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Top Western Mountain Destinations for Families this Summer

Rocky Mountain National Park
At the top of Colorado at Rocky Mountain National Park. credit: Pixabay

Think a mountain getaway is just for ski season, think again. Summertime visits to the mountains offers sunny days and cool nights. It’s the ideal time to explore with lots of hiking, camping and together time as you roast a marshmellow over the campfire. Though it’s not all camping and cabins, several mountain destinations offers comfortable places to spend a few days without the sleeping outside part. Here’s the top Western Mountain destinations for families to explore this summer.

Top Western Mountain Destinations for Families

One of the highlights of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay State Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Sierra Nevada Mountains in California

Lake Tahoe

Where else can snow ski and water ski on the same summer day? Straddling California and Nevada state line, Lake Tahoe boasts water-based thrills, like boating, paddleboarding, parasailing, or just chillin’ on the beach. Then you can hike through an alpine meadow and let the kids sled down the last of the spring snow. Or tour the century-old rustic castle or rambling cabins along the lake’s shore. Find lots of camping, cabins, and vacation rentals along with quaint villages ringing the lake that never freezes. Lake Tahoe is a personal favorite and one of the top Western Mountain destinations for families.

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Mammoth Lakes and June Lake

This summer getaway is about a four-hour drive from Los Angeles. Though it seems worlds away.  During the summer, Mammoth Mountain’s gondola heads to the peaks for hiking. Nearby Devils Post Pile National Monument for a study in geology with its log-like rock formations, with parking and a shuttle near the Mammoth Mountain lodge. The towns of Mammoth Lakes and June Lake offer condos, RV sites and camping. For a picturesque lake, explore June Lake, just up Highway 395 from Mammoth. 

Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
Load up the kids explore the less-visited national park with Redwoods. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park

In the adjoining Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks, hike among a grove of ancient tall trees where staring at the tops of their boroughs can cause vertigo. The shaded trails are perfect for hiking in the summer and there’s even horse-back riding. This woodland escape has camping, cabins along with a lodge. A ranger program is the best place to learn more about the forest.  Though the Kings Canyon side will be less crowded than Sequoia National Park.

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Take a hike. What to do in Lassen National Park with kids.
Take a hike when visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park to enjoy the mountain scenery. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Volcanoes are always a crowd pleaser. So head to Northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park to learn about volcanoes while exploring a mountain retreat that looks similar to Yosemite but lacks the crowds.This park stays snowed in for a while though worth the effort. For a hike, consider Bumpass Hell Trail and Devastion Area InterpretiveTrail.   During your stay, reserve a rustic cabin with bunk beds. There’s the top rated Drakesbad Guest Ranch for refined western hospitality, both within the park.

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Rocky Mountains in Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park

Located west of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road meanders through the mountaintops with views for miles since you are above the treeline for a portion of it. Along with mountain landscapes, find lake oasis and lots of wildlife, including bear and moose. There’s just camping in the park so head to summer camp at YMCA Camp Chief Ouray. It’s where families can spend several days enjoy the endless summer days of camp–but this time as a family.

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Durango Colorado

At the terminus of the Million Dollar Highway, an infamous s-curved drive that sometimes tops the list of scary drives, is one of the top mountain destinations for families. Durango is home to warm natural springs for kids to splash along with the Durango-Silverton scenic train. Find a quaint mountain town with a hippy vibe and lots of outdoor adventure.

Vail Colorado

The mountain oasis of Vail offers one of the top Western Mountain destinations for families. The Epic Discovery Center located atop Vail Mountain offers activities from alpine slides to zip lines (both big hits with kids) Or sit back and listen to one of the many free summer concerts, located in the village. Plan to visit at the end of summer to watch (or participate in) the Kids Adventure Games, which will leave kids muddy, sweaty, smiling and filled with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment.

Cascades Mountains in Oregon

Mount Hood. Oregon Road Trip Itinerary
Explore the highlights of Oregon, like Mount Hood. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Mt. Hood 

Mt. Hood is a summer destination for serious skiers and snowboarders since it’s one of the few places to offer consistent year-round skiing. Other big draws: the waterfalls along the Columbia River and the fruit loop, 35 miles of orchards with roadside fruit stands. Stay at Timberline Lodge, an historic lodge and base of operations at Mt. Hood for a dose of historic charm.

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Crater Lake offers a sapphire lake and quaint historic lodge. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Crater Lake

As the deepest lake in the U.S. drive along its Rim Drive to see the amazing blue color. To see the water up-close, there’s a narrated cruise that requires a hike to the lake. Some want to hike to the top of Wizard Island in the middle of Crater Lake. Others take a leap into the ice cold, clear mountain water. Everyone agrees the best way to end the perfect day is watching the sunset from one of Crater Lake Lodge’s rocking chairs.

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Olympic National Park in Washington

If you’re torn between a beach, mountain or national park getaway, find all of that at Olympic National Park. With several different ecosystems to explore, like temperate rainforests, you don’t have to choose. And it’s all a few hours from the Seattle Tacoma area on the Olympic Peninsula.

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South Dakota's Black Hills, Black Hills for kids, Custer State Park
Custer State Park in South Dakota offers world-class outdoor recreation like rock climbing, animal viewing, hike and bike trails, fishing and swimming. A state park worthy of the title national park

Black Hills in South Dakota

Visit an American icon–Mount Rushmore. Ride the chair lift up to take the 2,000-foot alpine slide down with Mount Rushmore in view. Or head to the Crazy Horse Memorial for the nighttime laser light show that tells the story of Native Americans. Drive through Custer State Park, a top 10 wildlife destination to see the gazing buffalo. Or explore one of the longest caves in the world. It’s all located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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Grand Tetons in Wyoming

Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park is a top ten national park destination. As part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Grand Teton’s centerpience is its mountain chain along with pristine lakes at the base. Packed with outdoor recreation, find lots of activities,  lodging and dining during your trip.

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Glacier National Park in Montana

In a national park with over one million acres, it’s the Crown of the Continent. Located in northern Montana, find three mountain ranges, part of the Rocky Mountains, along with 130 named lakes. Sharing an international border with Alberta, Canada, Glacier National Park joins Waterton Lakes National Park to form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Stay a day, or explore for a week or more.

Read more about Glacier National Park

Plan an summer escape to the mountains of the western U.S. and find pristine lakes, evergreen covered mountains along with some surprises like glaciers and temperate rain forests. With activities like hiking, boat cruises and star gazing, enjoy a day or a week in a Western Mountain Destination. There's even a range of lodging choices from primiative camping to luxurious vacation homes to meet your levels of comfort. Best Montain Getaway for Families | Where to go to see Mountains | Best National Parks with Mountains #Mountains #FamilyTrips

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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