3 Great Ideas for an Off-the-Grid Vacation with Your Family

Vacations help us escape from our hectic day-to-day routines and build lifelong memories with our families. In a world connected by technology, it’s more important than ever that families take off-the-grid vacations. By unplugging from digital distractions, families are free to embrace the sights, sounds and wonders of each new experience together.

Following are some of the best nature vacations. These destinations are easily accessible but feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life, so you can enjoy a technology-free vacation with the ones you love.

Hike the many trails along the Virgin River in Zion National Park and enjoy scenic views at every turn. Above and top photos by Breeze Leonard.

 

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is one of the more popular national parks. Red cliffs, picturesque vistas, cascading waterfalls and emerald pools await adventurous families willing to ditch their devices and explore.

When you arrive at the visitor center, get your bearings and take in the park’s beauty aboard a free shuttle (80 minutes round trip). Use your park map to identify the hiking trails that interest you and hop off at any of the nine stops along the way. Shuttles arrive every seven to 10 minutes.

Riverside Walk is a great starter hike for families; take the paved 1-mile path out and back along the Virgin River or continue wading upstream in the water for a bit. Weeping Rock Trail is a steep, half-mile hike to the famous landmark known for the continuous water dripping down the rock face and its incredible viewing area. The two Emerald Pools trails climb up to a series of pools formed by streams that travel down the cliffs — the hikes are about a mile each and range in difficulty.

How to get there: Fly into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Pick up your rental car and drive about 175 miles northeast on Interstate 15 and state Route 9 in Utah to Zion National Park.

Where to stay: Zion Lodge in the park features views of the breathtaking Zion Canyon’s steep red cliffs; because of its popularity, reservations should be made months in advance. Outside the park, there are plenty of budget-friendly options, such as the Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites, which includes free breakfast and is within walking distance of the park.

The overlook at Cameron Bluff Campground, just a half-mile from the highest point in Arkansas, offers a breathtaking panorama of the national forest below.

 

Mount Magazine, Arkansas

The Ozark National Forest is 1.2 million acres of fresh mountain air, mild climate and pristine lakes and rivers — and it’s where you’ll find this ruggedly beautiful destination that’s more memorable than any social media feed. Mount Magazine State Park, part of the Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas, provides a uniquely stunning vantage point for a variety of outdoor activities to engage your family’s adventurous spirit.

Mount Magazine’s peak, Signal Hill, is a must-visit — the highest point in the state (2,753 feet) is accessible via a moderately difficult 1.5-mile hike on Signal Hill Trail. To experience the best sunset in Arkansas, plan an evening walk to the lookout near Cameron Bluff Campground, where the long-distance views will simply take your breath away. If your family likes to mountain bike, go to the Huckleberry Mountain Horse Trail, the only multiuse trail in the park, and enjoy 34 miles of scenic trail riding (bikes are available for rent).

How to get there: Fly into Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock. Drive about 120 miles west on Interstate 40 and various state routes to Mount Magazine.

Where to stay: The Lodge at Mount Magazine overlooks the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake; besides breathtaking scenery, your family will enjoy the restaurant and indoor swimming pool. Near the Lodge, you can rent a cabin along the bluff; choose accommodations with one, two or three bedrooms. If you’re feeling especially connected to the outdoors, stay in a campsite; you can reserve some online for a price, and others are free but first come, first served on location.

Buena Vista, Colorado, has whitewater rafting for nearly all ability levels — from beginner to advanced — and more than a dozen companies serving up aquatic adventures on the Arkansas River.

 

Buena Vista, Colorado

Buena Vista is Spanish for “good view,” and you’ll know why once you see this beautiful area nestled at the foot of the Continental Divide. You’ll never miss the video games you left behind. It’s quaint and quiet, perfect for shopping, enjoying strolls through town and tasting the local cuisine.

It’s also great for outdoor adventure. In summer, visitors can go kayaking, biking, hiking and zip lining. In winter, there is skiing, snow tubing and snowmobiling. Equipment is usually included in the cost of the activity or available for rent.

If you’re among the many adventure-seekers wanting to go whitewater rafting, book your reservation online ahead of time with River Runners. Or experience Buena Vista by air on the seven zip lines operated by AVA Colorado Zipline. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, plan to hike the Riverside Trail that travels about a half-mile along the Arkansas River and connects with the longer Whipple Trail System.

How to get there: Fly into Denver International Airport and drive about 150 miles southwest on Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 285 to Buena Vista.

Where to stay: The Best Western Vista Inn is a budget-friendly option that offers free breakfast, mountain views and a pool. The boutique Surf Hotel & Chateau has chic rooms on the banks of the Arkansas River, overlooking Buena Vista Whitewater Park.

How to Encourage Your Kids to Unplug

If you’re inspired to hit the road on a tech-free trip, you might think that shutting down digital distractions is easier said than done. These devices have become so entrenched in our lives that it can be hard to put them away — however, the rewards of unplugging on a family vacation make it worth encouraging.

First, set the example; keep yourself focused on engaging with your family and avoid checking your phone if possible. Have each family member start a travel journal, and encourage everyone to spend time each day writing down or sketching favorite memories from the day’s activities. You’ll be amazed at how sharing these new travel memories will strengthen your connection to the experiences and bring you closer together.

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About the Author

Breeze Leonard is a seasoned family traveler who loves engaging in new adventures and immersing herself in every new experience. She and her children are always more of a family when they’re out exploring the world together. She shares her adventures on her website: littlefeetbigadventures.com.