Summer Activities in the Mountains for Families on a Budget

Summer is here! And what better way to enjoy it than by heading to the mountains for an unforgettable family adventure? Whether you’re on a tight budget or just love a good deal, there’s no need to spend a fortune to have an amazing time. The mountains are bursting with budget-friendly summer activities that will keep your family entertained, active, and connected with nature.

In this blog, we unearth a treasure trove of mountain summer activities that are affordable but also packed with fun and adventure. From camping under the stars to biking along scenic trails, we’ve got you covered with ideas that will make your family’s summer unforgettable. Plus, we have vacation deals and promo codes that can save you even more. Let’s go!


Camping in the mountains is a fantastic way to immerse your family in nature, create lifelong memories, and enjoy a budget-friendly vacation. Many national and state parks offer budget-friendly camping options with beautiful scenery and plenty of activities. Some popular mountain camping locations include:

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado): With majestic peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife, this park is a camper’s paradise. Moraine Park and Glacier Basin are popular campgrounds that provide a great base for hiking, fishing, and stargazing.

Summer Activities in the Mountains for Families on a Budget
Camping in the mountains lets you enjoy the majesty of the night sky.

Yosemite National Park (California): Famous for its dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoias, Yosemite offers a range of camping options. Campgrounds like Upper Pines and Tuolumne Meadows are affordable and provide easy access to some of the park’s most iconic sights.

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington): Known for its namesake volcanic peak, Mount Rainier National Park offers stunning wildflower meadows and diverse hiking trails. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh campgrounds are budget-friendly choices that offer breathtaking views and plenty of outdoor activities.


Fishing is a timeless outdoor activity that offers relaxation, excitement, and the opportunity to connect with nature. Mountain fishing, in particular, provides breathtaking backdrops and a variety of fish species, making it an ideal summer activity for families. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a complete beginner, fishing in the mountains is accessible, affordable, and incredibly rewarding. Here are some of the most popular spots to cast a line:

Lake Tahoe (California/Nevada): Straddling the border between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a fishing paradise. Known for its crystal-clear waters, this alpine lake is home to various fish species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and kokanee salmon. Fishing from the shore or a rented boat can provide hours of enjoyment.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina): With over 2,900 miles of streams, the Great Smoky Mountains offer some of the best trout fishing in the eastern United States. Species like brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout thrive in these waters. Little River and Abrams Creek are popular spots within the park.

White Mountains (New Hampshire): The White Mountains region offers excellent fishing in its many rivers and lakes. The Pemigewasset River and Echo Lake are popular choices, offering a chance to catch brook trout, rainbow trout, and landlocked salmon.


Hiking is one of the best summer activities for those on a budget. Enjoy wildflower hikes as mountain meadows and slopes burst into colorful bloom all summer long. Here are some notable wildflower hikes:

San Juan Mountains (Colorado): The American Basin Trail near Lake City is famous for its incredible wildflower displays, including columbines, Indian paintbrushes, and lupines. This 3-mile round-trip hike is a feast for the eyes.

Summer Activities in the Mountains for Families on a Budget
Hiking and biking are two of the most affordable summer activities in the mountains.

Glacier National Park (Montana): The Highline Trail provides breathtaking views and a variety of wildflowers. The trailhead at Logan Pass is a good starting point for families looking to experience the park’s natural beauty.

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington): The Paradise area offers several trails where you can witness fields of vibrant wildflowers with Mount Rainier as a stunning backdrop. The Skyline Trail is particularly popular for its floral displays.


Mountain biking is a thrilling way to experience the great outdoors, offering both an adrenaline rush and the opportunity to take in stunning landscapes. The United States is home to numerous mountain biking trails that cater to various skill levels and provide an exhilarating way to explore the mountains. Here are some family-friendly options:

Moab (Utah): The beginner-friendly Bar M Loop offers 8.6 miles of scenic biking through the beautiful desert landscape. It’s perfect for families and provides gentle terrain with spectacular views of Arches National Park.

Crested Butte (Colorado): The 5-mile Lower Loop Trail presents easy terrain and stunning views of the surrounding mountains and wildflower meadows. It’s ideal for families looking for a leisurely ride. The 9-mile Snodgrass that offers more challenging terrain for families with older kids or more biking experience. The views of the Elk Mountains are breathtaking.

Bend (Oregon): Phil’s Trail Complex offers something for everyone, from beginners to advanced riders. The lower trails, such as Phil’s Trail and Ben’s Trail, are great for families and provide beautiful forest scenery.

Pisgah National Forest (North Carolina): The Bent Creek Experimental Forest offers a variety of trails suitable for all skill levels. The Deer Lake Lodge Trail and Pine Tree Loop are great for beginners and families, offering easy terrain and lush forest views. The DuPont State Recreational Forest is known for its waterfalls and smooth trails. Hooker Falls and Triple Falls trails are easy rides that provide stunning natural attractions along the way.

Summer Activities in the Mountains for Families on a Budget
Rent a kayak and experience the mountains from a whole new perspective.


Kayaking is an exhilarating way to explore mountain lakes and rivers, offering a unique perspective on the natural beauty of these regions. Whether you’re paddling through calm waters or navigating gentle rapids, kayaking is one of the best summer activities for families on a tighter budget. Here are some of the best spots for a memorable family kayaking adventure:

Lake Tahoe (California/Nevada): Known for its stunning clarity and striking blue color, Lake Tahoe is a premier kayaking destination. You can paddle along the shoreline, exploring hidden coves and beaches. Sand Harbor and Emerald Bay are particularly popular for their scenic beauty and calm waters, making them ideal for families.

Jackson Lake (Wyoming): Located in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake offers breathtaking views of the Teton Range. The lake’s calm waters are ideal for kayaking, and you can explore numerous bays and inlets. The Colter Bay area is a popular starting point, offering rental services and easy access to the water.

Lake Santeetlah (North Carolina): Set in the Smoky Mountains, Lake Santeetlah is a hidden gem with over 75 miles of shoreline to explore. The lake is surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, providing a serene and picturesque setting for kayaking. The calm waters and abundant wildlife make it a perfect spot for families.

Wildlife Watching

Observing wildlife in their natural habitat is one of the best summer activities you can do at no cost. Many mountain regions are home to a diverse array of animals, providing ample opportunities for wildlife watching. Here are a few of the best:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina): Known for its rich biodiversity, this park offers numerous opportunities to see deer, black bears, elk, and a variety of bird species. The Cades Cove Loop Road is a popular spot for wildlife viewing.

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho): While not purely a mountain park, Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley are prime locations for spotting bison, wolves, grizzly bears, and more.

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado): The park is home to elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and numerous bird species. Trail Ridge Road and Kawuneeche Valley are excellent areas for wildlife watching.


The clear, dark skies of mountain regions make them ideal for stargazing. Far from city lights, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the night sky, often spotting planets, constellations, and even the Milky Way. Here are a few spots with awesome views:

Joshua Tree National Park (California): Though primarily known for its desert landscape, the park’s higher elevations provide stunning stargazing opportunities. The park hosts regular astronomy events.

Big Bend National Park (Texas): Recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, Big Bend offers some of the best stargazing in the country. The Chisos Basin and Rio Grande Village are popular stargazing spots.

Great Basin National Park (Nevada): Another International Dark Sky Park, Great Basin offers unparalleled views of the night sky. The Wheeler Peak Campground is a great location for stargazing.

Summer Activities in the Mountains for Families on a Budget
Packing a picnic in the mountains is a perfect way to enjoy your time with that special someone.


Seeking new wave summer activities? Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt that involves using GPS coordinates to find hidden caches. It’s a fun, family-friendly activity that encourages exploration and adventure. Here are some great places to try this new activity:

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington): The park’s diverse landscapes provide a perfect backdrop for geocaching. Various caches are hidden throughout the park, making it a fun way to explore different trails and areas.

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia): The park’s trails and overlooks hide numerous geocaches. Skyline Drive offers access to many geocaching spots.

Adirondack Park (New York): With its vast wilderness and numerous trails, the Adirondacks offer endless geocaching opportunities. The region’s scenic beauty makes the search even more enjoyable.


Mountain landscapes provide stunning subjects for photography, from majestic peaks and serene lakes to vibrant wildflowers and wildlife. Photography is a budget-friendly activity that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Yosemite National Park (California): Iconic landmarks like Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls offer incredible photo opportunities. The park’s diverse scenery is a photographer’s paradise.

Glacier National Park (Montana): Known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier offers breathtaking vistas, pristine lakes, and rugged peaks perfect for capturing on camera.

Zion National Park (Utah): The park’s dramatic canyons and rock formations provide a unique and stunning backdrop for photography. The view from Angels Landing and the Narrows are must-capture scenes.


Enjoying a meal surrounded by the beauty of nature is a simple yet delightful way to spend time in the mountains. Many parks have designated picnic areas with facilities like tables and grills. It’s one of the top summer activities! Here are some of the best spots for a basket lunch:

Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia/North Carolina): This scenic drive offers numerous picnic areas with stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains. Peaks of Otter and Linville Falls are popular spots.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (California): The parks’ picnic areas, such as those near the Giant Forest and Kings River, provide picturesque settings for a family meal.

Olympic National Park (Washington): With its diverse ecosystems, the park offers numerous picnic areas, from the lush rainforests of the Hoh River to the rugged coastline at Rialto Beach.

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