Family travel 5: Fall in love with these autumn adventures

By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes

Fall for a family adventure. Here are five to consider:

Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington

Explore the dramatic landscape and rugged beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, a 4,000-foot-deep canyon of the Columbia River. Choose the Skamania Lodge as your base camp and elevate your experience with a stay in one of their treehouse-style cabins. Set 15 to 20 feet in the air, you’ll sleep amid the Douglas firs in a contemporary structure inspired by childhood memories of outdoor play. Enjoy the outdoor deck, firepit, hammocks, s’mores kits, an ice-filled Yeti and a wealth of nearby activities. Check out the hiking trails and the Columbia River Gorge Interpretive Center, and plan a trip to any of 70 nearby waterfalls.

Contact: skamania.com.

Casper, Wyoming

With plenty of wide-open space at the ready, this central Wyoming town is a vibrant hub for outdoor adventure. Home to the North Platte River, which provides year-round fly-fishing opportunities, Casper has become a bucket-list destination for nature lovers and aspiring anglers. The river sits below five reservoirs, enabling consistent water flows and temperature, thus manifesting a stable fishing habitat. You’ll hear enthusiastic talk and big fish stories that originate on specific stretches of the river, including the Miracle Mile and Grey Reef. But for family travelers, it’s good to know there is also Blue-Ribbon water flowing right through the heart of town, with plenty of public access points available. Appreciate the legendary waterway in a different way via the Platte River Trail system, which threads through the community for eleven miles. The paved paths provide access to wildlife watching, mountain views and public art. Casper is also home to family-friendly museums, including The Science Zone, the Casper Planetarium and the Werner Wildlife Museum as well as the Discovery Center at The Nicolaysen Art Museum.

Contact: www.VisitCasper.com

320 Guest Ranch, Big Sky, Montana

Wake to the wide Montana sky and prepare for a day of hiking, horseback riding and fly-fishing on the ranch’s private stretch of the Gallatin River, made famous in the iconic film “A River Runs Through It.” Don’t miss the weekly pig roast, and consider the wagon or horseback ride, culminating in a riverside barbecue. When the snow falls, cozy up in front of your riverfront cabin’s fireplace, snuggle on a sleigh ride or slap on the skis for a scenic adventure. The 320’s proximity to nearby Yellowstone National Park provides day trip options or an ideal extension to your ranch experience.

Contact: 320ranch.com.

Inn at Cedar Falls, Logan, Ohio

Visit the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio for great hiking, caving, multigenerational zip-lining, canoeing on the Hocking River and guided day and moonlit hikes. An eco-tour through a nature preserve includes a history and cultural presentation by a Native American of Shawnee descent, who provides insight into what life was like in the region during the time of his ancestors. Stay in a historic cabin or yurt at the cozy, family-run Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls where a warm fire, fresh-baked cookies and extraordinary dining await explorers at days end.

Contact: hockinghills.com; innatcedarfalls.com.

Explore the Natchez Trace

Now designated one of America's National Scenic Byways and one of only 31 All-American Roads, the 444-mile-long scenic road stretches from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, and dates back to the early 1700s when sections were Native American footpaths and animal trails. In the late 1700s through the early 1820s, traders from the Middle Tennessee and Kentucky areas floated their goods down the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi rivers to Natchez and then walked or rode horses up the trace to return home. Today, travelers explore the National Park in their personal vehicles, take time to hike, ride horses and camp along the way. With no commercial traffic, the parkway is also popular with cyclists. During fall tours, two-wheelers enjoy the changing colors of maple, hickory, oak and other hardwood trees, milder temperatures and overnight accommodations in small towns along the parkway.

Contact: www.natcheztracetravel.com; https://cycleoflifeadventures.com; https://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm

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