10 spots where your family can vacation away from the crowds
Here are some back-to-nature summer vacations where you won't run into all the people you're trying to leave behind.
We are so connected by email, phones, texting and social media that many families have started looking at how to get back to nature when planning summer vacations.
But because so many people are heading into the great outdoors, some of the more popular state and national parks draw the very crowds people seek to escape.
These 10 all American outdoor adventures without the crowds that are sure to please most anyone with a yearning to really get away:
Creole Nature Trail All-American Road: The Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a 180-mile adventure through Southwest Louisiana affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback. The trail is one of the oldest and most acclaimed scenic byways in America. Along the way, you can stop to crab, shrimp or fish just like the locals. The scenic trail provides a little something for everyone, including a mix of wildlife preserves and birding to beaches and wetland areas.
The Niobrara National Scenic River, Nebraska: What makes this river special is its unique mix of amazing cliffs, rock formations, waterfalls, diverse plants and animals, ancient fossils, high water quality and relatively consistent flow from High Plains Aquifer. People visiting can canoe, kayak or inner tube, and there is private river access and camping.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Amarillo, Texas: You don’t have to visit the Grand Canyon to marvel at one. This canyon in the panhandle of Texas is nearly 1,000 feet deep and provides almost 30,000 acres of outdoor adventure less than a half-hour south of Amarillo that includes camping, mountain biking, hiking on the New Rock Garden Trail, bird watching, wildlife viewing, horseback riding or just relaxing. Civilian Conservation Corps-built cabins are available in the canyon and on the rim.
River of Life Farm, Missouri: If you’ve dreamed of fly fishing the White River, love the Ozark Mountains and staying in a tree house is on your bucket list, this outdoor getaway is the one for you. Canoeing, hiking and stargazing are also among the prime outdoor adventure activities here.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee: A hiking adventure awaits in this park, where the Appalachian Trail meanders through Tennessee (near Gatlinburg and Sevierville) and North Carolina and hikers can stop and have their picture taken with a foot on either side of the state line. There are plenty of other things to do in the park, as well as wildlife to see.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho: Whitewater rafting is the main draw here. Surrounded by towering, rugged mountain peaks, the river extends over 100 unforgettable rapids in 100 miles, 60 of which are Class III to Class IV — a blast for families, amateurs and pros alike. Other activities include fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, photography, horseback riding and boating.
Hartwick Pines State Park, Michigan: Scenic rolling hills with plenty of outdoor activities make this one of the most desirable areas for outdoor adventure in the Lower Peninsula. The park has six trails, perfect for hiking and some for mountain biking. Visitors can also fish in the summer or cross-country ski during the winter months. The Grayling area is also home to The Au Sable and Manistee rivers.
Hickory Run State Park, Pennsylvania: This nearly 16,000 acre state park is in the western foothills of the Poconos in Pennsylvania and has 44 miles of trails, as well as offering a variety of water sports such as canoeing and fishing. If you want to hit the town, nearby Jim Thorpe was named by Rand McNally and USA Today as one of the most beautiful small towns in America.
Moab, Utah: This site is highly recommended by Donna Hull, owner of the award-winning boomer travel site, My Itchy Travel Feet. Hull says that within 30 minutes, you can visit two of the less crowded national parks: Canyonlands and Arches. “Both offer campgrounds but you won't find any ultra-expensive national park lodges here,” Hull says. “Dead Horse Point State Park is also close by.” You can take your pick from hiking, bicycling, four-wheeling and river rafting.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California: Just three hours east of San Francisco, travelers can wander through some of the biggest trees on the planet at one of the state's oldest tourist sites. Despite being among some of the most impressive trees on earth, we’re told the park is never crowded and can be enjoyed year-round for hiking, camping, swimming and even whitewater rafting.