Last year visits to national parks hit an all-time high. Millions of people in search of solitude and an escape from Covid took advantage of the 85 million acres of open land our collective backyard has to offer.
The ease of access and the word “park” in the name might give some explorers a false sense of simplicity and ease. Unless you’re a hardcore backpacking type, navigating the vast wilds of a national park is best done using the buddy system and with preparation. The SOS button on my Subaru was my only buddy when I got my car stuck in the famously tricky mud of Utah with the sun setting and a flash flood moving in. I overestimated my abilities and the relative safety of marked trails and underestimated Mother Nature. I survived, my car did not. But don’t let that deter you. Simply take it as friendly warning. We should all make time to safely explore the expansive beauty our country has to offer—your heart and soul will thank you for it.
THERE’S A PARK FOR EVERY TYPE AND LEVEL OF EXPLORER
PICK A PARK
The National Park System is made up of 423 sites, only sixty-three have the “National Park” designation in their names
The Utah 5
5 Most Popular
Great Smoky Mountains
There’s a national park for every adventure. You can explore all park rules and fees at recreation.gov.
A Bucket List Expedition
If you’re not a hardcore backpacking type or just don’t want to figure out how to use yet another tech device, think about hiring a guide. One over-the-top option comes from Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent. The famed explorer will shepherd twenty-two guests for a once-in-a-lifetime park experience through the wild and beautiful West this June. His branded Inspiring Expeditions have taken him to the heart of every continent except North America—until now.
“I’m looking forward to finally exploring the ‘Serengeti of North America’ on game drives and hikes with wildlife biologists and expert local guides,” he says.
Guests will arrive at each destination by private jet. From there, helicopters will ferry them deep into the parks and back to the plush confines of nearby Aman resorts.
This itinerary includes more than just the national parks, but a similar or shorter itinerary can be custom-created.
The adventure will start in Napa at some of the most notable wineries opened exclusively for Geoffrey and his guests. Parks will include Arches National Park in Utah, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming and, of course, the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Guests will have access to sites not normally open to the public, float the Colorado River in style and spend time with local Native American tribes and famed Navajo artist Shonto Begay.
price: $135,000 per person for double occupancy
dates: June 1 through 12, 2022
Custom itinerary pricing varies—and does not include Geoffrey. abercrombiekent.com
Putting the Glam in Glamping
Until recently, luxury accommodations in or near the national parks have been few and far between. However, accommodations book up early. So, if you’re considering an adventure in the natural world this summer, the time to book is now. Here are a few of my favorites.
UNDER CANVAS offers luxurious tents situated near some of the most popular parks—providing a lovely alternative to do-it-yourself camping. Though I loved my stay at Under Canvas, there was a bit more “camping” than I bargained for. The only way to stay warm at night is to stoke your wood heater and there’s no electricity, so no hairdryer. undercanvas.com
OPEN SKY in Zion opened last year with three safari-style tents, and it is adding seven this year, which will most definitely sell out. (Tents come with two of my favorite travel amenities—housekeeping and hairdryers.) stayopensky.com
MONTAGE RESORTS just opened in Big Sky Montana and offers guestrooms, suites and residences. montagehotels.com
Know Before You Go
Some parks will be requiring reservations in 2022. For details go to recreation.gov.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Download the National Parks App and save your itinerary for use offline.
Rent a Garmin InReach Explorer+ for just $30 a day (retails for $450) from Vermont- based Kit Lender. If you really want to go off the grid, they’ll rent you an entire camping setup. kitlender.com