Five national park vacation ideas to keep your mind and body healthy

Published November 2020

By now, it’s no secret: getting outdoors is one of the top ways to shake (well, some of) the impacts of COVID-19. Now more than ever, family and friends are taking to the great outdoors in an effort to explore, get some exercise, and make memories. So take it from the CDC, your mother, or the endless ads reminding you to stay mentally sane, and embark on one of these top national park getaways that are ripe for exploration.

beautiful wood beams across a ceiling inside port angeles vacation home

Olympic National Park, Washington

Where to stay: Eagle Ridge Chalet in Port Angeles, Washington

If a lush, green (and potentially a little wet!) landscape speaks to your soul, look no further than Olympic National Park. According to the park’s official website, Olympic National Park is home to a myriad of diverse ecosystems and the longest undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States. And, the varied landscape really has it all: a temperate rainforest, a vast mountain range, large lakes, rushing rivers, and saltwater beaches. Visitors to the park can enjoy the typical activities that make visiting so special—including hiking, bird watching, fishing, and animal spotting.

beautiful wood vacation home in moab utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Where to stay: Coyote Run 1 in Moab, Utah

For an entirely different perspective, head to the lesser known but equally breathtaking Canyonlands National Park in Utah. While you’re bound to be relaxed, Canyonlands really brings the drama with its desert landscape and skyscraping rock formations. Nearby Moab is just over 30 miles away from the Island in the Sky—a 1,500-foot mesa that provides spectacular views, a place to take a deep breath, and photo opportunities that will be cherished for years to come. From the Island, pack the kids along for a 30-minute family-friendly hike or embark on a challenging overnight to the bank of the river. One of the most desired aspects of Canyonlands is that you can spend a few hours or several days there, and see as much or as little as you like given its proximity to Moab.

vacation cottage in acadia national park

Acadia National Park, Maine

Where to stay: Ledgewood 7 in Mount Desert, Maine

Fondly known as the “crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the country. With more than 3.5 million visitors per year, there’s plenty of activities for nearly every type of adventurer. In the summer months, temperatures sit in the mid- to upper 70s and the cool ocean breeze provides the perfect relief for visitors embarking on pristine hiking trails. Into the fall, the crowds start to slim, but not before a rush of leaf-peepers arrive to take in the colors of the fall. Winter is the least popular season to visit, but we really can’t see why! With activities like dog sledding and ice fishing available, winter is the perfect time to take advantage of the park sans crowds and packed with adventure.

Glacier National Park log cabin

Glacier National Park, Montana

Where to stay: Alpine Ridge in Whitefish, Montana

When it comes down to it, the entire state of Montana is known for its ability to revive and refresh the soul with nature surrounding you at every bend. The state’s centerpiece can be found in Glacier National Park, with vast, wide-open spaces capped by surrounding mountain peaks. With a whopping 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a hiker’s dream, but that’s not all visitors journey to the park to experience. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing are some of the winter’s top experiences, while backcountry campers enjoy milder temperatures in the summer months. Guided national park tours are available by nearly any means necessary including by foot, boat, bus, horseback, and even raft.

cabin in Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Where to stay: Mountain High Cinema in Sevierville, Tennessee

One of the country’s favorite national parks lies between two states: Tennessee and North Carolina. For this outdoor adventure, you’d better have your camera ready for the sweeping landscape of trees, ancient mountains, and abundant wildflowers that bloom year-round. Take in views of mountain peaks from the observation area at Clingman’s Dome, or walk the Appalachian Trail where you’ll find streams and waterfalls eager to serve as a backdrop to memorable photos. Settle in for a quick picnic before resuming your adventure by car or horseback—just be sure to keep an eye out for black bears that roam the park.

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