Family Mountain Vacations

Head to the hills for a cool summer vacation at one of North America's great mountain resorts or national parks.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

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 'Bass Harbor Head Light'


'Bass Harbor Head Light'

Photo by: Paul Lemke

Paul Lemke

Head to the hills for a cool summer vacation at one of North America's great mountain resorts or national parks. Kids can climb, hike and commune with nature on a high-altitude adventure.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Kids can explore Maine's rugged coast at Acadia National Park and uncover treasures while tide-pooling during low tide along the sandbars where sea stars and anemones make their homes. Back on dry land, horse-drawn carriages and bikes traverse the 45-mile carriage road system with its long flat stretches. From May through October, rangers organize boat tours, nature walks and hikes with a side of history while exploring 125 miles of trails. Pitch a tent at one of the park's two campgrounds or rent a cabin in nearby Bar Harbor. When hunger strikes, it's time for tea and popovers at the park's historic Jordan Pond House or set off on a quest for the perfect lobster roll.

Stowe, Vermont

The hills are alive with tradition at the Trapp Family Lodge. The Von Trapp family, the real-life family from "The Sound of Music," settled here after fleeing from Austria and started welcoming guests to a more scaled-down lodge in 1950. Today, the resort's fun is spread out over 2,400 acres. In the summer, guests can ride the private mountain-biking trails with a 1-mile beginner loop, 2.5-mile intermediate single-track trails or 10 miles of double-track for all riders. It's back to basics at the Mountain Kids Club where kids can play whiffle ball, paint a pet rock or sing along with "The Sound of Music." Away from the resort, zoom down the 2,300-foot Spruce Peak at the Stowe Alpine Slide and then head to the Ben & Jerry's factory for a super scoop of your favorite flavor.

Adirondack Mountains, New York

The 1980s classic "Dirty Dancing" put Catskill Mountains on the map as the great family resort spot in New York state. But for a more modern mountain getaway, you'll want to head farther north to the Adirondacks. The Sagamore, a palatial resort on the banks of the grand Lake George, has been pampering visitors for over 100 years. Guests can enjoy a view of the mountains aboard the Morgan, the resort's 19th-century-style touring boat. Older kids and teens can take in the region from a different vantage point -- 70 feet above ground -- during a zip-line treetop adventure with Adirondack Extreme.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville is surrounded by towering mountains in nearby national and state parks. Pisgah National Forest surrounds the city with striking mountain scenery. The kids and the grownups can take a ride down the 60-foot natural rock waterslide at Sliding Rock. Take in the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains from a room at the swanky inn at the Biltmore estate or just take a day trip to this grand Vanderbilt mansion. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, and there are four park entrances within 60 miles of Asheville. Pack a picnic and take a drive to the scenic overlooks and gentle hiking trails or look for elk from the car near Cataloochee Valley.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

The impressive 14,000-foot Pike's Peak may not be Colorado's tallest mountain, but it was the inspiration behind "America the Beautiful." Ride the scenic Cog Railway through the mountain's various zones and look for waterfalls and hopefully some Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Another hotspot in Colorado Springs is the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, displays of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures dazzle older kids while pint-sized paleontologists dig for dinosaur bones at Woody's Paleo Playground. The Broadmoor Resort is a worthy splurge with family fun including swimming, waterslides, a kid's pool, paddle-boating on Cheyenne Lake, horseback-riding, golf and a spa where adults can relax while kids make new friends in the Bee Bunch camp.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Located on the pristine shores of Lake Louise, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a luxurious base camp for a tour of the Canadian Rockies. Children over 10 can explore Rat's Nest Cave in Canmore with Canmore Cave Tours. The cave is undeveloped with no artificial lights or railings, and twisting passages packed with stalactites and stalagmites. Younger kids can accompany parents for a gentle hike at Sundance Canyon with little elevation change or a romp at Sunshine Meadows where boardwalks and trails offer stunning views of the mountains, lakes and wildflowers.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Families can rough it in style at the Sun Valley resort and follow in the footsteps of Hollywood luminaries like Clark Gable and Bing Crosby who vacationed here since its opening in 1936. Once the last of the snow melts in this part of the Northern Rockies, Baldy and Dollar Mountains are open for hiking and mountain-biking. Families can set out for a white-water rafting adventure along the Main Salmon River or grab some popcorn for a movie at the historic Opera House movie theater. And while the snow may be gone, there are year-round staking rinks, skating school and ice shows every Saturday night.

Yosemite, California

School may be out for summer, but park rangers provide plenty of educational adventures in the great outdoors at Yosemite National Park. Kids can learn about the park's history and wildlife through guided tours and interactive theatrical performances like Ranger Ned's Big Adventure. Daily story times and Junior Ranger Walks introduce kids to the area's wildlife and natural wonders like Half Dome and the park's waterfalls. At night, kids can take in the clear night sky and learn about the Milky Way, the constellations and meteors during the Starry Skies program. Park accommodations range from simple canvas tent cabins at Curry Village to the Old-World luxury of the grand Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

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