Top Ten Family-Friendly Summit Hikes - Page 2

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park  (Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/Getty)

10. Mt. Evans, Colorado
Distance: 0.5 mile round-trip
Difficulty: Easy (but don't forget the elevation)
Elevation: 14,264 feet
Mount Evans feels like the top of the world! Even infants can enjoy the spectacular view from the summit of this iconic Colorado "14'er." From the top, the mountains that make up the Continental Divide stretch out for miles, with eagle-eye views of the eastern plains to Denver and Colorado Springs. The peak's just two hours from Denver, a half-hour from I-70 near Idaho Springs. You can drive to the Summit parking lot and walk 0.25 mile up the Summit Trail to the top, or park lower down the mountain at Summit Lake for longer treks in the 3.5- to 5-mile range. Families with teenagers should consider the route that starts at Summit Lake and accesses the summit via Mt. Spalding and Evan's northwest ridge. For a five-mile loop, descend the northeast face back to Summit Lake. The park is dog-friendly, so this is a good place to exercise both two and four-legged family members. Entrance to the park is $10 per carload.
Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests Travel Guide

9. Humphrey's Peak, Arizona
Distance: 8.8 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Difficult (due to elevation change)
Elevation: 12,633 feet
At least 13 Indian tribes consider Humphrey's Peak and the surrounding San Francisco Peaks sacred ground. You'll see why when you stand atop its lofty summit. To the north you can make out the rim of the Grand Canyon, to the west stretches the vast Coconino Plateau, and to the south you get views of the Mogollon Rim and Oak Creek Canyon. There are several routes up Humphrey's, but the most family friendly is the 8.8-mile Humphrey's Peak Trail that starts at the Snowbowl parking lot, about a dozen miles northwest of Flagstaff. The trail winds through Hart Prairie's magnificent stands of quaking aspen and carpets of alpine Iris and blue lupine, then climbs through forests of pinion and juniper, old-growth fir, spruce and bristlecone pine, and finally spills you out to exquisitely delicate alpine tundra. Weather moves quickly at this elevation—get an early start and be prepared for wind, rain, and even snow year-round. This is a hike for families with older children, as the trail is steep and rocky, and it gains more than 3,000 feet.
Coconino National Forest Travel Guide

8. Guadalupe Peak, Texas
Distance: 8.4 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Difficult
Elevation: 8,749 feet
You won't find crowds on this rocky sentinel; instead, keep your eyes open for remnants of the ancient limestone reef that makes up the world's best fossilized marine beds. Guadalupe Peak is the high point in Texas, and it sits in Guadeloupe Mountains National Park, one of the most isolated national parks in the lower 48 states. From the top, the desert stretches for miles and miles, punctuated by jagged rock towers and sheer limestone cliffs. The sky is always wild here, with big white thunderheads forming up over the hot desert sand. About 110 miles east of El Paso, and just 10 miles from the New Mexico border, the peak is surrounded by some of the oldest fossil reefs in the world. The length of the hike may sound daunting, but the trail is well-marked. There are steep sections (and some airy cliff bands), so don't make this your first family mountain climb. The trail passes lovely riparian oases, with lush green ferns hiding a hidden treasure (water) in the otherwise hot and dry terrain. The trail ascends 3,000 feet, so count on six to eight hours, and pack plenty of water. Plan your trip for the fall to see orange, red, and gold foliage that rivals leaf-peeping season in New England.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park Travel Guide

7. Mt. Oberlin (via Clements Saddle), Montana
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 8,064 feet
This is the best family-friendly hike in Glacier National Park, with an easy-to-follow trail that leads to a spectacular summit with gaper views. Glacier National Park's rocky, snow capped peaks and dense forests are beautiful, but generally unattainable. Experienced mountaineers might scale the vertical cliff faces, but most mere mortals are limited to turn-out view points along the Going-to-the-Sun Road that bisects the park. Mt. Oberlin is not only easily accessible, but it affords some of the prettiest vistas in the area. From Going-to-the-Sun Road, park at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The trail starts at 6,700 feet and you should plan on two to three hours round-trip. It is only 1.5 miles to the summit (about 1,500 feet elevation gain), but give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the panorama. You'll want sturdy sneakers, but there is very little boulder hopping and the trail is fairly protected, with limited exposure.
Glacier National Park Travel Guide

6. Stone Mountain, North Carolina
Distance: 4.5 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 2,305 feet
In the fall, you'll see some of the world's most colorful foliage here in Stone Mountain State Park. This 600-foot high grey granite dome rises above the dense hardwood forests to the south of the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Roaring Gap. The hike is lovely year-round, but the best time is fall, when the surrounding forests are ablaze with color. The well-worn Stone Mountain Loop trail starts out steep, but there are plenty of rocky ledges to rest and enjoy the view. From the trailhead (accessible from both lower and upper trailhead parking lots), climb 0.75 miles to the summit. Easier terrain takes you past Stone Mountain falls, a gentle cascade that tumbles down granite slabs. Stone Mountain also attracts technical rock climbers; the trail affords good views of some of the most famous climbs.
Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Guide

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