With the 4th of July behind us, it can seem like the summer is already over. Although this attitude seems to prevail as July moves on, it is important to remember that there’s still plenty of time before those colder temperatures come back. With these remaining weeks, it would be fun to get outside and see new sites. Domestic getaways are always an easy way to get a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air. The National Parks exemplify this type of trip, and to mitigate the intimidation of planning your vacation, we have rounded up some of the best ones to visit so you can find the one that perfectly suits your needs!
Grand Canyon (Arizona) - Great for Variety
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular destinations for many travelers - families looking for an outdoor getaway can find easier trails, while experienced hikers can take in the breathtaking sites from some more advanced pathways. The actual canyon is 18 miles wide and 277 miles long, so there is a ton of opportunity for exploring. Visitors can choose between the North Rim and the South Rim, and from there, can choose from a ton of different activities. North Rim is only open May 15 through October 15, so the window to visit is rapidly closing, whereas the South Rim is open all year long. The North Rim is typically harder to get to and more remote, but has some amazing lookouts for stellar viewers. It is recommended that first time visitors try the South Rim - the picture that forms in your head when you typically think of the Grand Canyon can be easily accessed in real life here. There are airplane and bus tours, as well as mule rides, among many other activities.
Yellowstone (Wyoming) - For the Active Traveler
Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, is riddled with opportunities for multiple different activities. Chances are, any outdoor activity you can imagine, you’ll find it here. Besides the basic hiking that most national parks possess, Yellowstone also has access to boating, cycling, fishing, horseback riding, llama packing, and general wildlife viewing. If you decide to wait and take your trip in the winter, you’ll find opportunities for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and guided tours on snowmobiles and snowcoaches. Yellowstone is primarily known for Old Faithful, a geyser that, although not the tallest, erupts roughly every 90 minutes, meaning that most visitors get to view nature’s show. Another must see (despite the fact that the whole park itself is one beautiful spectacle) is Yellowstone’s own Grand Canyon, a 24 mile long chasm created by the Yellowstone River. This area boasts views of waterfalls along the river.
Glacier Bay (Alaska) - Best for Water Activities
The two previously mentioned parks, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, are often the go-to National Parks when people decide to embark on a vacation that involves nature outings out west in America. However, there are other options to still spend time outdoors but do something fairly different. Enter Glacier Bay. This park is a basin in Alaska that has glaciers and a rainforest. A lot of the activities in the park are centered around, no surprise, the water, meaning there’s lots of opportunity to really get up close to the glaciers. Some of the activities offered include Whale Watching tours on a vessel, guided kayak tours or independent kayak rentals, and half or full day charters to go on a true Alaskan fishing adventure. For those even more daring, Glacier Bay offers a flightseeing program where visitors can board a small aircraft and take in the breathtaking views from above.
Zion (Utah) - Somewhat Dangerous but Rewarding
Zion National Park is unique in that the entrance to the park is known as the Zion Canyon Village, with little shops and restaurants to help complete your visit. For those looking for a greater mix between access to a small town and exploring nature, this would be your best bet. As for the actual park itself, visitors typically flock to Angel’s Landing for an absolutely breathtaking view of the canyon. Many parkgoers opt to complete this hike but beware: anyone with a fear of heights or of hiking very thin trails should steer clear. Due to these conditions, it is not recommended that young children who like to run around should visit this park. However, if you do have children with you, maybe skip this particular hike but definitely take them to the Giant Screen Theatre, which shows different films on a huge outdoor screen. This is perfect for winding down at the end of a long day of exploring the park, and the movies featured are sometimes new Hollywood releases - guaranteeing a much more unique experience than your average indoor movie theater.
Arches (Utah) - Perfect for Families
The Arches National Park is the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. This beautiful scenery can easily be navigated in the car, which eliminates hiking for miles which may be tiresome for young kids. This park is also extremely flexible with how much time you have at your disposal - for time intervals from 2-3 hours to even a full day, there are different paths and sights to explore to fit your exact needs. If you do want to get out of the car, there are a lot of easy paths that children can definitely handle, with amazing photo opportunities at every turn.
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