Most Underrated Outdoor Activities in 6 National Parks
Between Earth Day, National Park Week, and the National Park maps outlined on SugarSky headbands--which we included in some of your April collections--we’ve had National Parks on our mind. So why not feed the wanderlust?
Inspired by SugarSky, we put together six of our favorite and most underrated outdoor adventures in each National Park found on your April box headbands. So beat the crowds, and get the most out of some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the US. Get ready to follow your heart--er, your Cairn--through some of America’s best kept secrets!
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone and Glacier may be known for their grizzlies, but the Tetons is one of the best places to spot them. Thanks to a successful management program, the bear population in the Grand Tetons has regained its footing. While you may see these animals anywhere in the park, certain areas offer a greater chance of a sighting.
One such area is Willow Flats. During the months of June and July, elk congregate here so they can give birth under the shelter of the trees--which attracts grizzlies in hope of catching a newborn elk calf. Whether you’re Team Bear or Team Elk, be sure to bring your binoculars and keep your distance; respecting their space will help keep both you and the wildlife safe and happy.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Spruce Flats Falls
More than 10 million people a year visit this beautiful national park, making it the most-visited park in the United States. The majority of these visitors see the park from the scenic highway that winds its way through the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. This is good news for you, fellow adventurer, since you’ll have a much easier time finding your own area of the park if you’re willing to get out of the car and off the beaten path.
They say, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls,” but of the more than 800 miles of hiking trails that carve their way through the park, one of the best hidden gems is the short, moderately steep trail to Spruce Flats Falls. The trail isn’t typically found on a map, but it begins behind the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Head up the gravel path to the staff housing area, keep right at the fork, and make your way downhill to the base of the falls. The quick two-mile round-trip hike is worth it to see the nearly 30-foot multi-tiered waterfall.
Mount Rainier National Park
This six-mile round-trip hike takes you up 2,300 feet of elevation gain straight to paradise. Towering peaks, mountain lakes, and wildlife such as elk and mountain goats abound. In late summer, you’ll also be pleased to find wild huckleberries.
The hike starts at 3,500 feet with a moderate climb through the forest. A series of switchbacks begin around 1.5 miles, providing views of Mount Rainier. At 2.3 miles you’ll reach lower Crystal Lake--the perfect place to stop for a quick snack. A half-mile climb to Upper Crystal Lake offers jaw-dropping views of Sourdough Gap, mountain meadows, and craggy peaks. This is the Mount Rainier vista you were waiting for.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Trail to Lulu City
You’re sure to find an abundance of summit hikes, along with plenty of beautiful lakes and waterfalls at Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail to Lulu City is a bit different: it leads you to the site of a late 1880s mining camp.
You can find the ghost town via the easy 3.7-mile one-way trail by starting at the Colorado River Trailhead. About two miles into the hike, look for tailings from the Shipler Mine along the river. You’ll pass through meadows before reaching the remains of cabins and old building foundations. If you need to ask for directions, just ask the ghosts!
Yellowstone National Park
As the world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park attracts just over 3.5 million annual visitors. Many of them unload from tour buses, wait on Old Faithful, and depart shortly thereafter. But with more than 2.2 million acres and over 900 miles of hiking trails, Yellowstone holds a plethora of trails that are hidden in plain sight and relatively unused despite their easy access.
You’ll reach Point Sublime after about a mile on the South Rim Trail. Here, you’ll find better, more expansive views of the yellow, pink, and orange-striped canyon, the Yellowstone River, and the Lower Falls than at any of the made-for-car viewpoints.
Yosemite National Park
Of the millions of people who visit this park each year, most of them never leave Yosemite Valley. And while the valley is definitely worth the visit for views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, it’s well worth it to escape the crowds and venture into the acres of unspoiled nature the park preserves.
Hordes of tourists unload for a quick photo op at Tunnel View, but you can use this as your parking area to reach the just-as-spectacular view at Artist Point. The trailhead starts on the uphill side of the road. You’ll walk along the Pohono Trail for about a half-mile before hanging left when it meets up with the old stagecoach road that leads into Yosemite Valley. After another half mile, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the incredible panorama view before you. Return the same way you came.
We love discovering new and awesome gear for our subscribers, which is why we were so excited to include SugarSky headbands in some of our April collections.
According to their website, SugarSky is a company that strives to be different. They care more about their customers than making a buck, and it shows:
“We exist to encourage and empower everyone who comes in contact with our gear - those who design, make, sell, buy, gift, and wear it. Our gear is handmade by highly-skilled and well-paid American sewers, and constructed with fabric printed in the USA. We are thrilled to bring you 'made on our soil' products.
Before we release our gear to the world, it is customer-tested by those who share your singular spirit for a good life - one that is well-designed, hand-crafted, colorful, and lived close to nature."
We’re definitely on board! Learn more about SugarSky Headbands.
What’s on your National Park bucket list? Tell us in the comments!