and harnesses you just know it’s an experience they’ll carry with them, for years to come. There are a number of accredited climbing schools and guides that offer courses tailored to families. Like whitewater rafting, these professionals will match your family’s skill-level to an area that will best suit everyone’s ability. If you would like to read about one family’s rock climbing adventure, checkout We Tried It: Rock Climbing, by Toni Klym McLellan (Bring the Family).
A mountain biking trip is a great way to mix family camping and outdoor adventure. Professional tour companies handle all of the camping gear and meals – and even a ride in the support vehicle if the day starts to get too strenuous. Companies like Western Spirit Cycling really cater to families by putting groups with similar-aged kids together and providing games, toys, arts and crafts to keep everyone entertained.
What do you think is an appropriate age to bring kids on rafting trips? Here at OutdoorBaby.net we have conficting views of the issue. From a newborn can go because they can wear a life jacket to you should wait until a child can swim comfortably in a rapid without a life jacket
What are your thoughts?
Heidi – I can tell you that we are not going rafting until our 5-year old is a stronger swimmer. I think our girls were both ready at 8. I have heard the opinion that modern PFDs are good enough to keep even non-swimmers safe in the water, but I would not be comfortable relying on that.
My kids did both whitewater rafting and climbing when they were younger.
We did a pretty easy rafting trip, which gave them a taste. One thing I loved about the one we chose was that they took you down the same river stretch twice in a row. For those who were a bit nervous on the first trip they really got to enjoy it second time around. For those who were freaked, didn’t enjoy it, or were just cold afterward, they skipped the second trip. I was surprised at how well this worked.
We used to go to a climbing store in Estes Park, Colorado where you could be trained to do the ropes for your kids. Then for one daily fee they could climb “until their arms fell off”. They loved it and we were the first to want to end the climbing! It was a nice break from hiking the trails (when the parents got tired).
You might be onto something there, Alison – I wonder if I took my brat-pack to the climbing gym a few times a week, they’d go to bed on time? 🙂
For kids who are not quite into the active adventures, geocaching is a great activity too. Its not quite as frightening to a younger child as white water rafting or rock climbing might be, but still makes for a fun, goal oriented hike. You can also tell them its a treasure hunt, they get really excited when you find the ‘treasure’!
Marc – I do want to try that with the kids. I think they’d have a lot of fun – and I’d like to teach them some orienteering, too.
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While it’s not as high on the adrenaline rush as whitewater rafting we enjoy fishing. You do sort of get a rush when you catch a nice one!
No doubt, Justin! I took my kids fishing for the first time during summer vacation, a few years ago. They had a blast!
Agreed on the fishing, though my wife is interested in the white water rafting but our kids are too young. Some campgrounds have row boat or canoe rentals which are a nice, affordable way to spend some family time.
Oh man, you’re making me long for warmer weather! My kid’s a climber so I can’t wait to strap a harness on him and let him go!
Mel – I was thinking about you guys when I was hunting around for links to guide companies. It looks like you have a good family-oriented rafting company, there in NC!
I took the family down the Rogue two summers ago. It was nice because you can also stay in lodges along the river if you don’t want to camp. It’s a beautiful river. I’ve taken the kids Rock Climbing at Smith Rocks State Park a few times. I grew up climbing there. It is a fun activity for the adventurous and in a lot of places you don’t need ropes; just climb the boulders.
Smith Rock is awesome – we’re always going up to Oregon for a family thing, so it’s hard to get out and explore, while we’re up there.