Give the kids their first taste of America's epic outdoor adventures. These 10 getaways, including hiking the Appalachian Trail and canyoneering in Utah's red sandstone, are pint-sized versions of legendary experiences you'll talk about for years to come. Best of all, they're trips a family on a budget can actually afford.
Kayaking Lake Superior's Apostle Islands
A cluster of 21 islands off the northwestern tip of Wisconsin, the Apostle Islands are rimmed with enough mystery to intrigue even the youngest visitors. Family kayaking trips for paddlers as young as age five lead to secret chambers, honeycombed cave passageways, and visible shipwrecks. On a four-day all-inclusive excursion, you venture out from base camp each day in three-seater kayaks, stopping at wide, sandy beaches and historical lighthouses. Guides also prepare each kid-friendly meal and set up your base-camp tent under towering hemlock trees. They keep kids entertained with splash wars and dares to leap into the chilly waters of Lake Superior. On land there are games and, after dinner, s'mores around the campfire.
On a budget: Wilderness Inquiry's four-day family trips ($395 per adult, $195 per child 17 and under) run throughout the summer.
Boating through Arizona's Antelope Canyon
To fully appreciate the grandeur of Antelope Canyon, the Southwest's most photographed canyon, you and the kids have to see both sides—and at different times of the day. During a Navajo-led hike ($35 to $46) of the upper canyon on Navajo land, you see shafts of light stream in around noon. Later, the canyon's hues become vibrant reds, blues, and purples. After your hike, drive to the canyon's other side at Lake Powell Resort for an afternoon boat tour ($41 to $65). See the massive 710-foot Glen Canyon Dam from the seat of a boat before cruising up Antelope Canyon until it narrows so much you can almost touch the sides.
On a budget: A five-day rental of a 46-foot Lake Powell houseboat that sleeps 10 is $1,800, just $180 per night per family if split two ways.
Downhill thrills in Keystone, Colo.
Satisfy your kids' need for downhill speed at a fraction of the price you'd pay in winter at Keystone Resort. Just 90 miles from Denver International Airport, Keystone reassigns its ski lifts to bike duty in summer. Families can hop the lift (all day: $37 per adult, $21 per child) with mountain bikes, then barrel down bare ski trails, from easy green runs to double black diamonds, in one of the country's top-rated downhill bike parks. On another part of the mountain you can actually go snow tubing in summer. One hour of lift-accessed tubing, including a $15 lunch voucher, costs $41. Go on a geocaching adventure ($10) and find hidden treasures along Keystone's hiking and biking trails.
On a budget: Summer lodging rates start at less than $100 per night, with hundreds of units to choose from, including condos with full kitchens. The mountain's scenic gondola rides are free from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Fridays in summer.
Idaho's all-inclusive eco-adventure lodge