national parks summer 2015

Summer’s here and the soaring temperatures and stifling heat holds a tight grip on the weather forecasts these days. With the kids are out of school the time may be right for packing up the car and heading for the national parks – if only to cool off in some of nature’s finest playgrounds.

Scenic rivers, vast lakes, and spectacular coastal waters – it’s all there and usually within reasonable driving distance. Here are twelve refreshing possibilities from the National Park Foundation for creating unforgettable memories.

  1. Take a relaxing stroll along the beach and trails of Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts). With 44,600 acres to explore, you’re bound to enjoy the variety of animal and plant life thriving in the different ecosystems protected within the park.
  2. Plunge into the deepest lake in the U.S. at Crater Lake National Park (Oregon). After a steep and strenuous 1.1-mile hike along Cleetwood Cove Trail, your efforts will be rewarded with a swim in the cool piercing-blue waters of the 1,943-feet deep lake.
  3. Explore the remote canyons of Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado, Utah) on a raft. The Green and Yampa Rivers offer thrill-seekers class three and four rapids, and the latter includes the Maytag hydraulic (known for flipping boats).
  4. Glide across the deep turquoise waters of Lake Powell – the largest man-made lake in North America – by boat at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Arizona, Utah). You’ll be sure to appreciate the stark contrast of the water and the red rock canyons and mesas.
  5. Navigate the waters of the Colorado River by taking a whitewater rafting trip through Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona). From the raft, you’ll be able to take in the riparian vegetation, the sandy beaches, as well as the desert flora and fauna that thrive along the river.
  6. Play in the waves of Lake Michigan along the 15 miles of sandy beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana). Located on the southern tip of the lake, you’ll get an incredible view of the Chicago skyline from the peaceful shores.
  7. Bask in the splendor of Kenai Fjords National Park’s (Alaska) pristine scenery and unique wildlife as you kayak through the remote fjords of the park. You’ll get an up-close-and-personal view of the park’s marine mammals and environment.
  8. Go diving from the shore of Tutuila Island at National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa) and view some of the over 950 species of fish and the over 250 species of coral. The four volcanic islands of this remote park offer exceptional viewing of its diversity of species.
  9. Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding on Tomales Bay at Point Reyes National Seashore (California). The 15-mile, 2,645-hectacre tidal body of water hugs the eastern border of the park and will give you an exceptional glimpse at the park’s biodiversity along the shore.
  10. Enjoy the dazzling views while sailing around the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (California) on a historic scow schooner. Aboard the Alma – a wooden-hulled scow schooner built in 1891 – you’ll listen to park ranger stories about California’s rich history.
  11. Wet a line and go fishing in any number of places within Shenandoah National Park (Virginia). Fishing insiders share that streams such as the upper portion of Rose River and the Cedar Run streams offer plentiful brook trout populations.
  12. Get a remarkable view of marine life by snorkeling in Trunk Bay at Virgin Islands National Park (Virgin Islands). The underwater trail is marked by plaques interpreting the underwater diversity of coral and fish life.