family vacation

Five Top Parks for Family-Friendly Hikes

Written on November 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm , by

In honor of National Take a Hike Day, we’ve rounded up the top five family-friendly (and warmer-weather!) trail destinations with the help of Foursquare. Users rated the best spots across the country for lacing up your boots and having a good time hitting the trail. Our picks from among those top spots promise tons of picturesque views and lots of entertainment for parents and kids alike, thanks to sights that are a history lesson (see #2), vocab booster (find out what a hoodoo is in #3) and solid workout.


View of Stone Mountain in Georgia#5: Stone Mountain Park, Stone Mountain, GA

You’ll trek through woods, along lakeshores, past granite slopes, and by wildflowers on various routes in this park. Opt for the 1-mile walk to the top of the mountain and you’ll get a stunning glimpse of downtown Atlanta and the North Georgia mountains, plus there’s a snack bar and souvenir shop at the summit. After taking a stroll, head to The Great Barn, which has slides and trampolines for even more active fun.


View of Lake Austin#4: Covert Park at Mount Bonnell, Austin, TX

You’ll have to climb steep stairs to reach the top of this park, at approximately 775 feet above sea level, but the breathtaking sight of Lake Austin (a portion of the Colorado River) makes it totally worth it, as does the view of the city skyline on your way up. Bring a packed lunch as a reward for your (and your teens’) hard work, or head up later in the day for an ideal seat to watch the sunset.


View from the trails at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah#3: Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon, UT

Choose between easy, moderate or strenuous trails (for the super-fit family), each of which boasts Douglas fir and spruce forests, mossy overhangs and tall, natural rock columns called hoodoos. Turn your one-day trek into an overnight stay and you can also take a gorgeous moonlight hike, go on a horseback ride or stargaze with telescopes.


View on Lands End hike#2: Lands End, San Francisco, CA

You’ll want to start your journey at the Lands End Lookout—the park’s new visitor center, complete with historical background on this prime Bay Area locale. Then, stroll up the shoreline for photo opps of the Golden Gate Bridge, old shipwrecks and the Sutro Baths—ruins of large, privately owned swimming pools built in the 19th century.


View of the LA basin#1: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

With a whopping 53 miles of trails, you’ll never get bored. But for the best scenic route, start at the Griffith Observatory parking lot and climb to Mount Hollywood, the park’s highest point, where you can see the entire LA basin. You can also wander to the famous Hollywood sign for a frame-worthy family pic or make a pit stop at the LA Zoo.

Can’t get to any of these locales? Just slip into your sneaks and take a long walk in your own neighborhood. You’ll still burn calories and enjoy the mood-boosting benefits.

Got a favorite hiking spot of your own? Post a comment below and tell us what it is.

Photos courtesy of Foursquare

Why My Family Takes a Tech-Free Vacation

Written on July 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm , by

Last year I persuaded my family to hike to the top of the Smoky Mountains and stay at LeConte Lodge. (That’s a photo my daughter Ava took from the top last year—over the clouds—pictured.) There are no roads going up to the lodge. The only way to the top is by foot. And this is no stroll. Depending on the trail you choose, it’s anywhere from a steep six hours to an almost-as-steep eight hours. All the food for the lodge is carried up by llamas. So we only have to carry our essentials and make it to the lodge, where food and shelter await us. My crew agreed, somewhat reluctantly, especially when they learned about the lack of technology—no power and our cell phones would likely get no service—at the lodge.

We used a lot of technology to get there, though. And last year I explained how we survive a long road trip with two bickering teens in my column. But when we arrive to our destination, we lock it all in the trunk and go completely off the grid.

When we got there last year, my teenage boy trotted to the top, taking the six-hour hike in about three. The rest of us staggered along after him, dragging ourselves into camp hours later. And there we found him changed. No longer bored or sullen, he was happy, helpful, chatting with strangers, and standing up straighter. He had checked us in and thoughtfully turned the heat on in our cabin. (There was still snow on the ground in March.) He even walked partway back down the trail when he got word we’d been sited to carry my pack the last mile for me.

While sprinting up that mountain, Cole had discovered something about himself: He is young, strong, likes a challenge, and is willing to rise to it. Finally all that male energy felt necessary.

The rest of us felt it, too, of course. But for him this was an important moment.

This year, when I asked my two teens if they wanted to go again, both of their hands shot up without hesitation. And when we all sat down to discuss which trail to take, Cole lobbied for the hardest one. “We choose to do this not because it is easy,” he said, paraphrasing JFK’s famous speech about the decision to go to the moon, when my husband suggested a trail that might be easier. “We do it because it is hard.”

There was no reluctance to leave the technology behind either this year. In fact, both kids told me that the complete vacation from all technology—texting, Facebook, video games, electricity—is part of what’s great about this trip.

So we are going again. This is a long road trip for us. So, rather ironically since this trip is about going off the grid for us, I plan to share here the technology we will use to find the best deal on accommodations along the way, capture and share memories, and some in-car tech for keeping two bickering teens from driving us insane on a long car trip.

So stay tuned!

Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle, and is the author of “How to Be a Geek Goddess.” You can find her at, as well as here on