As more Americans get vaccinated, they’re ready to take much-needed vacations this summer. Last year taught many adventurers the appeal of travel campers and fun RV parks across the country. Still, you don’t need a motorhome to have a great road trip. You can take your car for a day trip to a National Park in your area.
Sure, many others might have the same idea. But you can avoid crowds at these five lesser-known National Parks.
Pinnacles National Park, California
Pinnacles National Park has only about 30 miles of trails, but its main attraction is its beautiful rock formations. These rocks also have deep talus caves and spires that house many of the region’s most magnificent birds, like the golden eagle, AARP reports. This is also where the endangered California Condor was reintroduced into its natural habitat.
Though Pinnacles is primarily a place for rock climbers and cave explorers, you’ll find many camping sites to enjoy. There are spots to park your RV and even a swimming pool that opens in the summer. And the expansive night sky, free from any light pollution, offers excellent for stargazing.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Even though Voyageurs National Park is located up north, AARP recommends visiting in the summer when there’s no frost on the ground. That’s the best time to enjoy traversing all the waterways and camping in the lush green forest. However, winter is still a popular time for ice fishing and snowmobiling.
You’ll also find many physical trails to traverse, open at all times of the year. Check the global aurora forecast to make sure you get a glimpse of the Northern Lights during your visit.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Located two hours from El Paso, Guadalupe Mountains National Park houses the largest fossil reef in the United States. It’s also home to the four highest peaks in Texas, reaching a staggering 8,751 feet. If that’s too high for you, you might prefer 80 additional miles of trails to wander across different terrains.
The Guadalupe Mountains also offer horseback riding, stargazing, camping, and spying for multiple endangered species of flora and fauna. You must reserve group campsites because of the park’s relative popularity. The woodlands are especially beautiful in autumn, also a good time to avoid the brutal summer temperatures.
The Dry Tortugas, Florida
You’ll have to get out of your car and pay for a ferry or a seaplane to access Dry Tortugas National Park. Fares aren’t exactly cheap, but many visitors agree the privacy and scenery are worth it. This is a fun place to go snorkeling and see many of the area’s colorful fish and coral species.
On land, you can tour many legendary structures from the 1800s, including Fort Jefferson. These islands are also home to several unique birds, including the rare black noddy and vibrant purple gallinule. Feel free to bring your own boat to explore the area on your own time (and skip those water travel fees).
North Cascades, Washington
This mountainous region in Washington state sees only about 40,000 visitors per year, perfect for a semiprivate getaway. If you’re looking for glaciers, North Cascades National Park is the only place you’ll find them outside Alaska. Heavy snow is common in the winter months, but the temperatures can still climb into the 90s in the summertime.
Regardless of the time of year, hikers will love the 400 miles of trails to explore. Motorboating is also a popular activity, and you can also reach exclusive campsites by water travel. The North Cascades is also home to beautiful creatures like river otters and black bears.