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Summer Travel Destination: National Parks

It’s finally technically and officially summer around here, although we’re still suffering from unseasonably cold and wet weather in Portland (remember this, people, next time you ask me if you should move here). I can tell from all of the “OH MY GOD IT’S SO HOT” updates on Twitter and Facebook, however, that bona fide summer has hit at least some parts of the country.

As I talked about a couple weeks ago, summer is the ideal time for a road trip. And what better destination for a summer road trip in the United States than one of our glorious National Parks?

National Park vacations were popular long before Ken Burns decided to wow us with his movie-making skills once again, but he definitely reminded many of us just how amazing the parks system is. If you visited a National Park with your family as a kid, are planning your first trip to one of the parks, or are just about to introduce your own children to the wonders of the National Parks, you’ll be in good company this summer.

One of the most popular parks to visit, whether you’re from the U.S. or coming from overseas, is the Grand Canyon. It’s a stunning thing that can’t be fully understood until you’ve seen it – and even then words fail. The problem with visiting the Grand Canyon is that although the scenery is breath-taking, it can be incredibly crowded. There are several areas where tourists can stop to see the canyon, and some of them feel more like RV campgrounds than National Parks. To avoid the worst of the crowds and get the most out of the experience, it’s good to learn about the best ways to explore the Grand Canyon before you leave home.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a weather wimp – I can no longer handle extreme heat or cold (and this is after I was born and raised in New England, so I was once accustomed to both). So while the idea of visiting Arizona in the summer isn’t exactly high on my priority list, it’s usually not too difficult to find cheap flights to Phoenix. Once you arrive in Phoenix, however, I highly recommend getting into a rental car and immediately driving north. Get the heck out of that oven of a city as quickly as you can. Personally, I love Flagstaff as a homebase for visiting the Grand Canyon (among other cool things to do in the area) – it’s a cool college town with great restaurants, and it’s also higher elevation so it tends to be quite a bit cooler than Phoenix. It’s still plenty warm, don’t get me wrong – the air just won’t melt your face off as soon as you step outside, that’s all.

Wherever your summer road trip takes you, whether it’s to one of our stellar National Parks or not, travel safe and bring back lots of good stories. We like hearing them.

photo by Trodel