Sure, you’ve heard of the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone. But, what about Isle Royale or Gates of the Arctic? These off the beaten path National Parks will make your summer family vacation a truly spectacular (and crowd free!) treat.
1. Gates of the Arctic (Alaska)
You’ll think you’ve gone back in time millions of years when you visit Gates of the Arctic, one of many parks in Alaska. There are no roads, trails, established campsites or cell phone services in this vast (8.4 million acres!) landscape. Needless to say, this park is not for the faint of heart. If you have an outdoorsy family and you want to step back in time, you’ll love the connection with nature when you fish, hike or simply watch the wildlife
2. North Cascades National Park (Washington)
Boasting more than 300 glaciers, the North Cascades National Park is less than a three-hour drive from Seattle. Kids will love the Junior Ranger Program while you and the hubs float through magnificence on a canoe trip at the new North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.
As of this posting there are park alerts in effect. Be sure to check the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.
3. Dead Horse Point (Utah)
Legends say that around the turn of the century cowboys used the top of this mesa in Utah to corral horses; at one time horses were left corralled and waterless, thus the name Dead Horse Point stuck. Regardless of this grim beginning, Dead Horse Point offers stunning views not seen in other parts of the country. A popular destination for mountain bikers and photographers, Dead Horse Point also offers a stunning backdrop for ATV’s and hikers, alike. It is routinely called Utah’s “most spectacular” state park.
4. Mesa Verde (Colorado)
History buffs will love a trip to Mesa Verde! Packed with nearly 5,000 archeological sites, there are 600 “cliff dwellings” that will give you a peak into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there A.D. 600-1300. Kids can get an in-depth look at the lives of the Pueblo Indians through the History Program for Kids and grown ups can hike the trails to the mesa top sites and cliff dwelling overlooks, and enjoy the tram service.
5. Isle Royale (Michigan)
Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale is an island 45 miles long and 9 miles wide. In prehistoric times, a large amount of copper was mined from this island, but soon became a prominent hunting and fishing ground for locals. Visitors can currently enjoy hiking, fishing, boating and kayaking. You can plan to go on one of several guided tours or even go scuba diving!
6. Shenandoah (Virginia)
Bird watching is a popular activity of the Shenandoah National Park, just 75 miles north of Washington DC. Over half the 200 species of birds breed solely in the park, making for a spectacular and unique experience. Visitors also enjoy the park for their GeoCacheing adventures – a real-world treasure hunt! Other great family-fun includes: rock-climbing, rappelling and horseback riding.
7. Dry Tortugas (Florida)
If sand, sun and picturesque blue waters are your kind of national park trip (and who wouldn’t want that?) then, Dry Tortugas, north of Key West, is the place for you! The park is only accessible via seaplane or boat and is a part of a seven-island chain. Marine life is abundant and you can plan your entire trip around learning more about it. Camping, snorkeling, bird watching, fishing or water-gazing from white sandy beaches will complete a visit to Dry Tortugas….sounds ideal to me!
What are your favorite, crowd-free, off the beaten path national parks?
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