So you’re an experienced explorer looking to share the joy of Mother Nature with your uninitiated loved ones. Here are six ideas to make inroads to the great outdoors with family and friends.
Take a Look, It’s In a Book
Kids are all about monkey see, monkey do. Prime their interest in the outdoors by reading and sharing stories with them. Adventure-themed picture books, back issues of your favorite magazines, or news stories of exciting developments in the world of outdoor recreation—all of it counts. Beyond books, you can show them Youtube videos, listen to podcasts together. Adults aren’t all that different, either. Hikers are flocking to the Pacific Crest Trail PCT following the popular hiking memoir Wild, so while your friends may be tired of hearing about your adventures, they may be interested to read about other people’s!
Local trails can make great starter experiences for soon-to-be outdoor enthusiasts from small to tall. You know your trails and your people best, so pick a trail that’s suited for the group you’re taking: an easy, shaded loop trail or a guided nature hike for the younger or less able, or maybe a longer in-and-out day hike to a particular point of interest—a waterfall, a hot spring, a glacier—for folks who need a bit more excitement. Take people out overnight to your favorite campground and share with them what you really love about the place. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious, and you can look on with pride as your favorite people come to enjoy your favorite places just as much as you do.
Eyes on the Sky
Nothing inspires awe quite like an endless expanse of stars—except maybe a meteor shower. Use the American Meteor Shower’s calendar to scout out dates, cross-referenced with a lunar calendar to take advantage of the new moon’s darker skies. If there aren’t meteors in your forecast, check around for local star parties, where groups of amateur stargazers gather with great big telescopes and very fancy laser pointers. Take them up on their offers to check out Jupiter up close, or soak up impromptu lessons on constellations complete with demonstrations. Your kids, and the kid in you, will appreciate it.
Sometimes the best way to introduce the outdoors is by heading in—to class, that is! As the outdoors industry booms, classes are springing up everywhere to teach interested folks the skills they’ll need to have a safe and successful outing. Check your local Sierra Club chapter or outdoor outfitter for classes in everything from a multi-week wilderness basics course to a hands-on, half-day introduction to rock climbing. Grab a friend or family member, learn something new and level up your skills together, then put yourselves to the test in the world outside your classroom.
Guided Group Tours
Guided group tours and excursions are everywhere, for people of all ages and skill levels, and many offer inclusive packages covering everything from site reservations and permits to food and gear rental. With the tricky planning bits already settled, all you need to do is show up and enjoy yourselves, making this option a great, low-risk way to just jump in. Pricey commercial outfitters abound, but if you’re patient and creative about where you look, you might find canyoneering tours hosted by your natural history museum, or conservation groups offering events in popular parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite that may offer discounts to pledged members.
If you aren’t the only thrill-seeker in your family, perhaps the best way to draw out the others is to offer a low-commitment, high-octane adventure in the outdoors. Geocaching is great for teaching navigational skills and requires only a little rigging to make it into a treasure hunt, but there’s real treasure in them thar hills too, if you care to seek it. And long, meandering float trips downriver can create great summer memories, but there’s nothing quite like the surge of whitewater under your paddle. Aerial ziplining offers a completely unique perspective on the natural world, and if that isn’t thrilling enough, there’s always bungee jumping.
There’s a little something for everyone out there.