DENVER, January 13, 2014 – January is National Family Fit Lifestyle Month, and one of the best ways for families to get fit together is to go outside and play in January and throughout the year.
Parks offer a vast array of both indoor and outdoor activity options. And some national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon as well as state parks like Maumee Bay State Park on Lake Erie in northwestern Ohio have natural features that call to travelers who are adventure-oriented. Concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates a variety of tours and accommodations that make it easy for motivated travelers to work up a sweat.
“Isaac Newton was right,” said Betsy O’Rourke, vice president of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts. “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Our parks, with their beautiful settings and array of adventures, make staying in motion easy and fun for the whole family.”
Here are some examples of ways travelers can add exercise to their park experience:
Climbing hills. At the Grand Canyon, what goes down, must come up. This park’s spectacular landscape is best seen from below the rim, where the views change with every switchback. A trek down to and up from the Mile-and-a-Half Rest House is a terrific day hike, and it will easily burn off that day’s breakfast – and probably lunch too. Xanterra operates six lodges on the rim of the Grand Canyon, several with special winter-season discounts and packages.
Hiking. Most parks offer hiking trails, and southern Utah’s Zion National Park is a park that offers both challenges for the legs as well as candy for the eyes. The Watchman Trail, for example, is only three miles, but it is moderately strenuous with an elevation gain of 368 feet. This trail treats hikers to views of lower Zion Canyon, the Towers of the Virgin and the West Temple formations as well as a view of the gateway community of Springdale. Plan about two hours to complete this hike. Zion Lodge offers year-round accommodations.
Swimming. All five Ohio State Park Lodges operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts have indoor and outdoor swimming pools for a lighthearted all-family game of Marco Polo, a slightly mischievous round of “splash my little brother” or a serious session of laps. The pool at Maumee Bay State Park Lodge in northwestern Ohio also features water park splash features.
Cross country skiing. Yellowstone National Park is called a winter wonderland, and that label was most likely awarded by a Nordic skier. The park offers both skier-tracked trails and trails that are groomed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Xanterra also offers daily snowcoach ski drops that depart from the two winter lodges, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge, as well as guided ski tours and ski rentals.
Birdwatching. Not all exercise involves breaking a sweat. Birders who break out their binoculars in Ohio State Parks and other locations won’t be disappointed. On the western edge of Mohican State Park in north central Ohio, the hemlock-lined Clear Fork Gorge provides a breathtaking vantage point for viewing neotropical migrant songbirds and wild turkey. A one-mile hike through the gorge along the Clear Fork of the Mohican River takes visitors to the top of Pleasant Hill Dam, where turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks often can be spotted. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Mohican State Park Lodge features accommodations as well as restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools and a variety of other recreational offerings.
Golfing. The Furnace Creek Resort Golf Course is the lowest golf course in the world, at 214 feet below sea level. Winter is the most pleasant time to tackle this challenging course, when the temperatures are in the 70s. At 6,236 yards, the course is short by today’s standards with the advent of oversized clubs, composite heads and long-flying balls. Mitigating the short yardage is that golfers do not hit the ball as far and must often hit at least an extra club into very small greens. Golfers can burn extra calories by jumping up and down in frustration when their shots fall short.
Mountain biking. California’s Death Valley National Park is an outstanding choice for cyclists who enjoy combining the open road and backcountry paths in their adventure. A particularly challenging as well as incredibly scenic trip is along Artist’s Drive. The road is paved, hilly and nine miles one way. Cyclists may find themselves stopping to take in the palette of colors in the rocks – red, pink, yellow, purple and green – caused by oxidation of metals and manganese. Bike rentals for adults and children are available at the family-friendly Ranch at Furnace Creek .
Sledding. There is something exhilarating about mounting a sled and pushing off to race to the bottom of a hill, and guests of Punderson Manor State Park Lodge in northeast Ohio often return to the lodge red-faced and downright giggly. The Punderson State Park sledding hill is a long hill with a sane slope, so out-of-practice grown-ups won’t have to embarrass themselves by screaming in terror in front of their children. Of course that long, sane slope looks different when visitors walk back up, and that’s where the fabulous calorie-burn comes in. Three or four runs, and it’s time to return to the lodge to warm up with a hot beverage in front of the lobby fireplace.
Snow shoeing. Strapping on snow shoes is a great option for exploring Yellowstone, particularly because snowshoes require little or no experience to get started, and many trails can be accessed just outside the lodges, with no shuttles necessary. Travelers can walk along snow-covered hiking trails, ice-and-snow-covered boardwalks and even Nordic ski trails, as long as snowshoers steer clear of the ski tracks. The walk to Observation Point from Old Faithful Snow Lodge is a particularly good option on snowshoers. Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel rent snow shoes.
Wallyball. Similar to volleyball, this indoor game is played on a four-walled court with a ball similar in size and a little harder than a volleyball. Players are allowed to bounce the ball off the ceiling or off the walls before returning the ball over the net. Maumee Bay State Park Lodge features Wallyball courts and equipment.
Geocaching. Visitors to all five Ohio State Parks can channel Indiana Jones with this high-tech year-round treasure-hunting game, although the “treasures” are typically small items like stickers and plastic toys instead of ancient golden idols. Still, the fun is in the hunt, and the Ohio State Park Lodges make it easy to participate by renting Global Positioning System (GPS) units. Visitors burn calories by trekking through the woods and following park trails to find treasures hidden throughout the parks.
For complete information about adventures in national and state parks, visit individual websites or www.xanterra.com.
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