Fun for the whole family can be tough, but a nice pad is a good place to start.
Fun for the whole family can be tough, but a nice pad is a good place to start. (Photo: Giorgio Magini/iStock)

Top 5 Family-Friendly Adventure Lodges

Hunting around for vacation destinations that actually cater to both kids and adults is tough. But we’ve got you and yours covered.

Fun for the whole family can be tough, but a nice pad is a good place to start.

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We’re getting deeper into summer and you’ve probably asked yourself: Where can we take a true family-friendly adventure? It’s a question I get from readers a lot this time of year, and I’ve come up with a short list.

My criteria are simple:

  1. Location, location, location! If you're going to spend money to stay in a lodge rather than camp, you want awesome access to trails and adventure right out the door.
  2. Destinations with strong connections to place and landscape.
  3. Kid-specific activities that feel authentic, not hokey.
  4. A bevvy of real-deal guides or owners who are living the adventure life too and are happy to share it with you.
  5. That ineffable one-of-a-kind vibe.

We've scoured the country for the best adventure hideouts. Even better, these aren't just for families, and they're not just for summer. Consider these five finds your go-to year-round digs whether you're bringing the gang or going solo. Rippers tested, rippers approved. Here we go: 

1. Pioneer Guest Cabins, Crested Butte, Colorado

(Pioneer Guest Cabins)

This is my dream place: A perfect little DIY getaway in the mountains, everything you need and nothing you don't; easy access to some of the best singletrack in the country; and a price tag that won't make you hurl. The Pioneer Guest Cabins, a cluster of eight historic mining cabins on a private inholding in the Gunnison National Forest, are as close as I’ve found to my dream, manifested.

Nine miles south of Crested Butte, they're close enough to justify a spin on the 401 trail, but just far enough away to escape the tourist hustle and bustle. Built between 1939 and the '60s, as a base camp for Colorado's first lift-served ski resort, and painstakingly renovated by owners Matt and Leah Whiting over the past 15 years, the cabins are the perfect blend of wilderness style and simplicity. They have wood-burning stoves, separate bedrooms, small utilitarian kitchens, and a neighborly feel. (Dogs welcome, too!)

The weekend we were there, we fat-biked up a no-name trail to Cement Creek Road and skied late-season corn at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. We vow to return when the wildflowers bloom to ride and hike the Farris Creek and Walrod trails, just across the road. Inside tip: Pick up a take-and-bake pie from the Secret Stash in Crested Butte and enjoy sunset and dinner from the peace and quiet of your private creekside cabin. 

Cabins from $151,

2. High Camp Hut, Telluride, Colorado

(High Camp Hut)

I'm a huge believer in sleeping outside as often as possible. Going to bed under the stars and waking with the sun is the ultimate reboot. At High Camp Hut, a privately-owned cabin at 11,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains, you get the best of both worlds: a remote backcountry experience with just enough creature comforts to make you feel at home. 

In winter, the hut—which sleeps up to 16 in four basic bedrooms and a loft—is a 2.5-mile, 1,000-foot-vertical ski or snowshoe in from Lizard Head Pass (owner Cindy Farny-Mallett will haul your gear and food in via snow cat for $150). In summer, hike or mountain bike the double track to High Camp, where you're greeted with a wide wooden deck, perfect for grilling out and admiring the views of Sheep Mountain Peak to the north. Networks of hiking, skiing, and riding trails shoot off in all directions. Though the hut is off the grid, it is equipped with solar lights, an enormous wood stove, and a wood-fired sauna. We stayed two nights; it wasn’t enough!

From $300 per night,

3. Greyfield Inn, Cumberland Island, Georgia

(Greyfield Inn)

Remoteness is an amenity at the Greyfield, an inn built in 1900 on the largest of Georgia's barrier islands. But so is genteel southern hospitality. Arriving at the Greyfield by private ferry, guests are greeted like family in the stately clapboard mansion and shown the wood-paneled library and the small bar tucked under the stairwell. If it feels a little like you've arrived at your grandmother's manse, that’s because you basically have. The Greyfield's genial owners are the grandchildren of the inns' founder, Lucy R. Ferguson, granddaughter of Thomas Carnegie, and they seem as genuinely glad to have you as they are happy to be on the island. 

And what an island. Cumberland is roughly the size and shape of Manhattan, with only a handful of historic homes (many of which were built by the Carnegies or their relatives). The southern end has been protected as Cumberland Island National Seashore, and the northern tip is home to a 19th century African American settlement called Dungeness. The rest includes windswept, empty beaches on the Atlantic side—half a mile from the Greyfield's front porch—marshy coves perfect for kayaking (borrow the inn's for no charge) on the bay side, and miles of quiet trails and two-track crisscrossing the middle. 

After a few days of spinning cruiser bikes (also free) around the sandy roads and hard-packed beaches, casting for speckled trout off the back dock, exploring the national park, sipping Old Fashioned's on the porch swing, and gathering for elegant-yet-never-stuffy dinners in the dining room, you'll start plotting your annual return trip. At the Greyfield, it's only natural.

From $425,

4. Ritz Carlton Kapalua, Maui

(Ritz Carlton Kapalua)

We know what you're thinking: a mega luxury resort? But RCK is that rare large hotel with a small feel and a big heart. For starters, it's the last property on the mountainous section of West Maui coast, just before the road narrows to a single, wending lane, giving it an edge-of-the-Earth feel. 

Xterra holds its annual off-road triathlon world championships at the Ritz, dispatching swimmers to the waters off DT Fleming Beach, an idyllic curve of sand hemmed by rocky points. Mountain bikers and runners to the switchbacking singletrack of the Mahana Ridge Trail, which climbs 5.75 miles and 1,600 feet to Maunalei Arboretum. But it's the Jean Michel Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program that really gives RCK its adventure cred. One of only five such centers around the world, the program immerses visiting adventurers in the land, sea, and native culture of Maui, with snorkeling, whale watching, and kayaking expeditions. For kids, there's tide-pooling and turtle safari camps, plus skywatching at night. 

Bring or rent a SUP and paddle through the breakers at DT Fleming for a morning session before the surf gets big, and leave time to trek the Coastal Trail two miles to the lapping cove at Kapalua Bay for snorkeling and sunset-viewing. Two coves to the north of RCK, Honolua Bay is a protected marine sanctuary frequented by hubcap-size honus, or sea turtles. Inside tip: Don't miss the three-hour outrigger/whale-watching trip in a traditional six-seat canoe with native Hawaiian guide Rowdy—she’s the real deal.

From $399,

5. Boulder Mountain Lodge, Boulder, Utah

(David Heaton/Boulder Mountain Lo)

The tiny hamlet of Boulder—the other Boulder—sits squat in the middle of southern Utah's wildest canyon lands, a good four-hour drive from anywhere. This is one of the last and largest cell-free zones in the Lower 48, where the sandstone canyons of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument seem to crash off in every direction and it's possible to go for days without receiving a single text message (that's a good thing). 

The rooms at this lodge are large and welcoming and overlook sloping farm fields on their dive to the canyons. From there, check out the stunning Calf Creek Falls, a 126-foot-high cascade, accessibly via a three-mile hike from Calf Creek State Park, about 12 miles south on Highway 12, and Devil's Garden, a crazy mashup of bulbous hoodoos and other rock formations just off Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Whatever you do, don't skip a meal: The onsite restaurant, Hell's Backbone Grill, is a revered culinary oasis that dishes up Southwestern and Pueblo-inspired home cooked, locally sourced cuisine lovingly prepared by a couple former Grand Canyon river chefs.

From $135,

Lead Photo: Giorgio Magini/iStock

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