It’s that time of year again! The sun is out, the trees are green again, and summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s adventuring time. Whether you’re planning a road trip, a campus, or just want to get outside for a few days, summer is the perfect time to get outside, enjoy nature and make memories with friends and family. In no particular order, here are 8 of our favorite summer travel destinations for summer 2018.
Yosemite National Park - California
Vernal Falls in Yosemite Valley. Photo from the National Parks Service
Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, bringing in over 4 million visitors a year. Most of these visitors pass through Yosemite Valley, an area of 6 square miles that’s home to the park’s most popular attractions. However, 95% of the park’s 750,000 acres of land is designated as wilderness, meaning that the land is preserved in a natural state without any human development.
Yosemite is a great place to go camping, hiking, or backpacking, but summer travelers might want to make reservations in advance as the park is especially busy during the summer months. If you’re not afraid of a little hiking, you should visit Half Dome, El Capitan, and Hetch Hetchy. You should also take time to explore the park’s waterfalls, such as the towering 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls or the picturesque Vernal Falls. The park also has plenty of other hiking and sightseeing opportunities for outdoor fans of all ages and experience levels.
Arches National Park, Utah
Delicate Arch, one of the parks most famous sites. Photo from the National Parks Service
Much like the name suggests, Arches National Park is famous for it’s over 2,000 natural stone arches. Visitors come from across the country to see some of the most spectacular natural features in the world such as Landscape Arch, the 5th longest natural arch in the world at 290 feet long. The park’s most famous arch, Delicate Arch, is 60 feet tall and is a popular site for photographers and sightseers, especially at sunset.
The park has many trails with a wide range of difficulties, so you’re sure to find some hiking that’s manageable for you. Also, the whole park is serviced by the main road so you can drive to the more popular trail sections if that’s more of your style. The park recommends hiking in the early morning or evening during the summer months, as the heat can be dangerous at midday. Hiking closer to sunset can also help you to get the best pictures of the arches, and the area is a great place to go stargazing at night.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon from the North Rim. Photo from the National Parks Service
It’s probably no surprise that the Grand Canyon found a spot on our list. It’s one of the most famous natural landmarks in the world and it’s absolutely worth the visit. Visitors are usually breathless when they first see the mile-deep canyon for the first time. Beyond sightseeing and picture-taking, the Grand Canyon offers some amazing hiking trails. Visitors can travel down any of the canyon trails down into the canyon, like the popular Bright Angel Trail, though permits are required for overnight backpacking trips.
If you’re looking for a more tame hiking experience, the park has a rim trail that takes visitors around the top of the canyon. There are countless overlooks that give you a breathtaking view of the canyon, so you’re sure to get some great pictures. Visitors should also see Horseshoe Bend or the nearby Havasu Falls, or go river rafting on the Colorado River.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Canoeing in Mariscal Canyon. Photo from the National Parks Service
Since Octopus is based in Texas, it’s only fair that we include a park in Texas on our list, and Big Bend National Park is a favorite of outdoor fans. Its remote location near the Us-Mexico border makes it one of the least visited national parks in the United States, so visitors can enjoy the park without interruption from the crowds that form at many other parks on this list.Big Bend is a great place to go hiking, backpacking, or mountain biking because of it’s vast backcountry area.
If you’re looking for a change of pace, you can also try kayaking, rafting, or canoeing on the Rio Grande. You can rent a boat or bring one of your own. If water isn't your thing, you can take a scenic drive or bike ride on one of the park’s paved roads, or wait until sunset to see thousands of stars in the vast Texas night sky.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River. Photo from the National Parks Service
Yellowstone is actually the USA’s oldest national park (and perhaps the oldest national park in the world) and it’s been impressing its visitors for nearly 150 years. The park is famous for its geysers and hot springs, and it’s full of places to hike, backpack, and camp. You can go on a number of guided tours, go sightseeing at some of the famous sites like Old Faithful, or go find your own adventure further from the crowd.
While you’re in the park, you should head to Artist Point to get some of the best views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This waterfall and the Yellowstone River gave the park its name. You should also visit the beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring where you’ll find some of the most stunning colors in the park. Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar River Trail are also fan favorites, and you should definitely take a look if you’re in the park this summer.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Sunset at Ruby Beach. Photo from the National Parks Service
Olympic is a truly unique park because of its diverse ecosystems: mountains, temperate rainforest, and ocean coastline wilderness areas come together to give the park a wide range of environments to explore. Like all the parks on this list, Olympic offers plenty of options for hiking and camping, but it also has some activities that aren’t found at most parks because it’s so close to the ocean. For instance, you can see the tidepools at Kalaloch and Mora Beaches, or check out Hole in the Wall, a popular arch on the shore.
Hoh Rain Forest and Quinault Rain Forest are must-see destinations as well. These forests are home to stunning natural plant life and truly gigantic trees. Remember to bring a rain jacket, though it’s unlikely you’ll get too wet during the drier summer months. Visitors also enjoy the beautiful Sol Duc falls for a more manageable hike. If you’re looking for a change of pace, you could try kayaking or canoeing on Lake Quinault or Lake Crescent or check out one of the park’s many rivers.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Trees in Lost Horse Valley. Photo from the National Parks Service
Joshua Tree got its name from the otherworldly Joshua Tree plants that cover the desert within the park. There’s a little for everyone here, from a scenic road that gives you great views without having to leave your car to the dozens of trails for hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. The park also boasts over 8,000 climbing routes with varying levels of difficulty. For this reason, the park is a great destination for climbers from all over the world.
If you’re visiting the park this summer, you should definitely see Black Rock Canyon where you can get a great view of the Joshua Trees. You should also make time to go to Cottonwood Spring or Skull Rock, a popular site just off the main road. Visitors also recommend Keys View, where you can see the San Andreas Fault, Coachella Valley, and several mountain ranges. At night, Joshua Tree is the perfect place for some stargazing.
Zion National Park, Utah
The Narrows in Zion Canyon. Photo from the National Parks Service
Last but not least is Zion, the second Utah national park to find a spot on this list. Zion is well known as a popular hiking and backpacking destination, but like all the parks on this list, there’s something for everyone here. If you visit the park this summer, you should definitely hike The Narrows, a 10-mile hike that mostly involves wading through a river. If you’re interested in another difficult hike, you should see the popular Angel’s Landing - a tough uphill hike, but the view is worth it.
If you’re looking for an easier time, you can sightsee from the park’s main road which has plenty of stopping points for pictures, or you can take the park shuttle between destinations. The park also offers several trails that are accessible by bike. You can also hike the Riverside Walk for a more easygoing trip. That park offers plenty of options for camping overnight as well.
Did your favorite park make the list? Let us know in the comments!