Squeeze in a Safe Summer Getaway Before School Starts

With staycations on everyone’s minds during this pandemic summer, visiting open spaces—like our nation’s public lands—is a good option to help you decompress and feel a bit of normalcy. However, current CDC recommendations specify that travel should be limited to your local parks and public lands in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so you may want to postpone any big family road trips until next year.

If you are fortunate enough to live close to one of over 400 national park units across the country, good news: August 25 marks the National Park Service’s 104th birthday! This means you’ll pay no park entry fee on this special day.

Visit a Nearby National Park

Check out these NPS destinations for your summer adventures:

  1. Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
    Set atop the Cascade Mountain Range in a sleeping volcano, this park invites relaxation as you soak in the beauty of Crater Lake—the deepest lake in the US. For spectacular views, embark on a historic 33-mile Rim Drive.
  2. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
    Escape the summer heat with a journey into the cool caverns of the world’s longest cave system. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, this sprawling park also offers horseback riding, bicycling, canoeing, and more.
  3. Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)
    Protecting nearly 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, this well-preserved park gives you a glimpse into the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here for more than 700 years.

Even if there aren’t any national parks nearby, you may still be close to one of the many public green spaces managed by the US Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, or Bureau of Land Management.

  1. Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests (Vermont, New York)
    Amble along 900 miles of trails, take a scenic drive on Lincoln Gap Road, go horseback riding in the Glastenbury Wilderness area, or try gold panning or rock collecting.
  2. J. Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake (South Carolina)
    As one of the top 10 most-visited Corps lakes in the US, this man-made lake borders Georgia and South Carolina. With nearly 71,100 acres of water and 1,200 miles of shoreline, this public space beckons you with opportunities for boating, camping, fishing, picnicking, and more.
  3. Red Rock Canyon (Nevada)
    As an international climbing destination, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area boasts thousands of climbing routes for every skill level. Set against a beautiful Aztec Sandstone backdrop, you can challenge yourself on any route, from 20-pitch outings to front-country bouldering to short sport climbing.

Crater Lake (elena_suvorova: https://stock.adobe.com/images/crater-lake-national-park-in-oregon-usa/100823036) Red Rock Canyon (John Anderson: https://stock.adobe.com/images/red-rock-canyon-nevada/229989834)

Stop by a State Park

Along with national parks, state parks offer great options for nearby nature. Find your local park by visiting https://www.stateparks.org/locate-a-park/.

Tip: Check out Recreation.gov to learn about thousands of additional outdoor and cultural destinations in your zip code and across the country.

Make sure you play it safe this summer and know before you go. If you’re heading out to visit a park in person, make sure to follow current CDC, local, and state guidelines regarding social distancing, frequent handwashing, and wearing a mask in public places. Make sure you check the park’s website for the most current information regarding operating hours and health and safety measures. Plus, read these tips on how to recreate responsibly.

Curious about Virtual Visits?

If you can’t travel in person (or you’re not comfortable doing so), you can visit dozens of US national park sites with Google’s stunning virtual tours. Or teach children about the environment with NEEF’s educational activity guides and citizen science projects.

On September 26, consider signing up for National Public Lands Day—the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands. This year, NPLD is focusing on virtual volunteer events, giving participants the chance to explore, learn, and contribute to public land sites throughout the United States from the safety and comfort of home.

Jumpstart Your Future Planning

After a virtual visit has piqued your interest, why not start planning a future visit? What activities would you put on your park bucket list? You might enjoy swimming, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and other “traditional” outdoor activities. Or you might be into emerging recreational activities like geocaching, stand up paddle-boarding, pack-rafting, or electric kick scooters. No matter your preference, you’ll find a national park that suits your travel type.

What’s your getaway style?

  • Equestrian. Experience the outdoors by horseback, whether you’re riding or camping.
  • Climber. Go vertical for a birds-eye view of nature with climbing activities like mountaineering and bouldering.
  • Navigator. Hunt for natural hidden treasures with orienteering, geocaching, and GPS scavenger hunts.
  • Angler. Cast your line (or your net) into the beautiful lakes, rivers, and waterways, whether you’re fly-fishing or crabbing.
  • Hiker. Hit the trails to explore nature on foot as you hike amidst stunning natural scenery.
  • Photographer. Capture sweeping vistas and gorgeous wildlife by taking a photography expedition.

Find Your Park and learn more about the variety of activities you can do at national parks.


Author: Lisa Beach

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