Considering the current uncertainty regarding international travel, some of us may not feel ready to book a holiday overseas. The United States is blessed with being a wonderfully diverse country so if you’re considering a 2021 domestic holiday, here are our top ten outdoor U.S. holiday destinations for this summer.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Alaska’s six million acre wilderness comprises jagged peaks, lowland forest and alpine tundra, bisected by a single road. Its focal point is majestic Denali, at over 6,000m the highest mountain in the US. Activities span hiking, cycling, kayaking, and wildlife spotting the local residents, which include moose, wolves, grizzly bears, caribou and golden eagles. The park has several campsites and lodges.
Portland enjoys warm summer days with low humidity. The city boasts a vibrant food and arts scene, and a wealth of outdoor activities. Explore the hike and bike trails of Forest Park, a 5,000 acre expanse of woodland and waterfalls. Browse artisan crafts and mouth-watering international cuisine at the city’s weekend market, overlooking the Willamette River. And don’t miss the International Rose Test Garden. Here you can enjoy 10,000 roses in full bloom, from May to August.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
This vast swathe of mountainous forest, teeming with wildlife, is America’s most popular national park. Start at Cades Cove, a sweeping green valley flanked by peaks, and home to elk, coyote, black bear and white tailed deer. Activities include hiking, guided horseback rides and wagon rides. Visit carefully restored 18th century churches, barns, and a working grist mill. Choose to camp in the park, or there’s plenty of accommodation in nearby Gatlinburg and Asheville.
Black Hills, South Dakota
Explore picturesque lakes, verdant woodland and rocky summits in South Dakota’s Black Hills. At Mount Rushmore the carved images of former presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln calmly survey the landscape. Take a guided tour of Jewel Cave, a 202 mile network of gypsum littered underground caverns. The region’s lakes host numerous water sports, including water skiing, paddle boats, windsurfing and scuba diving.
The Mighty 5, Utah
Looking for ancient sandstone monuments and uniquely stunning topography? Utah’s five national parks take some beating. Among the must-sees are the Moab arches in Arches National Park. Don’t miss Bryce Canyon, where alpine forests contrast dramatically with distinctive red rock pillars, or ‘hoodoos’. Myriad activities include quad biking, climbing, hiking, horse riding, and paragliding. Accommodation is plentiful, from hotels to upscale ‘glamping’ in luxurious furnished canvas tents.
Gulf Coast, Florida
Florida’s west coast is famed for its white sand beaches, spectacular vermilion sunsets and calm waters. Check out the idyllic coastlines of St Pete’s and Clearwater. Or head to the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva islands, where you can observe protected turtles hatching between May and October. Sarasota boasts botanical gardens, art galleries, and chic boutiques and restaurants. Local activities include sailing, parasailing, swimming, jet skis, golf and cycling.
Cosmopolitan Chicago, fringed by Lake Michigan, is an enticing summer destination. Join the locals on Oak Street and Rainbow beaches, and ride the iconic Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Check out the alfresco artworks in Millennium Park, including Anish Kapoor’s renowned ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture. Visit Lincoln Park Zoo, whose 1,000 residents include lions, penguins, apes and zebras. And enjoy the majestic city skyline from Humboldt Park’s tranquil meadows and lagoons.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Much loved for its boardwalks, beaches and fabulous seafood, Cape Cod is a charming array of seaside towns and unspoilt coastline. Encounter whales, seals and sand dunes at Provincetown’s Race Point Beach. Cycle the Shining Sea Bikeway, a 10 mile coastal bike route between north Falmouth and Woods Hole. Done swimming, fishing, beachcombing and kayaking? Visit the glorious hydrangea and azalea gardens at Sandwich’s Heritage Museum, complete with vintage car collection and children’s play area.
Glacier National Park, Montana
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier NP brims with stunning natural beauty. Enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing and boating in a pristine wilderness of dense forest, crystal lakes and craggy peaks. The park houses over 260 bird species, along with elk, longhorn sheep and grizzly bears. There are occasional sightings of mountain lions and the elusive lynx. Take a drive along the ‘Going to the sun’ road; 50 miles of striking vistas, reaching a giddy 6,600 feet.
Pacific Coast Drive, California
This ultimate road trip offers 650 miles of jaw dropping, diverse scenery. From San Diego’s palm fringed beaches, you’ll take in the rugged vista of Big Sur, legendary San Francisco, and the mighty redwood trees of Redwood National Park, where you can pitch a tent and enjoy miles of secluded hiking. You’ll pass exquisite beaches, plunging cliffs and verdant forests. Allow yourself plenty of time to drink in the spectacular views.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com