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summer travel 2020

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.

Travel

My Travel Plans Were Cancelled…Now What?

YUCK right?? Let’s all have a moment of silence for all the adventures planned that never were this summer.

(We personally had to cancel an epic family trip planned for Norway this May…and honestly I just try not to think about it too much because it’s too heartbreaking)

Traveling for Americans will look vastly different this summer. While most people had to cancel their spring trips (take a look at how we got full cash refunds for each and every flight HERE), their summer vacations are still looming in uncertainty. Spring was spent with plenty of time inside doing puzzles, wearing sweatpants, and taking up plenty of new hobbies. So now that warm weather is rolling around, we are sitting here wondering how can we scratch that adventure itch…anyone else?!

While the U.S. Department of State is still advising Americans to avoid all international travel, domestic travel (more specifically outdoor oriented travel) seems to be the answer for travel for now…because we need something, right?!

So how will this summer look? We’re digging into positivity and rounded up a couple of ways to make the most out of this unexpected season — while still being safe!

Rise of the Road Trip

Road trips…surprise, surprise… predicting this summer will be heightened unlike anything before. People are opting for car travel over plane travel as a direct response to the pandemic (this is definitely what we are thinking!)

Experts are also seeing a rise of RV travel (anyone else have a never before urge to purchase a camper and get on the road?!)— they offer a sense of freedom and safety which is the perfect sentiment during these unprecedented times. Minimizing risk because you are confining your travel and lodging into the same self-contained environment, while still itching that travel bug is the name of the game.

This site seems to be the best resource for renting RV’s for those cross country adventures.

And for good measure, here are some suggestions from the CDC to ensure your travel is as safe as possible.

  1. Anticipate your needs before you go so you can minimize stops.
  2. Prepare food, water, and snacks for the road.
  3. Pack a sufficient amount of alcohol-based (at least 60%) hand sanitizer.
  4. Bring disinfect and other cleaning supplies.

So why not take advantage of this situation to plan a summer road trip? While international travel may not resume for a while, we can still see across the United States and our own backyards. Take this as an opportunity to visit those close-to-you destinations that you may have ruled out before. Visit an old favorite in your home state or introduce your family to a trip you often went on as a kid.

Get Outdoors

We think travelers will also be leaning towards summer vacations that explore the great outdoors. Travelers will head outside to state and national parks because they feel the safest and will most likely be open to the public.

National Parks are expecting to experience the largest visitation growth periods in history (YES!) as everyone is clamoring to be outside again. With this new influx of visitors, the NPS will be implementing new safety measures. We planned a last minute getaway to the Smoky Mountain National Park because we were dessssppperraateee for a change of scenery – but check out our full list of National Parks open now and what to do once you get there HERE.

Return to full operations will continue to be phased and some services may be limited. If you choose to travel (or are lucky enough to live by) a national park, there are a few simple safety guidelines across the board to take into consideration when visiting.

  • Comply with state and local guidance, just because the park is open doesn’t mean you should go.
  • Continue to follow the social distancing rule of 6 feet.
  • During COVID-19, resources you may be used to might not be available so remember to always pack items like water, park maps, and food.
  • Avoid crowded areas — trails will have limitations making them more crowded than usual so avoid peak times and popular areas.
  • Don’t approach wildlife. While this is always the case, with much of the population indoors this spring, areas have seen an increase in wildlife activity.

AND If you can’t get to a national park soon, remember you can always visit virtually! SO cool!

Here is a list of National Parks that are partially open or have dates to reopen soon.

US National Parks That Are Open Now

  • Denali National Park, Alaska (backpacking areas open, but climbing season suspended)
  • Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (entrance/trail use by permit only)
  • Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska (some areas open)
  • Saguaro National Park, Arizona (day use only)
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California (roads and limited trails open)
  • Redwood National Park, California (day use only)
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado (day use only)
  • Biscayne National Park, Florida (trails, boat launches, and restrooms open)
  • Everglades National Park, Florida (day-use area and some beach campsites)
  • Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky (trail use only)
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada (trails and visitor centers open)
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota (day use only)
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio (trails open, clockwise travel only)
  • Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota (limited trail open)
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina (day use only)
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (limited trails open, day use only)
  • Zion National Park, Utah (day use only)
  • Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands (trails and beaches open)
  • Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (backcountry areas open)
  • Olympic National Park, Washington (day use only)
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (roads, hiking trails, and fishing areas)
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (south entrance, some roads, trails, and restrooms open)

National Parks Scheduled to Open

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (currently closed, reopening limited areas May 22-25)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (plans for reopening scheduled for May 27)
  • Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds, Colorado (opening June 4)
  • Capitol Reef National Park, Utah (trails and backcountry camping opening May 19)
  • Arches National Park, Utah (opening May 29, backcountry access opening May 30)
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah (opening May 29)
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas (opening June 1)
  • Parks Canada National Parks (multiple parks opening June 1)
  • Canada National Parks Campgrounds (scheduled to open after June 21)
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (opening June 3)
  • Isle Royale National Park, Michigan (opening after June 14)
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona (mid-June)
  • Katmai National Park, Alaska (camping suspended until July 1)

State and local parks also offer hiking, biking, and camping in order to get outside. Public lands managed by the National Forest Service offer miles and miles of wide-open spaces to enjoy that will likely be less busy than national parks.

When not planning our last-minute National Park trip, we have been LIVING at our local nature preserve! It’s like a little mini-vacation, and bonus it’s only 15 minutes from our house.

Take advantage of local favorites to plan a weekend with all the outdoor activities that leave you feeling filled to the brim — a campfire, s’ mores, and a beautiful hike. Pack a picnic and take it to your local state park to enjoy.

Travel WILL happen this summer… though “normal” travel will not return for quite some time (queue all the crying emojis). While you may not be able to head off to your trip overseas (remember that one time we lived in Italy for a month??), it’s still possible to make the most of this summer.

After all, after months of quarantine, any trip will feel like a dream vacation.