Published June 2020
The majority of National Parks and coveted hiking trails across the U.S. closed down in recent months to slow the spread of COVID-19. Now, most are reopening to visitors—just in time for National Outdoors Month.
After sheltering in place, we’re all more than ready for a change of scenery and the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones. But, it’s critical to keep safety top of mind. Vacasa travel experts hand-selected some of the best off-the-beaten-path vacation destinations in the country that you can drive to and avoid crowds, from east to west. And, you can choose from Vacasa homes cleaned to CDC and Health Canada standards with private amenities in every remote destination that made the list.
So, take your old hiking boots out of the closet, dust them off, and load your backpack with essentials. Don’t forget your mask and hand sanitizer! Mother Nature is calling.
An enchanting mountain village, Snoqualmie Pass is a hotspot during the winter but has plenty to offer during the warmer seasons. Kayak along Snoqualmie River, or experience the dramatic beauty of Snoqualmie Falls, featured in the cult favorite ’90s show Twin Peaks. Mt. Rainier is open now, too, and it's just two hours away by car—or 63 miles by foot, if that’s what you're into.
Named after the three volcanic peaks outside of town, Sisters is nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, and reminds most visitors of the Old West. Check out the Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway, and test your limits by traversing 40 miles of the Three Sisters Wilderness Area along the Pacific Crest Trail. If you’re feeling inspired by the best-selling book Wild, you can turn your hike into a months-long journey.
Yosemite National Park is now open, and it’s only a half-hour drive from Mammoth Lakes, a small town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite is well known for its towering sequoia trees and roaring waterfalls, but Mammoth Lakes has a unique charm of its own. It’s home to geological wonders like Devils Postpile National Monument and the 101-foot high Rainbow Falls.
Less than an hour drive from Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky is a gateway to unbeatable outdoor adventure. The vibrant community is full of wildlife, whitewater rapids, and canyon ravines. Dip your toes into Lava Lake, and immerse yourself in the towering emerald trees surrounding Ousel Falls.
In the small village of Taos, you can experience authentic cuisine, fine art, and rich spiritual traditions. But, the town’s natural beauty is, without a doubt, the most striking aspect of Taos. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge, there’s plenty to discover. Summit New Mexico’s highest point, 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak, or spend hours exploring the wide open plains of the Río Grande del Norte National Monument.
At the base of the Rocky Mountain National Park, quaint Grand Lake sits along the peaceful shores of Colorado’s largest natural lake. With a population of less than 500, Grand Lake is a true hidden gem. Keep an eye out for bears as you stroll along the Colorado River Trail to the abandoned mining town of Lulu City.
Often called Maine’s most beautiful mountain village, Bethel has a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and an easily walkable downtown. Among alpine peaks in the White Mountain National Forest, breathe the crisp mountain air and experience breathtaking scenery. Bring your binoculars to get a full view of osprey, eagles, moose, and more when you visit the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.
Tucked in the majestic Smoky Mountains, Bryson City is one of North Carolina’s best-kept secrets. A historic town with virtually zero tourists, it has plenty of appeal for those seeking a remote escape. Brave the Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome Trail, or the Appalachian Trail from Nantahala River to Cheoah Bald—but only if you’re an experienced hiker!
Anna Maria is a small town bursting with old Florida charm, and it’s one of the best places in the country to experience wildlife and maritime habitats. While walking miles of untouched white sandy beaches, you can expect to see dolphins, sea turtles, fish, and rare birds. Or, you can head to one of its many serene nature preserves, like Perico or Highlands Hammock State Park.