Outdoor Adventures You Can Conquer With Kids
The time you spend with your children is a precious experience. One way to live life to the fullest and a path you can explore as a family is taking a step into the great outdoors. There are a variety of Southern adventures that your family can tackle together to create some truly unforgettable moments.
Explore the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park runs through Tennessee and North Carolina. With such an expansive area to explore, it’s one of the South’s most diverse locations. Families can take a hike to Laurel Falls or even go tubing. You can also explore the wildlife in the area. This includes everything from elk and black bear spotting to learning about the 31 species of amphibians that have earned the park the moniker of “Salamander Capital of the World.”
Now, let’s jump to an activity that isn’t limited to a single place. Hunting is already a pastime that many families share generationally. However, if you are interested and have learned the ropes, it can be a great activity to bond over or implement in your own traditions.
There are a couple of things to consider before a hunting trip, though. For one, you should check your local hunting regulations. In some states—for example, Alabama—there isn’t an age limit for supervised hunting. On the other hand, some states require additional steps such as the completion of a hunter education course. You’ll also want to check if your child is old enough and needs to apply for a hunting license of their own.
Second, you’ll want to make sure any minor old enough to directly participate in hunting is well-versed and comfortable with handling a firearm. It’s a good idea to test the waters rather than throwing them in the deep end. To start off, you could see if they enjoy target shooting before moving on to live game.
The Alabama Scenic River Trail
When it comes to rivers in the South, most minds jump straight to the Mississippi. However, one of the best adventures you and your family can have is to follow the Alabama Scenic River Trail. It’s actually one of the longest in-state river trails with 650 miles stretching between the Alabama-Georgia border and the Gulf of Mexico.
Since the trail is so long, it offers a multitude of experiences. For a springtime trip, it could be fun and rather beautiful to check out the Alabama Garden Trail. Along the way, you’ll see the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the Huntsville Botanical Garden, Bellingrath Gardens (pictured) and the Mobile Botanical Gardens, just to name a few.
If your kids love wildlife, they may enjoy the North Alabama Birding Trail. Not only does this include your standard songbirds, but you’ll see shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds and even birds of prey.
For those interested in exploring the trail but who aren’t sure where to start, the Alabama Scenic River Trail website offers trip planning, maps of outfitters along the trail and any other information you might need before you go.
Cycle Down Longleaf Trace
Harkening back to Mississippi, the Longleaf Trace in south Mississippi is one trail that you won’t want to miss. This 44-mile stretch isn’t just a hiking experience, either. It’s also often used for running, biking and even horseback riding. Thanks to its paved state, it’s a great place for families to take a bike ride for a day or even make memories teaching kids how to ride a bike.
Longleaf Trace is also full of other points of interests. Camping along the trail in either a camper or good old-fashioned tent is a common choice. There are also events along the trail such as Run4TheKids and Hattie 100 Bike Ride.
For those looking for a more high-energy and adrenaline-inducing time outdoors, whitewater rafting might be the perfect fit. If you aren’t familiar with the sport, whitewater rafting is similar to standard rafting on an inflatable raft. The big difference is that “white water” refers to areas where the current is strong.
There are plenty of places to go whitewater rafting, but its an activity only available at certain times of the year. West Virginia has outfitters along the Gauley River, for example. While the season itself can stretch out longer, the prime of the season here only lasts 22 days. That means it can be a great experience but one that you’ll have to plan well in advance.
Hunting Island State Park
Going back toward the Carolinas, there’s Hunting Island State Park. This park is most known for its lighthouse, since it’s the only one in South Carolina that is accessible to the public. It’s also one of the largest at a towering 130 feet. Yet, this isn’t all the state park has to offer.
Most notably, the lighthouse, of course, is accompanied by fantastic beaches. These are a great place to spend a relaxing day building sandcastles, collecting seashells and taking a swim. So, you can get a panoramic view from the top of the lighthouse and then come down to the sand to enjoy it all.
Camping in Hunting Island State Park is also an encouraged attraction. The park features more than 100 campsites with plenty of amenities, including electrical and water hookup, showers, restrooms and playgrounds. This makes it a great campsite for those wary of the difficulties or inconveniences often associated with traditional camping. With a fishing pier and a large picnic shelter as well, there’s no shortage of activities.
If you keep an eye on the state park’s website, you’ll also see events such as sea turtle watches, sand castle art shows, a full moon lighthouse climb and more.
There are a lot of gems in the South, translating to a lot to see in the great outdoors with your family. Whether you’re looking for an exciting experience or a nice hike or bike ride, there are plenty of adventures to be had any time of year.
Photo Credits: Great Smoky Mountains National Park courtesy of NPS and whitewater rafting courtesy of Visit Columbus GA.