National Parks off the Beaten Path
Great peak-season vacation alternatives to five popular National Parks.
Want to go to the Grand Canyon, but hate the thought of sitting in traffic? Love the Cape Cod seashore, but can't stand the crowds? NRDC parks experts Johanna Wald and Chuck Clusen offer advice on lesser-known spots where you can find everything you're looking for in a vacation -- except the celebrated names.
If you like. . .
Pristine sand beaches, spectacular sea caves and remnant old-growth forests, try Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. You'll also find the largest collection of lighthouses in the National Park system at Apostle Islands -- Olympic National Park ain't got that!
If you want. . .
Swimming beaches, great dunes, marshes and lakes, try Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan, rather than Cape Cod National Seashore. Or try Biscayne National Park, a fantastic place for recreation -- boating, sailing, fishing, snorkeling, diving and camping -- located to the west of the stunning Florida Keys. The park has a deep green forest of mangroves, lush sea grasses, and diverse fish and other wildlife.
If you're seeking. . .
Spectacular scenery, magnificent canyons, incredible rock formations, great hiking, and remote wildlands, you've got to go the Grand Canyon, right? Wrong. Try a visit to Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante. It's got all that, and more, and you can be part of history in the making -- Grand Staircase-Escalante is one of America's most recently designated national monuments.
If you want to find. . .
Scenic wildlands, hiking, spectacular views, lakes and a glacier, you don't have to go to Yosemite. Try Lassen Volcanic National Park instead, located, like Yosemite, in Northern California. There's an added bonus at Lassen: you get a volcano, too. Or, go to Idaho and visit Craters of the Moon National Monument, with its unique volcanic features and fascinating plants and animals.
And if you're looking for. . .
Appalachian forests, a spectacular view into three states (Kentucky, Virginia and Tennesee), miles of hiking trails, towering limestone rocks, a 75-foot-high sandstone overhang, and a journey back into our nation's history, who needs the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? You'll find what you're looking for at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
Photos: Apostle Island and Cumberland Gap, courtesy of the National Park Service; Grand Staircase-Escalante, Chris Calwell
last revised 5/15/2000
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