White-water rafting. Build your teen's confidence by tapping into his or her thrill-seeking side. Call your local park to find out if it has beginnerlevel rapids, such as the one on the southern (a.k.a. upper) part of New River Gorge, W.Va.
Snorkeling. Have your kids play aquanaut by donning masks to explore a park's narrow shore bed. Call the ranger at your local lakeside park to find a spot suitable for beginners. To illustrate, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wis., features fish darting around the spooky wreck of the Noquebay, lying beneath about 15 feet of clear water. Rent a charter service in nearby Bayfield to take your kids the quarter mile from the shore of Stockton Island.
Volunteering. Many high schools now have public-service requirements, and some camping areas have volunteer opportunities, such as taking a senior citizen for a walk. Your teen might be able to combine a family trip with a volunteer experience. Contact the National Wildlife Federation for details.
Wilderness skills training. Challenge your teens to brush up on their outdoorsmanship under the guidance of pros. There are orienteering trails in some parks, where your teen can sleuth out control points by use of map and compass alone. Orienteering courses teach the necessary skills and are run either by park rangers, field schools, or nonprofit institutes. For example, Prince William Forest Park, Va., provides reservation-only introductions to orienteering courses led by rangers. A similar program is at Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
From Cape Cod to the Great Lakes, from Southern California to the Gulf of Mexico, America’s beaches stay open long after the summer crowds have gone home. It’s the same sun and surf—oh, except that you've got some elbow room and hotel rates have come back down to earth!