Having been pretty much been shut-in for nearly a year, everyone is anxious to enjoy life as we remember it. The four walls are closing in, the kids are driving you crazy and any sort of outlet cannot come soon enough. An escape to the great outdoors could be just what you need.
Since we’re not out of the (COVID) woods for the foreseeable future, there are ways to safely take a break while rediscovering your adventurous side. When planning a getaway why not consider a trip to a national park? We’re not talking about the usual, often-visited (and congested) treasures like the Grand Canyon or the Great Smoky Mountains. There are plenty of fantastic alternatives. Always dreamed of seeing Yellowstone’s Old Faithful? Lassen Volcanic National Park is equally stunning and is remote enough to allow for safe social distancing.
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Here are a few other less jam-packed gems:
Channel Islands (California)
Located off the coast of Southern California, this five-island oasis has a year-round Mediterranean-type climate, 27 species of cetaceans which includes dolphins, porpoises, whales, and breeding colonies of sea lions and seals. Not much might and muscle is needed to hike the relatively flat trails and water enthusiasts can take in a little swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or surfing.
Pinnacles (East of Salinas Valley in central California)
Formed from ancient volcanic eruptions, and with 30 miles of trails, Pinnacles is perfect for bird watchers, rock climbers, stargazers, and cave explorers. This park is recommended as a winter destination, due to summer temperatures often rising above 100 degrees.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Montrose County, Colorado)
Described as Colorado’s version of the Grand Canyon, Black Canyon of the Gunnison boasts shock-and-awe scenery with its hiking trails, steep cliffs, and sharp spires. Trout is plentiful and waiting for serious anglers and while the roads are closed during the winter, the park is open along the rim for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Dry Tortugas (Florida)
Seven small islands 70 miles west of Key West make up this kaleidoscope of marine life. It is also home to Fort Jefferson, one of the nation’s largest 1800’s-era fortresses built to protect shipping lanes in North America. Dry Tortugas is accessible by boat, including ferry services or seaplane and there is a camping site for those who want to stick around to go snorkeling or simply bask in the tranquility.
Isle Royale (Keweenaw County, Michigan)
Isle Royale is also only accessible by boat or plane. Surrounded by Lake Superior, what a wilderness dream for scuba divers, solace seekers, and hikers with 166 miles of trails. One added treat is the full-service 60-room, 20-cottage Rock Harbor Lodge where guests can rest and relax while being lulled to sleep by the distant call of a loon.
Voyageurs (near International Falls, Minnesota)
If you love the water then this water-centric park might be a place to keep in mind. Don’t forget to bring those binoculars along for a chance to spot typical Northwoods animals like moose, gray wolves, and black bears. Houseboats are available for renting or you can take up lodging at the century-old Kettle Falls Hotel.
Great Basin (White Pine County, Nevada)
The two claims to fame for this mountainous desert park: best visibility of the Milky Way in the continental U.S.; and the Lehman Caves feature of 300 rare shield formations and creepy crawlers like pseudoscorpions. True nature-lovers will be able to explore the mysterious underground caverns or hike among the earth’s oldest living trees.
Congaree (near Eastover, South Carolina)
Giant trees and moss-draped bald cypresses define this 20,000-acres of hardwood forest. Adjacent to the Congaree River, there are hours of hiking, kayaking, and canoeing to be had.
Guadalupe Mountains (east of El Paso, Texas)
Here you will find 80 miles of trails winding through woodland canyons and verdant springs. Also, it’s put up or shut up for backpackers faced with the challenge of climbing to the Top of Texas – 8,751-foot Guadalupe Peak also known as Signal Peak.
North Cascades (near Sedro-Woolley, Washington)
Breathtaking waterfalls, alpine landscapes, thousand-year-old cedar trees, and more than 300 glaciers are just some of the things to create memories from. The rugged mountains make for a hiker’s paradise and whitewater rafting opportunities are forever calling.
National parks are unique set-aside spaces for us to experience and to appreciate the great outdoors. They can be the most powerful stress-reducer during these trying times. So get out there!