Best National Parks for Summertime

6 National Parks to See This Summer

In summertime, national parks provide the ultimate escape to some of the most beautiful and geologically unique places in the nation. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at national parks this time of year—whether you’re looking to take in the scenery, camp in the wilderness, or learn about nature through expert-led programs. Not sure which one to choose? We’ve handpicked the 6.

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

1. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Located 126 miles south of Anchorage on the stunning Kenai Peninsula, Kenai Fjords National Park is an Ice Age dreamscape. Think pristine water, giant icebergs and seemingly endless glaciers. In the summer, long daylight hours and temperatures in the 50s and 60s are ideal for activities such as kayaking, hiking and stand-up paddleboarding. For those interested in a little less action, “flightseeing” by plane is Alaska’s quintessential way to take in the scenery — or cruise by boat among the icebergs.

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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., this park is known as a fall foliage destination — but it’s an equally viable escape in the summer. Hike more than 500 miles of trails and cool off beside one of the park’s dozen waterfalls. If backcountry camping is your thing, you can pick a spot anywhere on most of Shenandoah’s 196,000 gorgeous acres.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

3. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The park’s alpine terrain includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. A dozen small glaciers, the Snake River, streams and numerous crystalline lakes provide a welcome reprieve from the heat of summer. Although Grand Teton is only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, it’s generally less crowded. Campgrounds, as well as several excellent lodging facilities ranging from cabins to resort hotels, are located inside the park.

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Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

4. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

The park comprises 21 islands — the “Jewels of Lake Superior” — and the northern tip of Wisconsin. Lake Superior is the cleanest of the Great Lakes, and you can enjoy scuba diving amid old shipwrecks. The islands’ pristine beaches, protected bays and public docks make for outstanding boating, fishing and kayaking. Twelve of the islands have maintained trails — more than 50 miles total — leading to historic lighthouses, abandoned quarries, old farm sites, scenic overlooks, beaches and campsites.

Zion National Park, Utah

5. Zion National Park, Utah

Hot summer weather is perfect for hiking the Virgin River at the base of the park’s upper canyon, otherwise known as “The Narrows.” The trail is literally the river — trekkers walk, wade and swim through the 16-mile route, penned in on both sides by 2,000-foot vertical sandstone walls. The hike is strenuous (trekking poles or a walking stick are essential to negotiate the slippery rocks and moving current), but well worth the effort for the unique experience and awe-inspiring scenery. Check the schedule of performances at the O.C. Tanner Amphitheater, located just outside the south entry gate in Springdale.

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Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

6. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

The cool, dark passages of the world’s longest cave system (400 miles have been explored so far) offer a great reprieve from the summer heat. Rangers lead more than a dozen different tours, including the Wild Cave Tour that gets visitors off the beaten track to climb, crawl and slither through more remote sections of cave. Aboveground, enjoy boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and riverside camping along the more than 30 miles of the Green and Nolin rivers that run through the park.