Need a break from the consumer chaos or the same old holiday routines?
Maybe it's time to shake it up and plan a holiday outdoor adventure with your loved ones. A hike, a stroll or just a visit to meander a bit, getting outside with the whole family at the holidays is a great way to celebrate. With just a bit of planning, it can be a super fun activity for the whole family.
The best family outdoor adventures start with choosing the right location.
Think about the level of outdoor experience of your crew and choose a closeby location that meets everyone's needs. Some of our favorite spots for family hikes with all generations and ability levels are often State Parks. State Parks are often easy to get to paved roads and offer several shorter hiking options. They may have a lake, spillway or nearby waterfall to see. The ease of access and easier terrain make State Parks our top choice for family outings for all ages.
Your Purple Lizard Maps provide lots of great State Park info and options. If you get a chance, do a bit of recon ahead of time to check out the scene at your chosen location. Knowing where you are going makes it easier to guide your crew on the big day.
Many State Parks have infrastructure that is helpful for beginners, small children, and some have special trails for differently abled members of the family.
Some locations even have indoor visitor attractions or informational exhibits that are open all year long - perfect spots to warm up after exploring or for folks who may not enjoy a hike to spend some time exploring in their own way!
Choose a surface everyone will feel comfortable on - weather depending, maybe just a walk around the gravel roads or on a asphalt trail in a state park will be your best bet. Or maybe a more adventurous crowd would enjoy an old fire road or a moderate trail hike. Probably best to save the super technical rocky hike or single track for another time.
Is a 30 minute meandering walk just what the family needs? Or maybe something longer? Depending on your personal fitness level, you may forget that not everyone gets outside as often, so keep it at an enjoyable length for everyone in the group. The less active family members in your group should end the adventure wanting to come back for more.
Remind out of town guests to pack their hiking boots, or ask local family to bring some extra gear. Of course, as in any group, someone inevitably will need an extra layer or forget their hats or gloves, so don't forget to bring a big bag of extra clothing so that everyone can enjoy their time in the outdoors.
Bring along some special holiday treats. Haul out your camping stove and make it on the spot or bring an insulated thermos for seasonal hot cider, hot chocolate, or maybe even a steaming hot cup of your favorite coffee can be the perfect activity for after a holiday hike! Add some of your families favorite holiday treats or sweets and enjoy!
In most families not everyone gets outside for adventures regularly, so make it fun for everyone by checking in with folks to see how they are doing along the way, offer options, and keep it relaxed. Leave the fitness hiking for another day and use this time to just enjoy time in the outdoors together.
And don't forget the photo shoot! Always take the same after dinner holiday photo? Maybe its time to change things up and do your holiday shots in the great outdoors. This is also a great excuse to get everyone outside! To get you inspired, below are some shots from our family Thanksgiving hike.
With over 300 miles of non-motorized trails, tons of gravel and dirt roads, and 24/7 access, Rothrock State Forest is a true gem for year-round outdoor recreation near State College, PA. Although the forest roads are not maintained in winter, a few parking lots along the perimeter of the forest provide ample access in almost any conditions. Below, we've chosen a few of our favorite very difficult trail loops accessible in the winter from one of these parking areas. The following loops are best for those who enjoy challenging, steep, and rocky climbs and descents.