Urgent.ly is headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area and as spring nears, people are talking all about our famous cherry blossoms. According to the National Park Service, “peak bloom” (or when 70% of the blossoms are open) was this past weekend, with thousands of Washingtonians and tourists alike visiting the National Mall and the Tidal Basin to come check out the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
In honor of the cherry blossoms and the upcoming 100th anniversary of National Park Service, we asked the experts: What are your favorite National Parks to visit on a roadtrip? Here are some of their top suggestions.
Congaree National Park (Columbia, SC)
A relatively new addition to NPS, just outside of Columbia, SC (@columbiasc), Congaree protects the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeast US. It has landscape that is stunning and provides families with some up-and-close encounters with flora and fauna and a wide range of activities from various trails to kayaking. According to Andrea Mensink, their Director of Communications, the park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day – and admission and parking are free. And it’s a perfect stop for a roadtrip as it’s super accessible from several major interstates.
White Sands National Monument (New Mexico)
Erin Gifford (@kidventurous), family travel blogger at Kidventurous, took her four children (aged 6-12) on a cross country roadtrip last summer and White Sands was one of their favorites. She says, “there’s nothing better than sliding down sand dunes on snow saucers while watching the sun dip below the horizon.” In addition to the excitement of the dunes, the park also offers ranger-led full moon hikes in the summer.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina – Tennessee)
Blogger Sarah in the Suburbs (@SarahInTheBurbs) shares her experience visiting the Great Smoky Mountains here. She says her family loves it because “there are a lot of natural spaces to explore freely, as well as informational visitor centers that explain what life was like in the mountains of the southeastern US long before there were things like cars and the internet.” And, there’s breathtaking and serene scenery!
Zion National Park (Utah)
Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic (@FamilyVacation), recently went on a National Parks road trip with her family and said that after 9 days, Zion National Park stood out as a family favorite. She says, “The location was fantastic – not too far of a drive from Salt Lake City or the Grand Canyon, and there were a ton of attractions for us to enjoy together.” From hiking to horseback riding, zip-lining to private swimming holes there’s plenty of thrilling adventures.
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Julie McCool (@FunInFairfax) is a travel blogger at Fun in Fairfax VA and mom of twins who recommends Shenandoah as the perfect combination for a road trip – with a gorgeous destination and a beautiful historic road to explore. She says, “the 105 mile long scenic Skyline Drive offers easy access to incredible views, excellent hikes for every age and skill level, and beautiful nature.” Families can hike to amazing views, waterfalls, or even join in on ranger activities at the Visitor Centers.
San Juan Island National Historical Park (Washington State)
Allison Waken (@4theboys) is a blogger at AllForTheBoys.com who loves travel. She suggests San Juan Island as a fantastic choice for a family roadtrip that is also one of the most unique options. She says, “it has an interesting history, uncrowded hiking and biking rails, and features one of the best places in the world for spotting orca whales from the shore.”
Olympic National Park (Washington State)
Travel writer Charles McCool (@CharlesMcCool) recommends Olympic National Park as his family’s favorite roadtrip. He says they “loved experiencing the different climate and ecosystems on the peninsula, seemingly a stone’s throw from Canada.” He and his family rented an RV to fully immerse themselves, enjoying hikes through old growth forests and rain forests, soaking in hot springs, and waking up each morning surrounded by the tallest trees you could imagine.