The best national park road trips to take this summer

National parks provide the perfect backdrop for camping, hiking, rafting or just enjoying some fresh air.

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As COVID-19 continues to impact travel, your summer vacation plans may look a little different this year.

Rather than booking flights to an international destination, you might be considering the open road instead.

Want to exchange the view at home for some breathtaking scenery?

Grab your favorite travel card and think about a trip to a national park.

National parks provide the perfect backdrop for camping, hiking, rafting or just enjoying some fresh air. If you’re ready to get back to nature this summer or fall, we’ve got five national park road trip ideas for you to consider.

Before you head out, check the parks’ websites to view the latest information on what’s open and what’s closed, as operations can change on short notice due to the pandemic.

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1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park’s South Entrance is currently open to road-trippers.

You can trek along the Bright Angel Trail or plan an overnight stay near the banks of the Colorado River if you’re feeling adventurous.

Some of the sights you may see along the way include California condors, Rocky Mountain elk and, of course, plenty of cacti and other desert plants.

Plan ahead for summer heat, since temperatures inside the rim can easily pass 90 degrees, while temperatures inside the canyon itself can top 115 degrees.

2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone is only partially open for the summer, but there’s still plenty to do and explore.

Spouting geysers are obviously a must-see, but if you’re planning a road trip with kids, they may be more interested in seeing the roaming herds of buffalo and other wildlife.

If you want to stay in the park, lodging options include backcountry camping, campground rentals if you’ve got an RV, or booking a lodge or cabin. Don’t forget to pack Yellowstone essentials: a camera to capture all of the natural beauty and plenty of bug spray.

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

If Big Sky Country calls to you, Glacier National Park is a perfect stop on your summer road trip.

The east entrance is currently closed, as are all campgrounds except Fish Creek Campground, but the west side is mostly open. This national park is a true nature lover’s paradise, with over a million acres of wilderness dotted with meadows, mountains, forests and lakes.

And you can enjoy whitewater rafting or hiking along more than 700 miles of trails. Since entrance access is limited, be prepared for longer wait times and traffic congestion to get into the park.

4. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave may be on your national park road trip agenda if you’re on the East Coast.

The park is home to the world’s largest known cave system, about 10 miles of which are open for tours. If you’d rather stay above ground, the park offers trails for hiking and horseback riding.

With the Green River running through the park, visitors have plenty of prime real estate available for reeling in catfish, bass and perch. No licenses or permits are required to fish inside the park, either.

5. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park is considered the crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast, and if you’ve never ventured as far north as Maine, you won’t regret taking this road trip.

The park offers everything you need to enjoy a calming outdoor retreat. Some of the ways you can spend your time include swimming, biking, hiking and, if you’re not afraid of heights, taking in the view from Beehive Trail.

Acadia National Park is also home to a unique mix of wildlife, including peregrine falcons and sandpipers if you’re into birdwatching, and seals and whales that can be spotted off the coast of Mount Desert Island.

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