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15 of the Best Outdoor Books for Kids

by Cari Morgan Mar 24, 2017

There’s a good chance you’ll remember some of the outdoor books on this list from when you were a kid, while others are sure to be classics over time.  Whether you’ve got toddlers or teens, we’re confident that there’s an adventurous story below (or three!) that your kids won’t be able to put down.


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

Inspired by the classic camp chant of the same name, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a quick and fun read that follows a dad and his four kids on a rollicking journey—across a river, through mud, into a snowstorm—all in search of a bear. It’s an adventure that’s sure to trigger lots of giggles and definitely a few “uh-ohs!” from the littlest outdoor lovers. (Ages 2 – 5)

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen

A raging waterfall, a marshmallow-eating bear and a retro-style camper all play a role in this hilarious tale of a camping adventure gone-wrong. And with awesome illustrations done by the author himself, it’s hard to say who will love A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee more, you or the kids. (Ages 4 – 7)

The Berenstain Bears Blaze a Trail by Jan and Sam Berenstain

Misadventure is the theme of this favorite read for the little ones. When the Berenstain Bear cubs hit the trail with Papa in hopes of earning a scout badge, nothing seems to go right. While some of the scenarios may seem a little silly, The Berenstain Bears Blaze a Trail is the perfect opportunity to teach kids what not to do in the outdoors.  (Ages 3 -7)


My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Unlike other books in the children’s outdoor adventure genre which often focus on stories of kids being forced to survive in the wilderness, My Side of the Mountain is a tale of Sam Gribley, a young boy who chooses to live outdoors on his own accord. Fleeing a cramped New York City apartment, Sam heads to the Catskill Mountains where he thrives as a young outdoorsman. His adventures have no doubt inspired generations of kids. (Ages 8 – 12)

The Camping Trip that Changed America by Barb Rosenstock

Not all history books are boring. The Camping Trip That Changed America is a simple and engaging account of one of our country’s most important environmental moments. You know, that time John Muir took President Theodore Roosevelt camping in the Yosemite Wilderness and sparked the creation of our national parks. It’s a book that introduces the concept of conservation, but also the simple joys of the outdoors. (Ages 6-8)

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins is considered by many to be one of the greatest children’s books of all time. For older kids, this page-turner is the ultimate story of survival and tenacity. Set on an island off the coast of California, a young girl named Karana finds the courage, skills and resources to endure for nearly two decades on her own. If you read it out loud to the kiddos, you might need some Kleenex. (Ages 7 – 10)

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

A touching and emotional story about a boy and the bond between his dogs, Where the Red Fern Grows has been a beloved childhood book for decades. Set in the Ozark Mountains, a young boy named Billy saves up to buy a pair of coon hounds that he trains to become the best hunting dogs in the region. Warning: Your kids may be full of tears reading this one, but this story of love and adventure is not to be missed.  (Ages 8 – 12)

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

It’s never too early to lay the foundation for environmental activism and Operation Redwood shows that even kids can help protect the planet.  When a young boy finds out about a company’s plans to cut down some of the oldest redwood trees, he springs into action.  It’s is an ecological adventure that pits a group of kids who want to “save the trees” against big business.  How cool is that message? (Ages 8-12)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The first book of the iconic Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods is definitely not a girls-only read (none of the books in the series are for that matter). Set in a cabin in Wisconsin and based on author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood as a pioneer, it’s a story about homestead life—growing your own food, hunting and gathering—but it’s also about the thrills of exploring the wilderness on your own as a kid. (Ages 8 – 12)

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

We know people can survive in the wilderness under dire circumstances, but can Roz the robot? Published in 2016 by bestselling author and illustrator Peter Brown, The Wild Robot, explores the relationship between technology and nature as readers follow a shipwrecked robot’s quest to make it on a remote and rugged island. Lessons of outdoor survival and kindness abound in this unique book that’s sure to become a classic. (Ages 8 – 12)

Two Little Savages by Ernes Thompson Seton

Written by one of the founding pioneers of the Boy Scouts of America, Two Little Savages is as much a lesson in all things outdoors as it is a story of two boys who convince their parents to let them live in a teepee for a month.  The coolest part about this classic book? As kids read about the two friends’ escapades through the woods, they’ll unknowingly be picking up fascinating information about plants and wildlife, how to make things and other real-life survival skills like building a fire without matches.  (Ages 8 – 14)


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet is one of those stories that will stay with your kids well into their adult years as they remember back on some of the best books they’ve ever read.  When a small engine plane crashes, 13-year-old Brian Robeson must survive on his own in the Canadian wilderness. The only possession he has is a small hatchet his mother gave him before the trip. During his 54 days in the woods, Brian learns a respect for nature, how to overcome obstacles and an appreciation for life. (Ages 10 – 13)

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling

A young boy carves a wooden canoe with a man in it. With a small inscription on the bottom, he names it “Paddle-to-the-Sea” and leaves the carving on a snowbank next to a brook leading to Lake Superior. The adventure begins as the snow melts and the little wooden boat is sent downstream to the Great Lakes and eventually all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a fascinating journey for parents and kids alike. (Ages 10 -12)

Downriver by Will Hobbs

Can you imagine a group of teenagers taking on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on their own? That’s what plays out in Downriver, one of the American Library Association’s “100 Best Young Adult Books of the 20th Century,” when a group of 8 high school misfits  illegally embark on a rafting trip from Lee’s Ferry.  It’s a thrilling read for young adults packed with conflict, misadventure, the power of nature and incredible detail about the sights found within the Grand Canyon. (Ages 12+)

No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits by Jordan Romero

At the age of 13, Jordan Romero became the youngest person to summit Mt. Everest. By age 15, he had summited the tallest peaks on each continent.  In this inspiring memoir for teens, Jordan shares his story of challenge and triumph and reveals what it takes to accomplish your dreams. No Summit out of Sight is a powerful read about what people are capable of when they set their sights on a goal. (Ages 12+)

This article originally appeared on O.A.R.S and is republished here with permission.

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