12 National Park Adventures Off the Beaten Path

Olympic National Park - Washington

Olympic National Park - Washington

Summer is prime time for venturing to national parks and that means crowds—unless you know where to go. From Washington to Maine, check out the parks below and the May issue of Outside as they round up 12 adventures that will have you exploring the emptiest quarters of our most spectacular landscapes!

FLOAT FREE WATER in OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON

Olympic’s Elwha River is in the midst of a dam removal project that will free some 70 miles of rollicking whitewater. Scope out the demolition from the observation spot, and then make for the whitewater. Next: a 1.5-mile stand-up-paddleboard trip across the placid lake.

CROSS THE BORDER in GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA & WATERTON LAKES PARK, ALBERTA

Pack a passport and credit card, but keep it light for this six-day mission through the most majestic scenery south of Alaska. Start the trek in Whitefish, Montana, make your way through Logan Pass and continue the picturesque journey across the border into Waterton Lake.

Acadia National Park - Maine

Acadia National Park - Maine

BUY LOBSTER OFF THE BOAT in ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE

The only thing better than paddling between empty islands for a few days? Doing so on a diet of fresh lobster. Rent a sea kayak and paddle six miles to Isle Au Haut—with a pot, gear bag and stove in tow—and head off to one of the many nearby islands to flag down a lobster boat.

GO DARK in BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

On May 20, a swath of American West will catch an almost complete solar eclipse. There’s no better place to see this spooky phenomenon than Bryce Canyon. In Bryce, the eclipse ends just a minute before sunset, meaning that within two hours you’ll see the sun set, rise and set again.

PADDLE AMONG ICEBERGS in GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA

A 65-mile long notch carved into 3.2 million acres of protected wilderness, Glacier Bay is a of Alaskan hallmarks. From June through August, Alaska Mountain guides can guide you through on an eight-day sea kayaking expedition, during which paddlers cover four to eight miles a day.

Glacier Bay National Park - Alaska (c)RoguesScholartim

Glacier Bay National Park - Alaska (c)RoguesScholartim

GET DIRTY in GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, COLORADO

Set among southern Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Great Sand Dunes is a terrific place to enjoy the splendors of nature. Sand sledding and sandboarding are serious business around these parts—the park has 19,000 acres of dunes reaching 750 feet, open year round.

CLIMB IN WONDERLAND in JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

Most Joshua Tree visitors are content to traipse around the desert, gawking at geologic formations but if you want to get on top of one, pack your harness, rack and rope. There are more than 7,500 routes here, a mix of bolted and trad, all of them on remarkably clean monzogranite rock.

ONE-UP THE GRAND in GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING

To climb the 13,770-foot Grand Teton, you need professional-grade skills, or a $1,000 guide. The beauty of the Grand’s neighbor, the 12,804-foot Middle Teton, is that it’s a lot less likely to kill you, and offers the same crazy views. (In fact, the view form the Middle Teton is arguably better, since it includes the Grand.)

Isle Royale National Park - Michigan

Isle Royale National Park - Michigan

SEE A WOLF in ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK, MICHIGAN

This 45-mile long, nine-mile-wide wilderness is tough to reach: plopped in the northwest corner of rugged Lake Superior. That isolation accounts for the island’s most famous residents: a pack of gray wolves that has dwindled to just 16 members. Traverse the 40-mile trail, keep quiet, and you might catch a glimpse.

PLUS: A primer on the best existing bike-friendly trails in the national park system including Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, CaliforniaBig South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee and New River Gorge National River, West Virginia.

Check out the full feature on OutsideOnline

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