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  • Big Bend National Park, TX
  • Big Bend National Park, TX
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    Big Bend National Park,

    Texas

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    Splendid Isolation: Big Bend

    There is a place in Far West Texas where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. Here, at the end of the road, hundreds of bird species take refuge in a solitary mountain range surrounded by weather-beaten desert. Tenacious cactus bloom in sublime southwestern sun, and diversity of species is the best in the country. This magical place is Big Bend...

    Once a remote and seemingly inhospitable area reached only by miles of dirt roads, Big Bend has become one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state of Texas, visited by over 450,000 visitors each year. Scenic vistas, diverse wildlife, outdoor adventure, historic sites, dark skies, and border culture rank among the features visitors enjoy in Big Bend. We look forward to sharing this special place with you.

    Find more things to do, itinerary ideas, updated news and events, and plan your perfect trip to Big Bend National Park
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    Big Bend National Park Articles

    The short daylight hours and cold temperature invite us to stay indoors but venturing out to a National Park in the midst of winter has its own benefits—less people. The swarming crowds of summer are gone, offering a chance to see these splendid parks at your leisure and appreciate the landscape, often blanketed in snow. There are plenty of winter activities inviting you to enjoy the snow, such as hiking, tubing, sledding or cross-country skiing. Visiting in winter requires being extra prepared with proper hiking shoes and adequate clothing for freezing or below zero temperatures so make sure to pack your gloves, scarves, ear muffs and rain gear. Big Bend National, Texas Big Bend National Park, located in the western region of Texas and bordering Mexico, encompasses part of the Chihuahuan Desert and Rio Grande. The park was created in 1944 and there are fossils dating over 130 million years ago that highlight the expansive geological diversity. The Chiso Mountains are a special part of this park because the entire mountain range—spanning 40 square miles—is within the confines of the park and formed from volcanic activity in the Eocene epoch. Snow isn’t common in the winter and day time temperatures are often in the 70’s, making it great weather for hiking. Though be prepared for near or below zero weather as the cold sets in as soon as the sun goes down. Hop in the car and enjoy the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that leads to Santa Elena Canyon, a 1,500-foot vertical chasm made of limestone and is along the border between Mexico and Texas. Stop frequently on this 30 mile road, where there are plenty of overlooks and monuments or turn off and hike on one of the many well-marked trails. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah Bryce Canyon is magical in winter with layers of snow set against the red rock hoodoos and spires. Located in south central Utah and established as a park in 1923, ponderosa pines and fir-spruce forests thrive along with plenty of wildlife in this amphitheater shape of plateaus and meadows. The park has 56 square miles to explore. Some roads, including Fairyland Road and Paria View Road are left unplowed where you can traverse the expansive snow with snowshoes or cross-country skis. Sections of the Rim Trail are open as well where you can enjoy the vistas of the Main Amphitheater and the Bristlecone Loop Trail. You can also opt for sledding above the rim, one of the few areas where this is possible. If you want a break from the snow, hop in your warm car and stop along at some of the main vista points to take in the views. Bryce Canyon in winter. Credit: Mike Nielsen, Flickr creative commons Glacier National Park, Montana Glacier National Park, created in 1910, has over a million acres with an ecosystem that has been protected and mostly undisturbed. Snow blankets the mountain peaks and glaciers and the coniferous forest of larch, firs and spruce trees serve as a backdrop for Lake McDonald. Mountain goats, Bighorn sheep, beavers, nine species of bats, as well as Grizzly Bears are just some of the 71 different types of mammals that live in the park. Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the highlights—spanning 50 miles with challenging, hairpin curves. This is the only road that crosses the park and passes through the Continental Divide, though during the snow filled months only certain parts of the road are accessible. Upper Lake McDonald is a popular snow area where you can ski up to McDonald Falls or Sacred Dancing Cascade. Visit Marias Pass, known by the locals as the “summit,” where skiing and snow activities are often ideal. There are plenty of routes for cross-country skiers and snowshoe fans who want to experience the solitude in this vast oasis. Olympic National Park, Washington Covering almost a million acres and spanning from sandy beaches to mountain peaks to lush fir and cedar tree rainforests, the geography of this park is unique. Created in 1938, it is designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and as an International Biosphere Reserve. In the colder months, Olympic National Park is beautifully draped in snow with a myriad of activities to partake in. Hurricane Ridge is a haven for snow lovers, offering downhill skiing and snowboarding and an area for tubing and sledding or just playing in the snow. There are several trails for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, who prefer to head into the backcountry or connect with nature as they traverse the white powdery snow. There are frequent storms on the Pacific coast in winter so being attentive to weather conditions is fundamental. Between bouts of harsh weather, low tide is an optimal moment to take a stroll along the sandy beach. Visit the Hoh rainforest in the north of the park where you can surround yourself among a variety of trees, including Red Cedar, Big Leaf Maple and Douglas Fir or go towards the southwestern area of the park and hike in the Quinault rainforest with a distinct geography of alpine meadows, lakes and peaks carved by ice. Because of the geography of this park, the weather can change at a moment’s notice so keep this in mind when planning your trip and once you arrive with your day to day plans. Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park. Credit: Steve FUNG, Flickr creative commons Yosemite National Park, California Waterfalls, meadows and the granite wall of half dome makes Yosemite famous. The park was first protected in 1864 and became part of the National park service in 1890. The beauty of visiting in the colder months is experiencing this 1,200 square mile park when crowds have dissipated, offering plenty of solitude.Yosemite Valley and Wawona are accessible year-round by car but many roads close due to the snowy terrain, making traversing by foot one of the best ways to enjoy the park. Many trails are open with various options from easy and low-key hikes to more challenging ones where you can navigate through coniferous forests filled with ponderosa and sugar pine, incense cedar, white and Douglas fir trees or stare up at Giant Sequoias. Yosemite in Winter. Credit: Yūgen, Flickr Creative Commons Temperatures can be mild during the day, although freezing temperatures and snow are common. If you time your visit when there is snowfall, typically between December- March, winter wonderland options abound from sledding, tubing, snowshoeing or snowboarding and skiing down the oldest slope in California on Badger Pass. Curious about snowshoeing? Take a ranger-led snowshoe walk where you’ll be in a good company while you learn about the sights, although be prepared for sore muscles afterwards because it’s more challenging than it appears. Disclaimer: Make sure to check the park website to ensure the activities and areas of the park you wish to visit are open and accessible. Some roads and park areas have been closed due to Covid and/or to inclement weather. Please also respect measures to prevent the spread of Covid, including passing through towns en route to your destination.

    National Parks

    The best US national parks for stargazing, according to star map makers

    "Nature is soothing, and gazing at the night sky with friends and family is the perfect way to spend a relaxing break with all the hustle and bustle of the real world that's currently taking over," says Zoltan Toth-Czifra from Under Lucky Stars. "We determined the best spots for stargazing to give US citizens inspiration for their next trip to get away and experience the true beauty of the night sky above us. We took into consideration the darkest skies for people to stargaze from, whilst factoring the park's accessibility and busyness, to ensure the ultimate stargazing experience." Here are the top five parks selected, and the full list is available here. 1. Great Basin National Park, Nevada Great Basin National Park was deemed to be the best stargazing hot spot in the US. Spanning Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and sections of California, Idaho, and Wyoming, the Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America. With only 131,802 yearly visitors, this park is one of the best to stargaze from without being disturbed by other visitors. Great Basin National Park is the best stargazing hot spot in the US © Under Lucky Stars/ Unsplash 2. Big Bend National Park, Texas Big Bend National Park is located in southwest Texas and borders Mexico. It holds national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the US. This park also includes the entire Chisos mountain range. Thanks to its vast surface area, it is one of the best parks to stargaze from as there is very little light pollution. Big Bend National Park has very little light pollution © Under Lucky Stars/ Unsplash 3. Redwood National Park, California Redwood National and State Parks lie along the coast of northern California. They consist of Redwood National Park, California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. The combined parks span 139,000 acres and feature old-growth temperate rainforests. Redwood National Park scored highly with easy accessibility, very low light pollution and a yearly footfall of 504,722 visitors – a great combination to see the stars. Redwood National Park scored highly with easy accessibility © Under Lucky Stars/ Unsplash 4. North Cascades National Park, Washington The North Cascades located in Washington State is a vast terrain of wilderness. Filled with a varied species of animals and birds, the remote park is an outdoor dream. With just 38,208 yearly visitors to the vast land combined with low light pollution, the park is the perfect peaceful destination to enjoy the stars in the sky. North Cascades National Park is filled with a varied species of animals and birds © Under Lucky Stars/ Unsplash 5. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota Close to the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park is the perfect canvas to sit and enjoy the stars. Located in northern Minnesota, the park is known for its stunning forestry and lakes, but mostly for its overall peaceful surroundings. The park welcomes 232,974 visitors annually, which combined with low light pollution lands it in the top five. Voyageurs National Park is known for its stunning forestry and lakes © Under Lucky Stars/ Unsplash

    National Parks

    Current status of National Park closures due to COVID-19

    On April 2, 2020, the National Park Service has announced the closure of two more national parks, Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree due to COVID-19. A few of the major parks that are still open to visitors (with minimal services) are: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Shenadoah, and Zion. As always, please check with the National Parks website before you plan a trip, and make sure you adhere to CDC social distancing guidelines. Here is the current status of all 62 national parks as of April 3 2020: Acadia - park roads, facilities and services closed to slow spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) In support of federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), all park roads, facilities, restrooms, carriage roads, campgrounds, visitor centers and services are closed. Please call or email for park information. Arches National Park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Badlands Visitor Centers and Entrance Stations Closed as of 3/18/20 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Visitors Centers and Entrance Stations are temporarily closed. Roads/trails/campgrounds remain open Big Bend National Park Temporarily Closed No entry will be allowed into the park, except for employees, residents, and other authorized persons. Through traffic will be prohibited, as will travel on Terlingua Ranch Road within park boundaries. Until further notice. Biscayne Bay - Modification in Operations Land facilities at Convoy Point, Boca Chita, Elliott and Adams Keys are closed temporarily to public access. Visitor activities and Biscayne National Park Institute tours are suspended until further notice. Park waters remain open. Black Canyon of the Gunnison: South Rim Campground and Visitor Center Closed The South Rim Campground and Visitor Center are closed until further notice to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Bryce Canyon is Open - Though Some Facilities Have Closed Updated: Tuesday March 31, 2020, 11 am. Precautions are being taken due to the novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19). Shuttle operations will be delayed. Follow the link for the latest updates. Canyonlands National Park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Precautions are being taken due to the novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19). Follow the link for the latest updates Capitol Reef National Park is Open - Visitor Services Limited The park remains open. To support CDC recommendations, visitor services are limited. The visitor center building and the Gifford House are closed. Park staff will rove to provide information and be available by phone. The Fruita campground is closed. Carlsbad Cavern and Visitor Center are Temporarily Closed as of March 21 Following guidance from the CDC and state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, the cavern and visitor center are temporarily closed. Park roads, desert trails, and picnic areas will remain open. Channel Islands COVID-19 Park Closures The mainland visitor center is closed until further notice. The park transportation concessioner Island Packers has temporarily cancelled boat service to the islands. However, the islands are open for private boater landings. Congaree National Park Closed (4.2.2020) Congaree National Park has modified operations in order to implement the latest health guidance. Congaree National Park, including all facilities and trails, will be closed until further notice. All in-park programs are cancelled. Crater Lake National Park is Closed In accordance with Executive Order 20-12 issued by the governor of the state of Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is temporarily closed to visitors to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Highway 62 through the park remains open for travel. Cuyahoga Valley is OPEN Boston Mill Visitor Center is CLOSED until further notice. Park information is available at the kiosk outside. All programs are cancelled. Park trails, parking lots, and some restrooms in popular locations are open. Death Valley: All park facilities are CLOSED All restrooms, campgrounds, and visitor centers are closed. Some trailheads and secondary roads are closed. Denali's Visitor Centers are Closed Following guidance from the CDC and from state and local public health officials, the Winter Visitor Center, Sled Dog Kennels, and Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station are closed. Public spaces throughout the park remain open (e.g., winter trails). Dry Tortugas Islands and camping closed, no programs or services Following guidance from the CDC and federal/state/local public health authorities, Dry Tortugas National Park has temporarily closed islands and camping. Programs and concession tours are cancelled. Marine waters and both harbors remain open. Everglades Wilderness Campsites Closed Effective April 1, 2020 at 6:00 a.m., wilderness (backcountry) campsites with chickees and ground campsites will be closed until further notice. Portable toilets parkwide will also be closed. Beach campsites are open and permits are not required. Park Land Access is Closed, Programs Cancelled Land-based park access has closed to the public at Gulf Coast (Everglades City), Shark Valley, East Everglades area, and the main park road from the Homestead entrance to Flamingo. Park waters remain open for access from outside the park. Glacier National Park Is Temporarily Closed  Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health authorities in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Glacier National Park is temporarily closed. Glacier Bay Facilities Temporarily Closed As a public health precaution, Glacier Bay NPS facilities are temporarily closed to non-approved entry. To reach someone in the park please call them directly or call the park's general information line for assistance: 907-697-2230. Grand Canyon National Park Is Closed Due to Public Health Concerns (COVID-19) Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2020, 7 am. Visit the link below for details. Grand Canyon National Park is closed until further notice. Grand Teton National Park is Closed In consultation with local county health officers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Great Basin Cave Tours Temporarily Suspended, Lehman Caves Visitor Center and Campgrounds Temporarily Closed Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, cave tours, Lower Lehman Campground, and Lehman Caves Visitor Center are temporarily closed Great Sand Dunes Visitor Center is Closed and Campground Opening Delayed All outdoor spaces in the park and preserve are open. Following guidance from federal, state and local authorities, the Visitor Center is temporarily closed and the campground opening is delayed. Great Smoky Mountains Park Extends Closure to Support Regional COVID-19 Prevention Efforts Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that all park areas, except the Foothills Parkway and Spur, will remain closed until further notice. The park is likely to remain closed at least through April 30. Guadalupe Mountains is OPEN Changes in Park Operations to Protect Visitors and Employees from the Coronavirus pandemic Effective March 25th, 2020. The park will be closed to all overnight camping and backcountry camping. Visitor Center and contact stations remain closed. The park trails will remain open for day use only. Haleakalā National Park Summit Closed as of March 21, 2020. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Haleakalā National Park will temporarily close, this includes the Kīpahulu District and Summit District. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Closed In response to the latest health guidance from the CDC and actions outlined by the Governor of Hawai‘i, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. Hot Springs Gulpha Gorge Campground & picnic area temporarily closed as of Thursday, April 2, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media. Additional Information on Current Conditions Page.more info Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center is temporarily closed as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media. Additional Information on Current Conditions Page. Indiana Dunes is OPEN Temporary Closure of Buildings and Restrooms As a public health precaution, Indiana Dunes National Park buildings and restrooms are temporarily closed for the safety of staff and visitors until further notice. Check back for updates via social media and park website. Isle Royale National Park Houghton Headquarters & Visitor Center is Closed to Non-essential Visitors In response to the developing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Isle Royale National Park has closed the Houghton Visitor Center and Headquarters complex to all non-essential visitors. This closure will be evaluated daily as conditions evolve. Joshua Tree National Park is Closed In consultation with the local county health office to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Joshua Tree National Park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Kenai Fjords National Park public building closures Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health officials, the Park Headquarters building and Exit Glacier area winter public use cabin and vault toilets are closed. Public spaces will remain open. Kings Canyon is CLOSED Effective 3/25, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. CA Hwy 180 remains open for through traffic to access Forest Service land and private property. All other roads and parking lots are closed. Kobuk Valley Northwest Arctic Heritage Center Closed As a public health precaution, the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center is temporarily closed for the safety of staff and visitors as of March 16th. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media channels. Lake Clark Park Headquarters in Port Alsworth is closed indefinitely Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the NPS' goal to protect staff and visitors, the Park Headquarters is closed to the public until further notice. Staff are still working and can help you with any requests. Please call (907) 781-2218 for assistance. Lassen Volcanic National Park is Temporarily Closed Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Lassen Volcanic National Park is temporarily closed. Mammoth Cave is CLOSED The Visitor Center, Cave Tours, and Campgrounds are Closed On Tuesday, March 24, all campgrounds in the park will be closed until further notice. The park has already closed all cave tours & the visitor center in response to the CDC guidance. Surface trails are still open for hiking, biking & equestrian use. Mesa Verde National Park is temporarily closed as of sunset, March 25, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Mesa Verde National Park is temporarily closed as of sunset, March 25, 2020. Mount Ranier is CLOSED Temporary Closure of Park Facilities and Roads Following guidance from the CDC and state, local, and NPS public health officers, all park roads are closed to vehicles. Backcountry areas remain open to dispersed recreation. All park visitor centers, lodges, shops, and restaurants are closed. North Cascades NPS Complex is Temporarily Closed Effective April 3, 2020, North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area will be closed to all park visitors until further notice. SR20 will remain open to just west of the town of Newhalem. Olympic is CLOSED Temporary Closure of All Park Facilities, Roads, and Campgrounds as of March 24 Following guidance from the CDC and state, local, and NPS public health officers, and in response to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Proclamation by Washington State, park entrance roads, facilities, campgrounds and restrooms are closed. No services available Pinnacles is Closed to All Day-Use Visitation The campground remains open. Existing reservations are required to enter the park, prior to arrival. Campers must arrive between 8am-6pm. No walk-ins permitted. Previous closures remain in effect. See our News Release or social media for more information. Limited Services Available in Pinnacles National Park Following guidance from the CDC, the West side of the park, and all Nature Centers and Visitor Centers are closed. Shuttles are not be operating at this time. Trail Closures Are In Effect Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Safety Officers, the Bear Gulch Caves, Balconies Caves, and High Peaks Steep and Narrow trails are closed, effective 3/19/20. Redwood National Park is Open but Facilities and Many Roads Closed; Services Extremely Limited March 29: The park remains open but modifications to operations are in effect to slow the spread of COVID-19, including: closed facilities, limited services, and closures of many areas and roads to vehicles. Rocky Mountain National Park is temporarily closed as of March 20, 2020 Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Rocky Mountain National Park is temporarily closed. Saguaro National Park Visitor Centers and Restrooms are Closed Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from public health authorities, Saguaro National Park is temporarily closing visitor centers, restrooms and all public programs. Fee collection operations are also suspended until further notice. Sequoia National Park is CLOSED Effective 3/25, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. CA Hwy 180 remains open for through traffic to access Forest Service land and private property. All other roads and parking lots are closed. Shenandoah Shenandoah National Park is open Please check our website or social media for details. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is open. Visitor Centers are temporarily closed as of March 18th. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Services, TRNP Visitor Centers are temporarily closed. Updates will be posted to the park website and social media. Virgin Islands National Park is OPEN As of March 23, 2020 the Cruz Bay Visitor Center is closed. All programs are cancelled and all restrooms are closed. Food service and watersports rental at Trunk Bay is closed and fees are not being collected. Park trails, beaches, and waters remain open. Voyageurs National Park is Still Open; Visitor Centers & Headquarters are Temporarily Closed The park remains open to visitors year-round, and we encourage visitors to get outdoors and experience the park. The Rainy Lake Visitor Center and Park Headquarters are temporarily closed. These closures will be evaluated continually as conditions evolve. White Sands National Park is temporarily closed as of Sunday, March 22, 2020. Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, White Sands National Park is temporarily closed. Wind Cave National Park is OPEN Following CDC and state and local public health authority recommendations, the park visitor center and the Elk Mountain Campground are closed now through April 15. Park roads and hiking trails remain open at this time. Yellowstone National Park is closed In consultation with local county health officers to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the park is closed to all visitors until further notice. Yosemite National Park is closed Yosemite National Park has modified operations at the request of the local health department. Yosemite National Park is closed to all park visitors until further notice. Zion National Park is open Zion National Park has limited service available to the public and the park is recommending visitors comply with the Governor’s directive to temporarily discourage unnecessary travel and concentrated recreational use to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

    Budget Travel Lists

    Budget Travel readers' 2020 bucket list

    ©Witold Skrypczak/Alamy Stock Photo Big Bend National Park in Texas provides some of the best stargazing sites in North America. ©John Woodworth/Getty Images Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is beautiful, and Yellowstone is a short drive away! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Las Vegas is a perennial favorite (albeit difficult to do on a budget). ©Yukinori Hasumi/Getty Images New York, New York, the city of lights. ©mtnmichelle/Getty Images Lots of Budget Travel readers are planning trips to Alaska in 2020! ©Valentin Prokopets/500px/Getty Images Who among us wouldn't want a trip to Hawaii? ©pics721/Shutterstock Cruises to the Bahamas can be found for cheap rates! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Charleston, South Carolina, is a great place for a long weekend. ©CPQ/Shutterstock Witness the thunderous natural power of Niagara Falls. ©Micha Weber/Shutterstock New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA), known for throwing a great party. ©Martin Wheeler/EyeEm/Getty Images San Juan in Puerto Rico is an explosion of color! ©cdrin/Shutterstock Seattle, Washington, has great weather and mountain views! ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet Sedona, Arizona, might be a center of mysterious spiritual vortexes. ©lightphoto/Getty Images The Catskills in New York are a great road trip!

    Road TripsBudget Travel Lists

    6 Secret American Road Trips to Add to Your Bucket List

    The United States is renowned for its plethora of jaw-droppingly beautiful stretches of highway. In fact, for many travelers, the very word "America" conjures images not of bustling cities or world-class museums (though the US offers no shortage of them) but of iconic roads such as California’s Highway 1, the Southeast’s Blue Ridge Parkway, and Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. But what about the lesser-known American drives? The ones that aren’t necessarily jam-packed with road trip enthusiasts but nevertheless offer gorgeous scenery, family-friendly fun, education, and even cultural enlightenment? Here, six outstanding “secret” drives that travelers will love to boast about “discovering.” Big Bend, Texas Big Bend National Park, along the Texas border with Mexico, is often overshadowed by its more famous fellow parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon. But a road trip through this gorgeous environment, with its limestone cliffs, scenic overlooks, and Rio Grande River, is a unique way to experience the American landscape. As with many US national parks, Big Bend includes small “villages” that can serve as handy milestones in planning a drive. One option is the Panther Junction-to-Rio Grande Village drive, about 21 miles (34km) passing ancient limestone, scenic overlooks, and opportunities for stopping for a short hike at Boquillas Canyon or the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. Cherokee Hills, Oklahoma This is a lesser-known road trip that provides a healthy dose of cultural education as well. The Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway, in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in eastern Oklahoma, runs about 84 miles (135km), so set aside at least two hours for the drive. But the best approach is to make many stops along the way. You’ll see some of the oldest buildings west of the Mississippi River, many predating the state of Oklahoma itself; five small towns; the Cherokee Heritage Center, where visitors learn about the painful history of the Trail of Tears but also about the modern-day initiatives of the Cherokee Nation; and natural wonders including Lake Tenkiller and Natural Falls State Park. Door County, Wisconsin The Door County peninsula, sometimes called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” is a narrow, beautiful stretch of land between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Its Coastal Byway (Highway 42/57) is a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, covering more than 60 miles (97km) passing through the towns of Sturgeon Bay and Northport. Here, visitors discover the natural beauty and relaxing pace of this prized corner of Wisconsin – including farms known for their fresh cherries, a summer theater festival, and charming communities that hug the lakeshore, offering great food (including house-made ice cream), unique shopping, and forests perfect for easy hikes. Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway Sure, Delaware is one of the smallest states in the US, but it packs plenty of history and natural beauty. The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, in northern Delaware, takes visitors past sights as diverse as the city of Wilmington and the beautiful countryside. Officially only 12 miles (19km) along the Kennett Pike and Montchanin Road, the byway focuses on the 300-year history of the Brandywine Valley and its role in the industrial revolution and the growth of transportation across the early United States. Consider the byway as your introduction to the larger Brandywine Valley region, which stretches into Pennsylvania and includes an array of important historical homes with great art collections, such as the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library; the Nemours Mansion and Garden; the Brandywine River Museum; and the Delaware Museum of Art. Beartooth Highway, Wyoming & Montana Warning: once you’ve driven the Beartooth Highway, which adjoins Yellowstone National Park and is surrounded by national forests and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, you may be spoiled forever. The highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, is a winding route up into the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains – achieving an elevation over 10,000ft (3,000 meters) at its zenith, it’s the highest highway in the northern Rocky Mountains – with peerless scenic overlooks, glacial lakes, waterfalls, and, before you ascend back down, a high alpine plateau above the treeline. Set aside a few hours to truly enjoy the 67 miles (108km) of highway, and get to know one of the gateway communities such as Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, or Cody, Wyoming. Mississippi Blues Trail, Mississippi For an immersion in one of America’s original art forms, the blues, head to Clarksdale, Mississippi, gateway to the Mississippi Blues Trail. Although you’ll see the beautiful sights of the legendary Mississippi Delta along the way, the Blues Trail is not primarily a scenic drive but rather a set of interpretive markers and cultural institutions that visitors can navigate to create their own personalized road trip devoted to Mississippi’s incredible musical legacy. The trip’s mileage and time frame are entirely up to you. Highlights include Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum (where you’ll learn about local luminaries Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson) and Ground Zero Blues Cafe; Indianola’s B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center and Club Ebony (for blues music and soul food); and Greenwood’s Blues Heritage Gallery and excellent restaurants in the historic downtown district.

    National Parks

    The Best US National Park Campgrounds for Every Traveler

    These top US national park campgrounds offer unrivaled scenery, easy access to outdoor fun and prime wildlife watching. Best campground for stargazers Chisos Basin Campground – Big Bend National Park, Texas Flanked by the rugged Chisos Mountains at an elevation of 5400ft, this remote campground doubles as the finest performance hall in the park system. Nearby, an enormous gap in the mountains, known as The Window, frames the West Texas desert far below, and the show at sunset is memorably gorgeous. After the sun drops, Mother Nature pulls back the curtain overhead at this International Dark Sky Park, revealing a dazzling display of more than 2,500 stars on the clearest nights. Website: www.nps.gov/bibeReservations: www.recreation.gov Open: year-round Fee: $14 per night Best campground for amateur geologists Devils Garden Campground – Arches National Park, Utah The enormous red rocks overlooking this popular campground may have been named for the Devil, but wind, rain and the steady march of time did all the hard work in its creation, eroding the fiery sandstone into a fantastical assortment of towering arches and hulking fins. Botanical flourishes include yucca plants, prickly pear cacti and juniper and piñon pines. The only campground in the park, Devils Garden is 19 miles from the entrance to Arches and 23 miles from Moab. Website: www.nps.gov/arch Reservations: www.recreation.gov Open: year-round Fee: $25 per night Best campground for wildlife spotters Cataloochee Campground – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina Elk and wild turkey roam the surrounding meadows and forests with photogenic abandon at this camping spot in the secluded Cataloochee Valley - once a thriving southern Appalachian farm community. Overhunting and loss of habitat caused the decline and disappearance of elk here in the 19th century, but the majestic beasts were successfully reintroduced in the early 2000s. Campsites are scattered between hemlocks and white pines beside Cataloochee Creek. Website: www.nps.gov/grsmReservations: www.recreation.govOpen: mid-Apr-OctFee: $25 per night Best campground for hikers Bright Angel Campground – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona You’ll earn bragging rights after an out-and-back hike to this campground at the bottom of the Big Ditch. Sitting a half-mile north of the Colorado River and shaded by cottonwood trees, this lovely creekside spot is reached by a nearly 10-mile hike from the South Rim or a 14-mile hike from the North Rim. Hard on the knees? Yes. But the vast canyon views on your descent are simply gobsmacking. A Tecate beer at the Phantom Ranch canteen just down the trail is a fine post-hike reward. Website: www.nps.gov/grcaReservations: Fax or mail a backcountry permit request form to the Grand Canyon Backcountry Information Center. See park website for detailed instructions. Open: year-roundFee: Backcountry permit per campsite $10, camping fee per person per night $8 Best campground for families Big Meadows Campground – Shenandoah National Park, Virginia Big Meadows is big fun. Tucked between the Appalachian Trail and lofty Skyline Drive, this woodsy campground is smack dab in the middle of the park – and the action. Kids can tackle the three waterfall trails or walk to the Byrd Visitor Center for Junior Ranger Programs and exhibits about the history of the park. Other distractions include raptor talks in the amphitheater, ranger-led walks through a wetland meadow and wagon rides. Stop by Big Meadows Lodge for trivia nights, craft workshops and live music. The campground is 100 miles southwest of Washington, DC. Website: www.nps.gov/shen Reservations: www.recreation.gov Open: Apr-mid-Nov Fee: $20 Best campground for forest bathers Jedediah Smith Campground – Redwood National & State Parks, California Seamlessly intertwined with three California state parks, Redwoods National Park holds 45% of California’s old-growth redwoods, which are some of the world’s tallest trees. In the northernmost reaches of the 200-sq-mile park, you can pitch your tent inside a thick stand of these ancient showstoppers, all soaring skyward from their lush surroundings. It’s the perfect place for forest bathing, the Japanese-inspired art of relaxing in the company of trees. Several campsites border the Smith River, the longest major free-flowing river in the state. Trails to more redwoods can be accessed from the campground. Website: www.nps.gov/redw Reservations: www.reservecalifornia.com Open: year-round Fee: $35 per night Best campground for beach-goers Assateague Island National Seashore Campground – Maryland This campground is within a national seashore, not a national park, but who’s quibbling with boring federal distinctions when you can camp beside sand dunes a few steps from the surf on a rugged barrier island, with wild horses galloping past as the sun goes down? Add wind-swept sea oats, egrets and herons, crabbing and kayaking, and mythic stories of Atlantic Coast seafarers, and you’ve hit tent-life perfection (but bring bug spray). The campground is 145 miles east of Washington, DC on the Delmarva Peninsula. Website: www.nps.gov/asis Reservations: www.recreation.gov Open: year-round Fee: $30 per night Best all-around campground Norris Campground – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming We’re not saying this is the best campground in the entire national park system, but it does hit all the bases for a satisfying outdoor stay. Spread across a scenic and open lodgepole-pine forest on a sunny hill overlooking meadows and the Gibbon River, this is one of the park’s nicest campgrounds. Watch for roaming bison, attend a campfire program or follow a one-mile trail to the geothermal action at Norris Basin. Centrally located just north of Norris Junction, the campground is a convenient base for exploring the entire park. Website: www.nps.gov/yell Reservations: first-come, first-served Open: mid-May-Sep Fee: $20 per night Visit individual park websites for detailed reservation information; many of these campgrounds also offer first-come, first-served camping. Prices do not include park admission fees. Camping Deals: For great camping deals be sure to check out our partner Campspot. Campspot is the only online booking platform that lets you research, discover, and instantly reserve the best camping stays at the lowest prices from premiere campgrounds across North America. They give campers more control of their trips by offering more options to choose from and an easier way to book. They are experts in the outdoor industry, so they know what campers and campgrounds care about and use technology to better serve them both.

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