It’s no secret that winter mountain resorts are becoming increasingly adept at re-creating themselves as family-friendly adventure centers in the warm-weather months.
The concept makes sense. Why not repurpose those groomed runs into mountain bike trails, for example, and make the most of the dining and accommodation venues at the same time?
But downhill ski areas aren’t the only ones using this tactic.
Moab, Utah, for example — which admittedly probably isn’t the first place you think of for winter sports in the state — draws fans of all ages who want to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding in winter in the La Sal Mountains.
This is a bring-your-camera kind of destination, with scenery that includes dramatic red sandstone arches and canyons as well as snowy mountain peaks that top 12,000 feet.
In summer, the Moab region rolls out the welcome mat for kids with a whole menu of family-friendly adventures geared not just to adults and teens, but also to children as young as 3 years old.
Half-, full- and multiday tours and activities throughout the region designed for young visitors are available through the Moab Adventure Center, situated near La Sal National Forest and the Geyser Pass.
The Adventure Center is a division of Western River Expeditions, an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab and Fredonia, Ariz.
“Every year, Moab seems to be getting more and more family-friendly,” said Jamie Pearce, manager of the Adventure Center, which offers guided tours and outfitting services for activities that require special equipment.
Her suggestions for best activities for families with little children include everything from rock climbing up and rappelling down Moab sandstone — good for kids 5 and up — and a Hummer Slickrock Safari, an off-road vehicle adventure for children 3 and older that navigates rock canyons and sandstone hills and valleys.
Families can also indulge kids’ love of all things dinosaur-related at Dinosaur Tracks, which are, as the name implies, the site of fossilized dinosaur tracks on the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway about 15 minutes from Moab. Nearby, families can also see Native American petroglyphs, dating from as far back as 1300 A.D. Best of all, since the petroglyphs are visible from the road, families with tiny children can enjoy the view without having to hike to the site.
Those old enough to hike can follow the trail over Morning Glory Natural Bridge for a look at the often-photographed red sandstone rockwall or embark on an exploration of Fisher Towers, giant red rock spires along Utah’s Colorado Riverway.
Children can also earn Junior Ranger badges at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks; the programs are free, but kids must participate to earn badges.
Small fry 6 and older — as long as they are at least 4 feet tall — can take a high ropes course through the Adventure Center that combines a climbing wall, cargo net, zipline and balance beam, after which the whole family can cool off at the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center, complete with water slides.
Finally, Pearce suggests exposing young children to local culture through a musical jaunt at Harmony Park, a musical playground with oversize instruments that kids can play.