There Is No Substitute For America’s National Parks–

Except Maybe These Places.

Ack!  You’ve been planning a trip to a National Park and now it’s closed due to the shutdown.  Fear not. You have options.

Our National Parks are treasures and truly irreplaceable. Nevertheless, thanks to comparatively functional state, tribal and local governments, you can still get your scenic awe fix even though National Parks across the country are closed to visitors.

If you wanted to visit: Arcadia

Try: Camden Hills State Park or, further north, Quoddy Head State Park. Charming coastal walks, lighthouses, and conifers, all within spitting distance of lobster shacks. Take a detour to Moody’s Diner for THE BEST blueberry pie in Maine on the way there.

Coastal Maine charm at Quoddy Head State Park.

Coastal Maine charm at Quoddy Head State Park.

If you wanted to visit: Arches, Bryce, Zion

Try: The aptly named Kodachrome Basin State Park for vibrant colored desert rock, or, a bit further afield, Colorado Spring’s city park, Garden of the Gods. It’s free and phenomenally beautiful. For mountain biking among mesas, roll right out of Moab.

Incredible colors at Kodachrome Basin.

Incredible colors at Kodachrome Basin.

If you wanted to visit: Mesa Verde

Try: The Hopi Reservation. Mesa Verde is an incredible archeological site, but the mesas on the Hopi Reservation are living pueblo communities with a rich history, offering a unique insight into historic and contemporary Native American life. Or, if you’d like to visit an incredibly scenic location of particular spiritual importance, try Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

In most cases, the U.S. pushed Native American communities off of the most valuable land. Monument Valley is a notable exception. This land, owned by the Navajo Nation, is a treasure, especially beloved in Hollywood.

In most cases, the U.S. government pushed Native American communities off of especially valuable land. Monument Valley is a notable exception. This land, owned by the Navajo Nation, has proven surprisingly valuable in the modern age, especially given Hollywood’s fascination with it’s stunning light and rock formations.

If you wanted to visit: Redwood National Park

Try: Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Big trees can be found up and down California’s coast. Here’s one of many options to walk among them.

Ethereal old growth redwoods outside the National Park System.

Ethereal old growth redwoods outside the National Park system.

If you wanted to visit: The Badlands

Try: Custer State Park for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and bison encounters in the Badlands.  And while you’re out there, feeling sorry for yourself because you may have missed your once-in-a-lifetime chance to view Mount Rushmore, check out the massive carving at Crazy Horse Memorial instead.

Is that Badlands National Park?  Nope.  It's Custer State Park and It's Open.

Is that Badlands National Park? Nope. It’s Custer State Park and It’s open for business.

If you wanted to visit: Rocky Mountain National Park

Try: Hike right out of Telluride or Aspen for gorgeous Colorado mountain scenery.  Maybe you can’t afford a lift ticket in winter, but you can walk out to vistas and waterfalls for free. While you’re there, check out one of the nearby hot springs, like Orvis.  Just a word of warning: Orvis is clothing optional.

Majestic Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride.

Majestic Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride.

If you wanted to visit: The Grand Canyon

Try: The Hulupai Nation’s Grand Canyon West for an incredible overlook, or, if you can somehow get reservations, head down to the Havasupai reservations to see and swim in amazing waterfalls among steep cliffs. If you can, plan your trip to allow for a stop at Macy’s Coffeehouse in Flagstaff for the best coffee in America.

The photogenic grand canyon, from a different angle.

The photogenic grand canyon, seen from a different angle. One not managed by the U.S. government.

Got a favorite non-federal park or wilderness area? Share your tips in the comment section!

Advertisements