Summertime in America. The hottest season of the year evokes images of the open road, freedom, and cowboy days in the wild, Wild West. It’s the season to celebrate America the Beautiful. And nothing is more symbolic of America’s collective intrepid spirit — the urge to dive head-first and explore the unknown — than its National Parks.
Unfortunately, some of those ambitious plans have been thwarted this summer by the historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park, America’s oldest— and, arguably, most celebrated—national park. And while Yellowstone’s South Loop recently reopened, the Northern Loop may remain closed the rest of the year. Luckily, there are other national parks to visit across the US that offer just as much natural beauty and majesty, from sea to shining sea.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (Adobe Stock)
Our first alternative is the natural choice, as the northern entrance for Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is adjacent to Yellowstone’s newly reopened southern entrance. Plus, while Yellowstone is world-famous for its curious geological wonders — from eternally erupting geysers to prismatic hot springs - Grand Teton is more magnificent on a visual level. There’s a reason the Grand Teton is known as America’s Matterhorn — and it doesn’t disappoint.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park, Montana (Adobe Stock)
Another Yellowstone alternative can be found in northwest Montana, in the wild environs of Glacier National Park. Summertime is the only time of year when it’s possible to swim in the waters of Lake McDonald — the largest lake in the park — without shivering nearly to death. The sun is shining and the entirety of Glacier’s famous Going-to-the-Sun road is open. What more could you hope for from a trip to northwest Montana?
Acadia National Park, Maine
Arcadia National Park, Maine (Adobe Stock)
Maine is always a good idea in the summer months, as the lobster bakes are full steam ahead (pun intended), the blueberry pies are freshly baked, and the hydrangeas are in full bloom. At Acadia National Park, Maine’s gorgeous New England coastline is on glorious display from hilltop vistas and craggy coastal overlooks. Active travelers will love the plethora of coastal hikes to conquer on this island paradise, while romantics and daydreamers will fall in love with the panoramic vistas of the evergreen islands dotting the northeast Atlantic. The Way Life Should Be, indeed.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park, Alaska (Adobe Stock)
Head to Alaska to explore Denali National Park during the warmest months of the year — the temperature rarely falls below a balmy 56°F (positively tropical for the state known as “The Last Frontier”). Even though the park is open year-round, summer is the best season to visit Denali, as many of the facilities close for the winter months. Plus, if you plan your trip for late August, you may even have a chance of glimpsing the Northern Lights — the ultimate reward for venturing into the wild.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i (Adobe Stock)
Head to the Island of Hawaii — also known as Hawaii’s “Big Island” — to explore Volcanoes National Park. Though the weather in Hawaii is, unsurprisingly, warm year-round, summertime is an ideal time to visit for active travelers who yearn to drive ATVs across the jagged terrain under tropical blue skies. The rainy season lasts from November through March, and though the tropical showers are known to pass quickly, we prefer our tropical vacations to be full of crystal-clear vistas and maximum sunshine — you won’t want your view of Kilauea Crater (and it’s world-famous lava lake) obscured by an afternoon shower, trust us.
Virgin Islands National Park, St. John
Virgin Islands National Park, St. John (Adobe Stock)
From one island oasis to another: For our next selection, we are swapping the Pacific for the Caribbean. Head to Virgin Islands National Park on the idyllic island of St. John to experience a taste of ‘America’s Paradise’ on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Roughly 60% of St. John is protected by national park land, and the island’s pristine tropical beauty is best appreciated in the summertime, after the snowbirds and winter tourists have returned home post-Spring Break. Luckily, the archipelago’s trade-winds keep the islands cool all year-long — one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets is that the off-season is one of the best seasons to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands (and the rainy season doesn’t even start until August). So, what are you waiting for? The time to book is now. Happy travels!
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California (Adobe Stock)
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that, when it comes to America’s old-growth forests, the Redwood trees get all the attention. But, did you know that while the aforementioned Redwoods may be the tallest, the Sequoias are actually larger? Giant Sequoias are the largest trees in the world — if measured by volume, which is of course, the common measurement. So, this summer, show these ancient conifers some much-needed respect with a trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park in California. Though summertime is more crowded in the park than the off-season, it’s the best time to visit as all park roads are open and — thanks to the shuttle service — the forest is more easily navigable. So it’s the perfect time to learn what it means to walk amongst giants.