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Travel

National Parks to Visit Now — And What to Do There

For all the summer 2020 trips that never were…

While summer definitely won’t look normal this year, that doesn’t mean there aren’t adventures you can still embark on! One of the safest options for summer 2020 is heading to the great outdoors and experiencing a National Park.

We had a trip to Norway (our first time back to Europe since we did our epic 1 month in Italy for 1k – two kids in tow and all!) and the Redwoods that were both cancelled, so we have been desperately itching for just any change in scenery….anyone else?!

So we’ve outlined the best National Parks open this summer — and what to do once you get there. Scroll below and find your last minute, COVID-safe getaway below!

National Park Push Pin Map

ARIZONA

Grand Canyon National Park

The South Rim, Tuweep, Inner canyon trails and the North Rim are all open for day hiking. Beginning June 14, the park will initiate a phased reopening of Colorado River trips.

Don’t Miss:

The most popular entry to the park is Grand Canyon Village. It is home to Yavapai Point — one of the best places to view the canyon. The Rim Trail is one of the most comprehensive trails in the Grand Canyon and allows you to see the South Rim’s most popular viewpoints. It’s a fairly easy walking path that traces the canyon’s edge with viewpoints at Maricopa Point and Hopi Point.

ARKANSAS

Hot Springs National Park

Trails, roads, water fountains, and concession services operating in bathhouses and the Mountain Tower are open for limited services.

Don’t Miss:

Head out to Sunset Trail which leads to multiple impressive mountain overlooks. The 8.9 mile loop is doable for beginning or moderate hikers. Afterwards, relax in the longest operating bathhouse from 1912 along Bathhouse Row. Buckstaff Bath is equipped with steam cabinets, whirlpool tubs, Swedish mass therapists, and needle showers. 

CALIFORNIA

Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

Roads, parking lots, developed and wild trails, restrooms, and picnic areas are all open for visitors but overnight campgrounds and lodging will remain closed.

Don’t Miss:

Of course you can’t miss The General Sherman Tree on your visit to Sequoia. The world’s largest tree stands at 275 feet and measures more than 36 feet in diameter at its base. Or head to the Giant Forest — a large sequoia grove that is home to more than 8,000 trees.

Joshua Tree National Park

Park entrances, parking lots, roads, trails, backcountry camping, family campsites, and some restroom facilities are open for visitors but the visitor center and group campsites remain closed.

Don’t Miss:

Head out on Arch Rock nature trail — a .5 mile trail that has a lot of large rock formations to climb on and a large natural arch.

COLORADO-

Rocky Mountain National Park

On June 4th, the park will implement a reservation system (get yours at www.recreation.gov). The reservations will go on sale on May 28th for reservations from June 4th to July 31st. The next release starts on July 1st for the month of August and the same system will continue for September and October. 

Don’t Miss:

On the popular 3.5 mile Emerald Lake hike, you’ll wind past Dream Lake, Nymph Lake, and Tyndall Creek with breathtaking views of the peaks before reaching Emerald Lake at 11,000 feet of elevation.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Reopened with access to the main park road, dunes parking area and dunefield, Medano Pass Primitive Road, Mosca Pass, Montville Nature, Sand Sheet Loop, Wellington Ditch, Dunes Overlook, Sand Ramp, Medano Lake, and Music Pass trails would reopen, along with all picnic areas at Mosca Creek, Sand Pit, and Castle Creek.

Don’t Miss:

To take in the dunes in a different way, try out sandboarding or sand sledding. You have to rent special boards off-site but it offers unique ways to explore the sand dunes.

Mesa Verde National Park

Open with access to the Mesa Top Loop Drive, Far View sites, Cliff Palace driving loop, park hiking trails, restrooms and the Chapin picnic area. The park’s concessions facilities opened, including Morefield Campground, Far View Lodge, Far View Terrace, and Spruce Tree Terrace.

Don’t Miss:

A trip to Mesa Verde National Park wouldn’t be complete without a tour of an Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling. Head out on a ranger-led tour to Balcony House, Cliff Palace, or Long House.

FLORIDA-

Everglades National Park

Open areas include Royal Palm, Research Road, Long Pine Key, West Lake, Guy Bradley Trail, and Coastal Prairie Trail, and Main Park Road. Guided tours resumed though on a reduced capacity basis. 

Don’t Miss:

Take the Road from Homestead to Flamingo — this 38 mile road will pass through all the natural habitats of Everglade National Park. Stop off and enjoy the hiking trails, boardwalks, and observation towers. At Anhinga Trail boardwalk you can watch wading birds and alligators up close.

MAINE-

Acadia National Park

Visitors will have access to the Park Loop Road and most associated restrooms. On June 5 the park will open its Carriage Roads to pedestrians.

Don’t Miss:

Explore the bike on the network of carriage roads — 45 mile of scenic and car-free cycling. There’s a mix of flat family-friendly loops to more challenging climbs and descents that provide a beautiful and unique look to the area.

MINNESOTA-

Voyageurs National Park 

On May 18 it reopened overnight tent camping and houseboat mooring sites and the rest of the park is open.

Don’t Miss:

Voyageurs National Park is northern nature at its finest. Rent a houseboat (they range from very basic to luxurious) and enjoy the 84,000 acres of water and 134,000 acres of boreal forest.

NEVADA-

Great Basin National Park

Entrance road to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, Scenic Drive, Baker Creek road and trailhead, Snake Creek road and trailhead, Strawberry Creek road and trailhead, are all open. Hiking trails at Great Basin are technically open, though many trails are still covered in deep snow at higher elevations.

Don’t Miss:

At the altitude of almost 7,000 feet, lies the Lehman caves. They consist of 1.5 miles of underground passages that were formed during the Ice Age made from pockets of limestone. Take a guided tour through the stalactites, flowstone, and delicate white crystals.

SOUTH DAKOTA-

Badlands National Park

Park roads, overlooks, campgrounds, and trails open but the visitor center and entrance stations are closed.

Don’t Miss:

To explore the Badlands by car, take off on the Badlands Loop Road. The 31-mile scenic road goes right through the middle of the park with plenty of viewpoints. If you want to add a hike to your trip, check out Notch Trail. The 1.5-mile path starts with a brief stroll through the canyon before it leads to a ladder up against a steep wall so it’s not for the faint of heart.

TENNESSEE-

Great Smoky National Park

Clingmans Dome Road is open. Access has returned to Cades Cove Loop Road, Cherokee Orchard Road, Clingmans Dome Road, Deep Creek Road, Foothills Parkway, Gatlinburg Bypass, Greenbrier Road to Ramsey Cascades Trailhead, Lakeview Drive, Laurel Creek Road, Newfound Gap Road, Tom Branch Road, Tow String Road, and Wear Cove Road.

Don’t Miss:

Cades Cove is a fertile valley set amongst mountains that was home to the early Southern Appalachian settlers. You’ll see 18th and 19th century cabins, churches, and a working grist mill. This road circles the valley but you can also park and head off on a hike from here. Abrams Falls 5-mile round trip hike to a small but mighty waterfall.

UTAH-

Capitol Reef National Park 

Returned to full operations this week with most recreational opportunities available.

Don’t Miss:

Check out Sunset Point for dramatic views of Capitol Reef’s rock formations when the sun goes down. It’s a short .3 mile trail that leads right to the overlook from Sunset Point Trail.

Arches National Park

All park roads, trails, and restrooms open while campgrounds remain closed.

Don’t Miss:

To check out North America’s longest arch head to Landscape Arch. The 306 foot arch is at the end of an easy and flat 50-minute hike from Devils Garden trailhead making it accessible for the whole family.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point, restrooms at Sunset Point, Farview and Rainbow Points are open, and trails within the Bryce Amphitheater area.  The Mossy Cave area is open, though construction may close some areas temporarily.

Don’t Miss:

For a different perspective of Bryce Canyon, head to Inspiration Point which is home to three levels of viewpoints. Visitors can look towards Silent City with rows and rows of hoodoos. Inspiration Point is a great way to take in one of the greatest views of the United States and is accessible enough for even those with mobility issues.

Zion National Park

Zion Canyon has reopened though there would be no shuttles. The Angels Landing chain section is closed and The Kolob Canyons area of the park also remains closed.

Don’t Miss:

Zion National Park is one of those parks that offers stunning views just driving Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. For those looking for an adventure, take off on one of the best hikes in the park. Although the chain section of Angels Landing is closed, this 5-mile hike offers sweeping views of Zion Canyon.

VIRGINIA-

Shenandoah National Park

Reopened but only for day use. The entire Skyline Drive and all backcountry trails will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting June 30. However, the park lodges, visitor centers, picnic grounds, campgrounds, cabins, and historic structures will all remain closed for the time being. 

Don’t Miss:

To check out Shenandoah National Park by car, head to Skyline Drive. This 105-mile road runs the entire length of Shenandoah in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It offers scenic drives and plenty of overlooks to stop at.

WYOMING-

Grand Teton National Park

Reopened with access to primary roads, some public restrooms, day-use hiking, fishing, multi-use pathway system and several viewpoints. 

Don’t Miss:

Head to Jenny Lake during your time at Grand Teton. You can fish, swim, boat, or paddle around the waters or embark on a hike. There is a 7.5-mile hike around the trailhead or a shorter 1.5-mile hike to Hidden Falls.

Yellowstone National Park

All entrances are open. The entire Grand Loop Road is accessible besides the segment between Canyon and Tower which is under construction. Visitors can access most services and facilities. 

Don’t Miss:

A trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t be complete without visiting this ancient geyser. For the best viewing, head to Upper Geyser Basin in the early morning before the day’s visitors arrive. You’ll also want to check out Grand Prismatic Spring. To take in some of the attractions via car head to Scenic Loop Road. If you drive the lower loop you can take in Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Hopefully this gave you plenty of inspiration to book that last minute trip to a National Park!

Have options, WILL TRAVEL.

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