Road Trip Time: 9 National Parks to Visit This Summer
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds or escape the city heat, then consider a road trip through a few of America’s national parks this summer, where you’ll find a range of one-of-a-kind activities, stunning vistas, and unforgettable adventures. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best to visit.
With over six million acres of rugged wilderness, spectacular wildlife, and a sky-scraping mountain range that contains North America’s highest mountain, Alaska’s Denali National Park doesn’t do anything in half measures. Indeed, everything about the park is epic, and you can spend the long summer daylight hours mountaineering, hiking the backcountry, cycling through the sweeping countryside, or planning a birding expedition. If you’re really looking for a unique experience, you can even book a helicopter ride to the park’s glaciers for a summer snowball fight.
Take a journey to the deepest lake in the United States with a trip to Crater Lake, where you can enjoy the mild summer temperatures, the clear water, and the wild beauty of Oregon. Crater Lake was formed in an extinct volcano, and its soaring cliffs, lush wildflowers, and scenic outlooks make it an idyllic getaway. With over 100 miles of trails, the park is a great spot for a hike, but you can also take a boat tour, or just pack a picnic to picturesque Rim Drive.
Named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers a 35-mile stretch of sandy coastline, a historic lighthouse, otherworldly sand dunes, and some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Michigan. Wine lovers can take a leisurely summer tour of the local vineyards, outdoors enthusiasts can canoe the Crystal and Platte Rivers, and history buffs will appreciate a tour of the South Manitou Island Lighthouse. Families, meanwhile, can stop by the Maritime Museum and the Lanphier Observatory.
Encompassing a 12-mile stretch of mainland and 22 islands in Lake Superior, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers cool summer weather, canopies of old-growth forest, stunning sandstone cliffs, and windswept beaches. Visitors can scuba dive to explore the shipwrecks, kayak around the sea caves of the Bayfield Peninsula, take a breezy bike journey around Madeline Island, or hike the 50 miles of maintained trails. Apostle Islands provides a totally new twist on the Wisconsin of the popular imagination, making it a great summer getaway for Midwestern travelers.
On the south shore of Lake Superior, Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore is known for its colorful cliffs, striking rock formations, dunes, and waterfalls. Don’t forget to bring a camera to snap some shots of the photogenic sea caves, the stunning birch forests along Twelvemile Beach, and the star-filled night sky, and then pop by Au Sable Lighthouse to brush-up on maritime history. If you want to explore further, hop on a ferry to Grand Island, a nearby island with pristine beaches and historic summer homes.
If Sleeping Bear Dunes is the picture-perfect face of summery Michigan, then think of Isle Royale National Park as its rough-around-the-edges little cousin. That’s not to say Isle Royale isn’t gorgeous—its placid lakes and volcanic rock formations provide a bucolic backdrop—but a visit to this unspoilt island in Lake Superior definitely feels like an adventure. Outdoorsy visitors will love the water sports or exploring the hundreds of islands by kayak, while amblers can make the most of the mild summer temperatures with a hiking excursion.
Bored with backyard BBQs and exhausted by the summer heat? Then kick-start your vacation with a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world. Not only will you feel like a subterranean Magellan exploring over 400 miles of labyrinthine Kentucky caves, you can take a horseback ride, cycle Big Hollow Trail, catch some bluegill in the Nolin River, take a kayaking expedition, and set up camp beneath the stars.
Voyageurs National Park is the perfect get-away-from-it-all destination for water lovers, as its spread across hundreds of islands accessible mostly by boat. And while Minnesota is renowned for its natural beauty and pristine lakes, Voyageurs is perhaps the jewel in its crown. Kayaking, fishing, and canoeing are the order of the day here—it’s not unusual to while away a day without touching land, and some visitors even stay on houseboats—but it’s also a charming place to cycle, bird-watch, and stargaze.
In Southeastern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a vast subterranean land that’s been enthralling visitors since 1930. You’ll discover pleasantly cool temperatures in the caves – about 55 degrees – so you can comfortably explore the jaw-dropping Big Room, the Hall of the White Giant, and the Lake of the Clouds. The park also offers a bat flight program from late May until October, so stop by to watch the bats exit the caves at sunset, or catch them during the pre-dawn morning bat entrance.
There’s no better place to spend the long summer days than in America’s stunning national parks and on its breezy lakeshores. Book your national park getaway on Expedia today!