The weather is warm and the days are long- summer is the ideal time for to get involved with all kinds of outdoor activities. Even if you’re not an experienced outdoor type yourself, you can still have a go, get some healthy exercise, and enjoy yourself outside. Here are four activities to try as a family:
1. Rock climbing
With a professional instructor, beginner rock climbing is a very safe sport. All the necessary safety equipment can be provided for you and there will be no chance of a risky fall. It’s also very exciting, which means you won’t find it difficult to get teenagers involved alongside their younger siblings.
Almost every town has an indoor rock climbing center and 99% welcome novice climbers with open arms. If the family gets a taste for it, you can then move on to climbing outside (qualified instructors are very easy to find if there is a craggy mountain or a sea cliff close by). An outdoor experience is generally more expensive but the views can take the experience to a whole new level.
Orienteering (or rogaining) is a cross between a puzzle and a running race. Participants make their way through the woods or across the hills using a map and compass to find checkpoints. It’s great fun and teaches map reading skills too.
Local orienteering groups hold beginner events in National Parks and wilderness areas- have a look online to find out if there is one near you. Joining a club is also a great way to meet other active families and pick up outdoor know-how.
On flat water and with the right safety gear, kayak touring is another fairly safe sport. It helps if everyone in the family can swim but infant and baby buoyancy aids can be hired from most good boat rental places. Kids should always wear a buoyancy aid even if they are confident swimmers.
If your nearest body of water is a lake, take a look at a map before you leave and identify a picnic spot where you can stop for lunch. Having a destination will keep kids focused and give them a reason to help with the paddling!
If there is a gentle river nearby, ask the kayak rental company whether they can drop you off upstream. That way you can float back downstream at a leisurely pace.
Dark, enclosed spaces aren’t for everyone but caving isn’t just about crawling through muddy underground tunnels. Most of the larger tourist caving resorts (Carlsbad Caverns, for example) have spacious, open caves that are beautifully lit to show off the most spectacular crystalline features. One or two even have wheelchair access.
Going caving is as close as most of us will ever come visiting to a completely different world, one that has its own animals, its own colors, and its own kind of beauty. A family can either explore in comfort or get down and dirty- it’s up to you.
Jess Spate is an outdoor enthusiast and a qualified climbing instructor. She writes for Appalachian Outdoors, one of America’s favorite hiking and camping retailers.