More and more families are heading to the mountains of North America for a memorable summer vacation than ever before. Mountain resorts that historically draw big numbers during the snowy winter months are now becoming year-round destinations, with a bevy of family-fun adventures available during the warmer part of the year. Summertime in the mountains in today’s world means hiking, biking, fly-fishing, golf, tennis, parasailing, off-roading, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, zip lining and adventure parks … just to name a few. With this variety of outings on the menu, it’s no wonder why families are choosing the cool climate of the mountains during the summers.
With mountains near each coast in the United States, a great mountain resort is usually only a short trip away. Families who live in major cities on the East Coast and West Coast can easily slip away for a family weekend at a nearby mountain resort. Or, when vacation time hits, take the family on that memorable getaway to some place you’ve never been.
Savvy parents and family planners know to shop online for the best deals and discounts to save money. On websites like ours, you can find specials and bargains for most major mountain resorts in the U.S. and Canada for savings on everything from lodging to bike rentals and planned family outings like whitewater trips or golf tee times.
Still looking to plan that fun family getaway? Let’s take a look at some of the more popular summer mountain destinations for families. Choose from these top locations when you’re planning your summer vacation plans and you won’t be disappointed.
There’s a reason John Denver did all that singing. Colorado is typically tops on any list for mountain fun. There are so many options that it’s hard to narrow the list to just a few.
Rocky Mountain National Park just northwest of Denver stretches from Estes Park to Grand Lake, and has some of the most breathtaking scenery in North America. Only a short drive from Boulder and Denver, it is easily accessible and perfect for a short getaway. Along Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake, you will cross over the Continental Divide and see everything from tundra and snow to flowing rivers and natural wildlife.
The Royal Gorge Bridge near the towns of Canon City and Salida are prime spots for whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River, as well as fishing, hiking, mountain biking and camping options. There’s also a fun, scenic train ride through Royal Gorge along with top-notch shopping and family-friendly restaurants.
Another popular spot is Vail and Beaver Creek. Here, there’s plenty to do, including horseback riding, ATVs and 4×4 mountain tours so you can take in all of the amazing scenery. In Vail, both children and adults will love the Epic Discovery experience. It has a mountain coaster, zip line, tubing hills and other physical challenges. If that’s too much, don’t worry. There’s still all of the traditional mountain outings available here as well. If you want to kick up your heels a bit, check out the Vail Dance Festival that takes place in late July or early August.
Steamboat Springs gets a thumbs-up from families for its traditional mountain outings, along with a disc golf course and the popular Movies on the Mountain series every Saturday night during the summer. There’s even a guided hike with a gourmet chef each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday beginning in June.
Historically known as a winter wonderland, Aspen Snowmass is growing in popularity during the summertime. There are a number of challenging and unforgettable golf courses in the area, along with some exhilarating parasailing and hot-air balloon outings. The Food & Wine Classic each June is also a popular must-do in the summer. The new Lost Forest at Snowmass is chock-full of summer mountain fun, including a canopy zip line, paintball, climbing wall and alpine coaster. If you’re into biking, check out the newly developed bike park in Snowmass and its growing number of trails. Whitewater rafting and stand-up paddle boarding along the Roaring Fork River also make for fun family outings.
Kids will love the Gravity Play area in Telluride, which has a bungee trampoline, a ropes course and water walkers. Explore trails on horseback or mountain bike, or take in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival each June around the summer solstice. The popular Telluride Film Fest takes place in late August.
Big Bear Lake in southern California sits in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest, and is full of charm and family adventure. Hang out, swim or fish in the majestic 7-mile-long lake, or try your hand at fishing its waters. There’s also hiking, biking, parasailing and plenty of scenery to take in. Families love Big Bear in the late summer when the leaves are turning. It’s an unforgettable memory. Big Bear offers a true rustic mountain experience, with several cabins available for rental.
When it’s time to get away, take a closer look at Northstar/Lake Tahoe. The family that loves to bike will want to put this one on their list. There’s something for all ages and skill levels, and include cross-country, downhill and single-track courses. There’s also world-class golf and fly-fishing nearby. At the Kids Zone, youngsters can roller skate, play mini-golf or take on the climbing wall.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has become a summer playground for families looking for adventure in the West. There’s plenty of hiking and backpacking experiences available, along with whitewater rafting and kayaking excursions.
Big Sky Resort is a popular destination only a three-hour drive from Yellowstone National Park. At Big Sky Resort, check out the Lone Peak Expedition or Nature Zipline for some aerial adventure, or stay closer to the ground on a Wildlife Viewing or a horse-riding trip. Avid golfers will love the 8,000-yard course known as “The Reserve,” nestled among nature at an elevation of 6,500 feet above sea level.
Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in January made Park City, Utah, a household name, along with big powder and amazing ski runs during the winter months. These days, more and more families are choosing Park City for a summer retreat. The nearby Jordanelle Reservoir provides ample opportunities for water fun, including boating and fishing. Hot-air ballooning, golf, hiking and horseback riding are also exciting outings. For even more excitement, don’t miss the chance to ride all of the mountain coasters, zip lines and slides.
More and more families are heading north of the boarder in the summer. Known for its picturesque ski-season snowfall, Whistler Blackcomb is becoming more of a hot spot in the summer. In July, the Kokanee Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival offers Summer X-Games-style events filled with the sport’s top professional athletes. The Warrior Dash in early August is one of the more grueling races in North America, complete with mud crawling and fire leaping as part of the course.
If you’re looking for nature, there’s plenty of rainforests, glaciers and meadows to explore at Whistler Blackcomb, and even a guided geology tour. There are even tours where you can safely view black bear in their natural habitat. Or check out the Alpine Photography Tour for some great photo opportunities, gondola rides, paddle boarding, archery, or spend the day with the family at the Blackcomb Base Adventure Zone.
Families on the East Coast love a getaway to Stowe Mountain Resort in the Adirondack Mountains in Vermont. The popular winter ski destination has a number of fun summer activities now as well. Check out the scenery on a gondola ride, or get your adrenaline rushing on the world’s fastest zip line. Soar high above at Tree Top Adventures, with six aerial courses and more than 60 other challenges and games. For a more relaxing time, head to Auto Toll Road for a historic trip toward Mt. Mansfield and Lake Champlain. There’s plenty of biking and hiking opportunities along the way.
Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, is a hidden gem for a fun family vacation in the summer. There’s ample outdoor activities, starting with boating, kayaking or canoeing on the tranquil Corcoran’s Pond. Or choose from more than 100 miles of hiking trails with breathtaking views and plenty of fresh air. The area boast a total of seven mountains over 4,000 feet in elevation. If you up for a real challenge, hit the links for a round of golf at the state’s oldest course.