Top 5 National Parks To Visit This Summer

The National Park Service is giving us a reason to celebrate: August marks its 100th birthday. There’s no better way to honor a century of awe-inspiring natural wonders than by visiting a park, and summer is the perfect time to hit the road in your car or RV. (Before you get behind the wheel, check out our auto safety guide.) Instead of steering toward Yellowstone, why not opt for one of our less-trafficked national parks? They’re just as striking and scenic—the only thing missing is the crowds.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Boat or seaplane is the only way to get to this group of islands almost 70 miles west of Key West, Fla. Take a guided tour or explore Fort Jefferson, a three-story brick structure started in 1846 (though never completed) in order to provide a base of operations for ships to get supplies, be repaired or seek refuge in stormy weather. Coral grows around its wall, making it a great spot for snorkeling—or relaxing on the beach. The tropical paradise is ideal for bird lovers; keep an eye out for sooty terns, peregrine falcons and yellow-billed cuckoos.

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Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Boat or seaplane is the only way to get to this group of islands almost 70 miles west of Key West, Fla. Take a guided tour or explore Fort Jefferson, a three-story brick structure started in 1846 (though never completed) in order to provide a base of operations for ships to get supplies, be repaired or seek refuge in stormy weather. Coral grows around its wall, making it a great spot for snorkeling—or relaxing on the beach.

Boat or seaplane is the only way to get to this group of islands almost 70 miles west of Key West, Fla. Take a guided tour or explore Fort Jefferson. Coral grows around its wall, making it a great spot for snorkeling—or relaxing on the beach.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Ultimately accessible only by bush plane in the summer, you’ll have 24 hours of daylight above the Arctic Circle. Zero development means you might spy bears, caribou, moose, wolves, foxes, martins and porcupines. Linda Jeschke, Chief of Interpretation for Kobuk Valley National Park, recommends bringing your own boat to go down the Kobuk River, or hiking or camping on the sand dunes.

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Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Ultimately accessible only by bush plane in the summer, you’ll have 24 hours of daylight above the Arctic Circle. Zero development means you might spy bears, caribou, moose, wolves, foxes, martins and porcupines. Linda Jeschke, Chief of Interpretation for Kobuk Valley National Park, recommends bringing your own boat to go down the Kobuk River, or hiking or camping on the sand dunes.

Ultimately accessible only by bush plane in the summer, you’ll have 24 hours of daylight above the Arctic Circle. Zero development means you might spy bears, caribou, moose, wolves, foxes, martins and porcupines.

Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

Samoan culture is an integral part the experience here, the only U.S. national park located south of the equator. Its Homestay Program was developed to immerse visitors into local Samoan culture and life; guests can stay with a family during their visit (generally starting at $50 per night). Explore the tropical rainforest with an early morning hike on the Lower Sauma, Pola Island and Mount Alava trails, suggests Eymard Bangcoro, Visual Information Specialist at the National Park of American Samoa.

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National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

Samoan culture is an integral part the experience here, the only U.S. national park located south of the equator. Its Homestay Program was developed to immerse visitors into local Samoan culture and life; guests can stay with a family during their visit (generally starting at $50 per night). Explore the tropical rainforest with an early morning hike on the Lower Sauma, Pola Island and Mount Alava trails.

Samoan culture is an integral part the experience here, the only U.S. national park located south of the equator. Explore the tropical rainforest with an early morning hike on the Lower Sauma, Pola Island and Mount Alava trails.

National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

Petrified Forest National Park, Northeastern Arizona

“The best place to see wildlife is near the Puerco River,” says Richard Ullmann, Chief of Interpretation, Petrified Forest National Park. Look for birds, collared lizards, rabbits, mule deer and pronghorn. He suggests backpacking overnight or signing up for an in-depth Petrified Forest Field Institute class. The park is also a great spot for RVing.

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Petrified Forest National Park, Northeastern Arizona

“The best place to see wildlife is near the Puerco River,” says Richard Ullmann, Chief of Interpretation, Petrified Forest National Park. Look for birds, collared lizards, rabbits, mule deer and pronghorn. He suggests backpacking overnight or signing up for an in-depth Petrified Forest Field Institute class. The park is also a great spot for RVing.

“The best place to see wildlife is near the Puerco River,” says Richard Ullmann, Chief of Interpretation, Petrified Forest National Park. Look for birds, collared lizards, rabbits, mule deer and pronghorn.

Petrified Forest National Park, Northeastern Arizona

Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii

“The areas that are preserved today were once considered incredibly sacred,” says Park Guide Julia Swanson. The nearly 420-acre park, part of which sits on a large lava flat, encompasses an ancient trail, temple ruins, and other archaeological and historic sites. “Hawaiian spinner dolphins regularly come into Hōnaunau Bay and Hawaiian green sea turtles are often seen swimming there,” she adds.

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Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii

The nearly 420-acre park, part of which sits on a large lava flat, encompasses an ancient trail, temple ruins, and other archaeological and historic sites. “Hawaiian spinner dolphins regularly come into Hōnaunau Bay and Hawaiian green sea turtles are often seen swimming there,” says guide Julia Swanson.

The nearly 420-acre park, part of which sits on a large lava flat, encompasses an ancient trail, temple ruins, and other archaeological and historic sites.

Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Hawaii

 

By Celia Shatzman

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