Looking for Family Adventure Spots? The Answer is Closer than you Think!

Summertime is the time to go big, travel, and make once in a lifetime family memories.  Or that’s what everybody says.

So what if you’re not lucky enough to have a week of paid vacation?  Or the idea of planning and packing for a big family trip is so stressful that it throws you into an ice cream binge?  Are our kids missing out because their summer isn’t some bucket list national tour?  I say no.

Luckily, you don’t need to go into a sugar coma from all the stress of planning outdoor family adventures.  They’re right at your back door!  No week long road trip or credit card debt required.

Look Local

It’s easy to overlook what’s right in our backyard but public lands are the easiest cheapest and closest outdoor family adventures you can have.

Public lands are just what the name says, lands by owned by us — the public.  This includes national lands like National Parks, wildlife refuges, scenic byways, and monuments.  But it also includes our state and local parks.  They’re everywhere!

junior rangers at fossil butte

So what are the benefits of these public lands over some big road trip?

There are close.

You don’t need a planning session to get there.  You just need a half a day and an adventurous spirit.

They’re cheap.

Being closer costs less in gas money but many are also FREE entrance as well.  Our taxpayer dollars have already gone into these lands so why not use them?  When there are entrance fees, they’re pretty reasonable, especially compared to some theme park I can think of that’s a popular summer visit. And there are discounted state and national passes like the Every Kid in a Park program (current 4th graders) and the America the Beautiful annual passes.

every kid in a park pass

You get more time together.

A small jaunt means you can go every weekend!.  And when family time should be measured in quantity and not Pinterest-worthy quality that makes a big difference.

It’s a new and unexpected adventure.

When you head to all the usual summer vacation spots, you know what you’re getting into and you know what to expect.  Which is great sometimes.  But when you head out into public lands you will find something new and unexpected.

You might actually learn something.

Public lands do not just give you recreation, many will teach you about area history or culture.  Here in Oregon, we have lighthouses, ghost towns, and caves.  Not to mention all the interpretive signs like the one we read about burial customs on Memaloose Island at Memaloose State Park.

One of my kids favorite stops this summer visiting family was the Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite near Greybull, Wyoming.  Now I grew up in that area and have never stopped there before but we saw the sign and pulled over.

And it was great!  It was a short stopover of only a couple hours and just five miles out of the way we were already headed.  We saw fossilized dinosaur tracks, got a little bit of area history, and took home a few shell fossils (allowed per the sign at the sight). The kids were ecstatic, showing everyone their fossils and explaining all about the little prehistoric shrimp digging in the ancient lake bed. It ranks right up there for our summer adventures even though it made barely a blip on the “big trip meter”.

 Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite
 dinosaur track
 exploring for fossils
 interpretive sign

 

Where to find public lands

Now that I’ve convinced you that you need to get a taste of your public lands TODAY, how do you actually find them?  Where do we find some of these hidden gems that are, well… hidden.

Unfortunately I haven’t found any great all-in-one public land list for the United States but luckily our national and state governments have a pretty good list.  You just have to know where to look for it.

Get Social

Social media is a great place to get inspiration for local family outtings.  Just follow your local agencies and see what they are posting.  Like this sea star posted by Oregon State Parks (@oregonstateparks) on Instagram.  The caption highlighted the guided tidepool walks at some of the coastal state parks.  Didn’t even know they were available!!

oregon state parks sea star

Public Lands websites

Check out these other websites and apps to find public land near you!

United States

Recreation.gov

The go-to place for national public lands.  Parks, byways, educational sites…  Search for activities and reserve campsites and other spaces.  You can also explore trip ideas and build your own trip.  It helps us for local lands because you can easily search by location and activity.

It also has a reservation iPhone app but it does not have great reviews 😕

National Parks

Findyoupark.com lets search through the National parks, memorials, waters, momuments… All those places run by the National Park Service.  You can easily search by location and activity.

State Lands

Pick your state below for quick links to state public lands and apps.  States have more than just parks.  Many have forests, hatcheries, and more!  So explore around.

Alabama

The Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources gives you a gateway to the list of state parks but also check under "Things to Do" for other activities like the State Lands Canoe Trails.

Or you can find the Outdoor Alabama hunting, fishing, & wildlife app  Android  iOS

And the official Alabama State Parks app  Android  iOS

Also find the State Parks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Alaska

Alaska Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Arizona

Arizona State Parks & Trails

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @AZstateparks

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Arkansas

Arkansas State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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California

California State Parks

Also check them out on their parks blog, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube

Caliparks.org

  • "CaliParks.org is a web app that puts all 11,826 national, state, regional and local parks in California at your fingertips."  Sound like the perfect place to get to parks near you!

Apps

California State Parks Tour - Monterey District  Android

  • Audio tours of the state parks in the Monetery District of the state parks.

Ecological Reserves and Wildlife Areas of California

California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife keeps a searchable list of ecological reserves and wildlife areas.  If you click on a place, it will also tell you the recreation opportunities there.

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Colorado

Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Not just a parks website, you can also find fish hatcheries, wildlife areas, and learn more about the Colorado Trail System, hunting, and fishing.

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and Vimeo.  Seems like they are just about everywhere!

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Connecticut

Connecticut State Parks and Forests

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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Delaware

Delaware State Parks

They also have an app for Android, iOS, and Amazon

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Florida

Florida State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Or get the Florida State Parks app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

Outdoor Florida

This site lets you explore Florida's statewide outdoor spaces!  Sports fields, fishing, hunting, trails, educational stops...

Plus they have an app!  Android  iOS

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Georgia

Georgia State Parks

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Or get the George State Parks app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

Georgia Outdoor Map

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources runs an outdoor map covering just about everything!  Trails, picnic area, historic sites, geocaching, trails, and more.  Head on over to explore more.

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Hawaii

Hawaii Division of State Parks

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Idaho

Idaho Parks and Recreation

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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Illinois

Illinois State Parks and Outdoor Recreation

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Indiana

Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources

The natural resources site give a list of state parks, forests, trails and nature preserves.

Follow the department on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Iowa

Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources

Explore Iowa's outdoor things to do and places to go such as state parks, forests, and preserves.

Follow the department on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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Kansas

Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism

All the state parks, hunting, and fishing information in one place.

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Or get the app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

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Kentucky

Kentucky Tourism Page

Find information on state parks, preserves hunting, fishing, and boating.  And of course horse racing.

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Louisiana

Louisiana State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Or grab the parks app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

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Maine

Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

Find parks, historic site, or other public lands.

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Maryland

Maryland Park Service

Also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

Or grab the Department of Natural Resources app  Android  iOS

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Massachusetts

Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation

Find parks, local beaches, wading pools, or trails.

Also on Twitter and Instagram

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Michigan

Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

Find parks, campgrounds, and trails.

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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Minnesota

Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources

Find parks, trails, forests, and natural areas.

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

DNR Mobile Webpages

Minnesota also has an interesting list of resources available as mobile friendly webpages and GPS maps.

Webpages: LakeFinder, Recreation Compass, Fishing and Hunting License Sales, Fall Colors (this looks like a good one!)

Maps: OHV trails, Snowmobile trails, Walk-in-access data, Wildlife management area data, and Ruffed grouse management areas

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Mississippi

Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks

Find state parks, trails, golf, fishing and splash pads.

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Missouri

Missouri State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

Or grab the app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Search for things to do outdoors by activity type.  Or see what outdoor skills classes are available next.

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Montana

Montana State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Nebraska

Nebraska Game and Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Nevada

Nevada State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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New Jersey

New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection

Learn about state parks, forests, and historic sites.

Also on Facebook and Instagram.

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New Mexico

New Mexico True

An extensive list of New Mexico tourism like state parks and other outdoor adventure.

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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New York

New York Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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North Carolina

North Carolina State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

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North Dakota

North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

Find state parks, scenic byways, and nature reserves.

Also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

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Ohio

Ohio State Parks and Watercraft

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

Or grab their parks app for Android or iOS

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Oklahoma

Travel Oklahoma - State Parks

The travel Oklahoma site has a lot of things to do and places to stay in addition to information about state parks.

Also find Travel Oklahoma on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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Oregon

Oregon State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr

Or grab the app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

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Rhode Island

Rhode Island State Parks and Recreation

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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South Carolina

South Carolina State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest

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South Dakota

South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Tennessee

Tennessee State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Texas

Texas State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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Utah

Utah State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Or grab the parks app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

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Vermont

Vermont Dept. of Forest Parks and Recreation

Find state parks, trails, and more.

Vermont State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Virginia

Virginia State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

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Washington

Washington State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Or grab the parks app for Android, iOS, or Amazon

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West Virginia

West Virginia State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Wisconsin

Wisconsin State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Flickr

Or grab the parks app for Android or iOS

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Wyoming

Wyoming State Parks

Also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest

TravelStorys App

Guided tours of state parks and other natural spaces.  This app is not only for Wyoming but most of the tours available currently are located in the state.    AndroidiOS

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Australia

National Parks

There are over 500 National Parks in Australia plus World Heritage sites and marine parks.  Most are managed by Australia’s States and Territories listed below.

Australia Capital Territory

The ACT government site has a list of parks, waterways, skateparks, etc.

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New South Wales

The National Parks and Wildlife Service in New South Wales.

Also find them on Facebook and YouTube

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Northern Territory

Northern Territory Government Parks and resources

Or find them on Facebook

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Queensland

Queensland National Parks

Check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.  Or get park alerts on Twitter.

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South Australia

National Parks South Australia

Also find them on Facebook and Instagram

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Tasmania

Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

Also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

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Victoria

Parks Victoria

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Western Australia

Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service

Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

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Canada

Parks Canada

Parks Canada doesn’t just give you parks.  They also have historic sites, waterways, conservation areas, and more.

Catch them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

Or download the Parks Canada app  Android  iOS

United Kingdom

National Parks

The UK has 15 National Parks.  Head over to the website to for a quick guide about the parks or help with planning your visit.

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Local Parks

There are just too many local parks for me to list here but there are certainly hidden gems there as well.  So search around and see what your county and city have to offer.

 

Now get out there!!  And if you have anything to add to the list, tag us on Facebook orTwitter or leave a comment!

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