Even the most highly-anticipated vacation plans can change unexpectedly, and as we've all realized, this includes your entire 2020 summer itinerary. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic may have pressed pause on all of your pre-booked vacations, but that doesn't mean there can't be a new, exciting, and completely safe adventure on your horizon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns traveling does increase the likelihood of contracting and spreading the coronavirus, but it is still possible to plan, book, and enjoy an end-of-season getaway, even if that means trading your beachfront cabana for a tent-for-two in the great outdoors.
Have you been thinking about packing up the car (or safely renting an RV) for an in-state road trip to check out all that nature has to offer? Well, what about planning a road trip to relax and unwind in one of the 62 national parks or 10,234 state parks all across the U.S.? Whether you're passionate about camping, stargazing, paddle-boarding, photographing nature, or just eager to get outside with your person, Elite Daily put together a list of 102 national and state parks all across the U.S., including Puerto Rico. Now, no matter where you are, consider your summer saved.
Depending on your location, many of the suggestions below may not be applicable to you due to distance or the need to fly to get there. Places that are in your state, local to you, or in a bordering state you can access safely and responsibly via car, however, remain travel options for many. Dr. Marlyn Delva, Ed.D., dean of students at the School of General Studies and Faculty at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, says, "Taking a moment to escape all the noise in life and take in the beauty of our parks is rejuvenating. It must be done with all the precautions and safety measures in place, but as long as someone is able to physically distance and wear protective face gear when possible, enjoying the natural beauty of our earth is good for the soul." You also need to be conscious of your physical imprint when traveling. Exposing locals in national or state park towns increases the risk of overwhelming local hospitals (should you or someone you're with get sick), in addition to exposing the people who live there year round.
You should continue to check in on travel guidelines — for your current location, your end destination, and any pit stops you plan to make in between — via the CDC website and the official state websites relevant to your trip. Stay up to date on the official National Parks Service and state parks websites on operating hours, park and visitor restrictions, and cleaning practices for camping and cabin sites, as these are subject to change at a moment's notice. Keep in mind that many states across the nation have instated mandatory quarantine policies when traveling between states, so you'll need to factor extra time into each step of your travel plans.
By packing your car with your mask, sanitizer, antibacterial spray, and more essentials, you can hit the road and feed your wanderlust, riding the season out in the best way possible. So if you're eager for fresh air, #views, and some alone time with Mother Nature, we've got 102 options picked just for you.
Gulf State Park: Whether you set up camp under the stars or reserve a cottage, you can relax on the beaches and take the Cotton Bayou Trailhead to see the park's sweet little butterfly garden. (Stay up to date on what activities are open here.)
Rickwood Caverns State Park: Thrill-seekers can experience the beauty of a colorful cavern, limestone formations, and blind cave fish here.
Denali National Park: If the picturesque views along the Denali Park Road aren't enough to coax you into visiting, the wildlife here will certainly do the trick. (Be sure to reserve a permit for your drive.)
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve: Salmon swim, bright blue lakes glisten, and mountains stand tall at this national park and preserve. Put on your sneakers to explore the spruce-covered hills on the Tanalian Falls and Kontrashibuna Lake trail.
Saguaro National Park: Get up close and personal — well, not too close — with the towering saguaro cacti. It's a nature enthusiast's dream come true.
Lake Fort Smith State Park: Hike part of the Ozark Highlands Trail, which spans 240 miles, and enjoy the Boston Mountain Valley of the Ozarks to the fullest by camping. (See what activities are open here.)
Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park: This park is a true hidden gem. Home to five miles of trails, you can enjoy a magnificent stroll amongst the redwoods.
Van Damme State Park: A picture-perfect, dog-friendly beach and a forest filled with ferns can be found at this sweet park. Bring your bike to cruise along the Fern Canyon Scenic Trail.
Dry Tortugas National Park: Grab your snorkeling mask to spot coral, fish, and shipwrecks under the sea. Getting to this park via seaplane or ferry — which are both bookable online — will be an adventure in and of itself.
Everglades National Park: It will be a surreal experience seeing endangered and unique species firsthand, like the American crocodile, Florida panther, and manatee. Admire and snap away on your camera — from a distance.
Cumberland Island National Seashore: Who said an island getaway couldn't revolve around marshes, forests, camping, and nature? Biking the island with your set of wheels will show there's much to explore.
Amicalola Falls State Park: See Mother Nature truly flex in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The 729-foot cascading Amicalola Falls is a beauty that can't be missed.
Haleakalā National Park: There are three parts to this beautiful park: the summit has volcanic landscapes that are sure to impress; Kīpahulu is a lush rainforest with coastal views; and the Haleakalā Wilderness is perfect for a backpacking excursion.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park: This scenic national park is home to two of the most active volcanoes in the entire world: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.
Indiana Dunes National Park: If you've never tried geocatching, now is the time to start. Download the GPS app, visit the dunes, and let the search begin.
Brown County State Park: Check out the gullies, unparalleled forest views, and mountain biking opportunities that make this a postcard-perfect spot.
Pikes Peak State Park: This state park is one of Iowa's top-photographed spots. Enjoy a wooden boardwalk stroll to Bridal Veil Falls and have your camera ready.
Backbone State Park: Plan to relax by the lake and embrace the beauty of the oldest state park in Iowa. Hike to the "Devil's Backbone," one of the most favored hikes in Iowa.
Wyandotte County Lake and Park: Bring your pup on this vacay to enjoy an off-leash area. While you're there, take advantage of the lake and archery range (but if you plan to use it, be sure to bring your own gear).
Cheney State Park: Nestled along the shoreline of one of the best sailing lakes in the country, you'll want to have your sunnies, beach towel, and sunscreen on deck for this visit.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park: This original path to the west will take you into the heart of Kentucky wildlife. Hike it — you'll like it.
Assateague Island National Seashore: You may have heard of Assateague’s wild horses, but admiring them in person from a distance will be the true highlight of your summer.
Piscataway Park: Two boardwalks and a fishing pier will keep any summer lover occupied. Scope out this beautiful natural home for ospreys, beavers, and bald eagles.
Cape Cod National Seashore: Six beaches to choose from? Shell yeah. Soak up the sun at Nauset Light Beach and snap a pic in front of Nauset Lighthouse.
Halibut Point State Park: Head to the sweet town that is Rockport for a charming escape. After exploring the trails, head into town for some window shopping.
Gulf Islands National Seashore: Glistening blue waters, white sand beaches, lush marshes, and picturesque nature trails will make you want to stay here longer than just a pit stop in between destinations.
Ship Island: Swimmers, summer lovers, and beach enthusiasts alike come here for the gorgeous gulf waters. Set up a picnic lunch and enjoy your time in the sunshine.
Glacier National Park: Alpine meadows, lush forests, glistening lakes, and towering mountains, anyone? Glacier has it all. Explore the charm of the old chalets and the natural beauty of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park: If prairie dogs hold a special place in your heart, this state park is a must-visit. These adorable creatures will make you melt as you look at them through binoculars.
Chadron State Park: Escape to the canyons of Nebraska's Pine Ridge at Chadron State Park, where the hiking and biking trails are ideal for both beginners and experts.
White Mountain National Forest: Swim, hike, bike, repeat. With hiking trails that span 1,200 miles, you won't run out of nature to explore.
Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park: One of the greatest sculptors in the U.S., Augustus Saint-Gaudens once called this place home. Enjoy his art throughout the trails and outdoor monuments at this historic beauty.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park: This natural beauty has over 119 caves. Take your wanderlust below-ground to explore this otherworldly cavern via the Big Room trail. You can even watch bats take flight from a distance.
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument: History buffs will love checking out the walls and caves of the Mogollon people, dating as far back as from the late 1200s.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Embrace a day at the seashore by relaxing in the sand with a juicy book, kayaking, and snapping pictures by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Cape Lookout National Seashore: Head to Cape Lookout National Seashore's barrier islands to see lighthouses, search for shells, and breathe in the salty air.
Keystone State Park: Make the most of a day trip here. Spend the afternoon hiking the eight miles of trails, take a refreshing dip at the beach, enjoy a picnic, or do all three.
Lake Thunderbird State Park: If you're traveling via RV or a camper van, Lake Thunderbird is the ultimate spot. Relax, enjoy the ride, and soak up the sunrises and sunsets over the lake.
Mt. Hood National Forest: This outdoor enthusiast's delight offers sparkling lake views, scenic drives, climbing, and quaint picnic areas.
Bates State Park: Situated in the Blue Mountains, your thirst for scenic backdrops will be fulfilled here. Hike the trails that stretch over three miles and stop at the viewing points of the valley and old mill pond.
El Yunque Rain Forest: Take a dip in the natural pools nestled under the waterfalls. If you're lucky, you might get a glimpse of the Puerto Rican parrot and coquí frog that are local to the island.
Congaree National Park: Soak up the beauty of Cedar Creek for a leisurely afternoon spent in the sunshine, or head to the Boardwalk Trail for a quick, rewarding hike.
Huntington Beach State Park: You'll fully enjoy the refreshing sea breeze on this camping trip. Kick back and relax on Grand Strand beach.
Badlands National Park: This "Land of Stone and Light" is an attraction for travelers from all over the world. Enjoy an exquisite sunrise or spot stars in the evening sky at this otherworldly spot.
Wind Cave National Park: You'll feel like you're in an old-time-y movie when taking in the rolling hill views of one of the oldest national parks in the U.S. Spot prairie dogs, elk, and bison here.
Zion National Park: Learn about the colorful sandstone cliffs in hues of red, pink, and cream. The contrast against the bright blue sky will look stunning on your IG feed.
Bryce Canyon National Park: Take the dreamiest hike with your partner under a full moon or plan a photo shoot against the red rocks and pink cliffs.
Grayson Highlands State Park: Access both the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail and Appalachian Trail from this beautiful spot.
Shenandoah National Park: This national park will let you stroll the trails, experience the wildlife, and embrace the many photo ops across the night sky.
Blackwater Falls Sate Park: Snap scenic pics of the amber waters at Blackwater Falls and the 57-foot cascade. Have your hiking boots on to explore up to 20 miles of trails.
Devils Lake State Park: Lakeside picnics and beaching with extraordinary views — what more could you ask for? Be sure to grab your Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker online before hitting the road.
Grand Teton National Park: Experienced hikers will be enticed to conquer the rough, steep terrain on the trails here.