August Parks and the Outdoors Travel Guide

  |  Gorp.com

North Cascades National Park, WA
Often referred to as "America's Alps," North Cascades is home to 318 glaciers, 248 lakes, hundreds of waterfalls, and extensive old-growth forests. It's truly a haven for those seeking mind-clearing solitude. Hike through serene alpine meadows carpeted with glacier lilies, paintbrush, lupine, and scores of other wildflowers from early July through August.

Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park & Preserve, AK
The Chugach, Wrangell, and Saint Elias mountain ranges converge here in the largest unit of the National Park System. This spectacular wilderness includes the continent's largest assemblage of glaciers and greatest collection of peaks above 16,000 feet, including 18,008-foot Mount Saint Elias, the second highest peak in the United States. Wildflowers, temperatures, and mosquitoes peak in June and July, but you should consider bringing a head-net even in August. This vast landscape, defined by remnant volcanoes carved and ground by glaciers, is true wilderness. Travel services and facilities are limited. You are mostly on your own and must be highly self-sufficient. Come, but come prepared!

Jasper National Park, Alberta
Despite tracing one of the world’s most spectacular roadways, the Icefields Parkway, this park deserves a journey based on leg power. Start in Jasper and follow the interweaving trails south through Jasper National Park toward the Columbia Icefield. A breathtaking 90-mile, weeklong trip, you’ll trek through lodgepole-pine forests, ford pristine streams, pass wildflower-filled meadows, and sleep at peaceful backcountry campsites. You’ll forget cars even exist.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Don’t let Colorado’s 14ers grab all your attention. Peaks like 13,310-foot Mount Alice, the tenth-highest summit in Rocky Mountain National Park, are no less spectacular. Although not a technical approach, the 18-mile round-trip trek dissuades many hikers—all the better for marveling at your stunning Continental Divide surroundings!

Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, WV
Well known for its extensive rocky plains, upland bogs, and sweeping vistas, the Dolly Sods Wilderness is an anomaly left behind by retreating glaciers—its vegetation resembles that of northern Canada. This wild country tucked into the Monongahela National Forest is traversed by several hiking trails. Try the six-mile Boar's Nest-South Prong Loop Trail as it gains a rocky 1,500 feet in elevation, or the short Northland Loop Trail, which meanders through the heath barrens to a bog and circles back through a spruce/hemlock stand.

Voyageurs National Park, MN
Voyageurs is the only national park without a road; if you want to get deep into this landscape of some 30 lakes and 900 islands, you have to do it on water. Voyageurs adjoins the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area, which was similarly gouged by massive glaciers right down to the ancient bedrock known as the Canadian shield. The result is a region of unusual rock outcrops, irregularly-shaped lakes, and slow-moving rivers, perfect for canoeing, fishing, and all other manner of water play. Unlike Boundary Waters, Voyageurs is open to motorized recreation, which means motorboats are allowed on lakes.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH
At over 1,200 miles, the Buckeye Trail is one of America's longest, meandering through the entire state of Ohio and serving as part of the unfinished North Country Trail (which will run from New York to North Dakota). The Cuyahoga Valley portion of the blue-blazed trail passes through hardwood forests, fields, streams, and steep ravines. But there's plenty to see off the Buckeye as well. The park's 30,000 peaceful, historic acres, an oasis of forests, hills, wetlands, and canals, skirt 22 miles of the crooked Cuyahoga River and lie squarely between Cleveland and Akron in Ohio.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, CA
Located within Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is known for its startling contrasts: from piercing granite peaks and cliffs to mountainous backcountry, and, of course, for its most renowned feature, Whiskeytown Lake, a human-made reservoir. This 3200-acre lake boasts 36 miles of pristine shoreline and provides water-bound opportunities of all kinds. But the park isn't for water fans alone. Picnicking, backcountry hiking, biking, hunting, and horseback riding are available. Plus, climb 6,209-foot Shasta Bally Mountain for the ultimate Whiskeytown vista.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, AK
Glacier Bay's watery wilderness is gloriously removed from the tiresome clamor of the modern world. So, at least for a little while, trade in your cell phone jingle for the pop, crackle, and finally thunderous boom of a building-size berg calving into the sea from a vast river of ice. Swap rivers of commuter traffic for a whitewater ride down North America's wildest rivers, the Tatshenshini and Alsek. Whatever you do here—and choices range from sea kayaking to fishing for mammoth halibut to keeping an eye peeled for ambling bears or breaching humpback whales—you'll be adventuring far beyond the end of the road.

Pyrenees National Park, France & Spain
The French-run Pyrenees National Park stretches 60 miles along the French-Spanish border, covering 180 square miles of high-altitude lakes, towering summits, rolling hills, and fertile valleys. The park itself is composed of two regions. The central zone—home to the park's most spectacular landscapes—is primarily uninhabited, while the peripheral zone, on the edge of the central area, has 86 villages with some 40,000 inhabitants. Trekking, cycling, horseback riding, and rafting are the most popular activities in the park. And you'll likely have great weather for all in this summer month.


Published: 24 Nov 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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