The good news is that more and more people seem to appreciate our country’s most precious resources — our national and state parks. The bad news is that we seem to be loving them to death. Crowding and all the attendant problems are a reality in Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. How do we avoid the crowded trails, traffic jams and long lines at the gift shops?
First, avoid high season, but even better, don’t go. Instead, visit a lesser-known-but-just-as-beautiful national park. Here are a few suggestions by leading travel writers, authors and environmentalists that were recently published in The Guardian:
• Instead of Montana’s Glacier National Park (3.3 million annual visits), see Washington’s North Cascades National Park (30,000 annual visits). Just 110 miles northeast of Seattle, the latter has 300 glaciers, abundant wildlife, gorgeous scenery and trails.
• Instead of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (15 million), visit Point Reyes National Seashore (2.5 million), both in Northern California. Just 90 miles north of San Francisco, there are 150 miles of trails with views of the Pacific Ocean, and a generous spring wildflower bloom. With high tide, Alamere Falls cascades over a 30-foot shale cliff into the ocean.
• Instead of Bryce Canyon National Park (2.6 million), visit Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (983,000), both in Utah. About 200 miles northeast of Las Vegas, the latter has beautiful slot canyons and other-worldly landscapes at every turn. Research before going because it is a wilderness area.
• Instead of the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park (6.3 million), visit the North Rim and/or the East Rim. Summer crowds can be epic at the South Rim, but those who take the extra time to see the North and/or East rims will be rewarded with epic views and lovely quiet. Note: The East Rim is on the Navajo Nation, which has worked to preserve the isolation and beauty by rejecting bids to develop the area.
• Instead of Zion National Park (4.5 million), see Cedar Breaks National Monument (910,000), both in Utah. You’ll find dramatic landscapes, great trails and explosive wildflowers in Cedar Breaks. Check out the Wildflower Festival in July.
Starting Jan. 7, 2020, travelers can fly nonstop from San Diego (SAN) to San Luis Obispo and to Oregon’s Redmond/Bend region on Alaska Airlines. Tickets are already on sale. Passengers will fly in Alaska’s Horizon Air aircraft, Embraer 175 jets, which feature only window and aisle seating. Between Jan. 7 and May 21, the number of Alaska Airlines flights will increase to these cities: Orlando, Boise, Boston, Santa Rosa and San Jose.
It’s not October yet; nonetheless, Big Bear Lake’s annual Oktoberfest is in full swing. The event, which runs weekends through Saturday, Nov. 2, features German beer, German bands, dancing, contests (log-sawing; stein-holding), and lots of German food. At nearly 6,800 feet, there is plenty of beautiful scenery and cool mountain air in and around Big Bear Lake. Oktoberfest tickets range from $17.99 to $32.99 for adults, depending on the date. Children 12 and under: $11. Purchase tickets in advance at BigBearEvents.com.
There are still three meteor showers on the 2019 celestial books — the nights of Oct. 21, Nov. 17 and Dec. 23 — and lucky for us Southern Californians, two of the best places for viewing the showers are within striking distance: Joshua Tree National Park and the small part of Death Valley that juts into Nevada. Both locations have very little light pollution. Visit https://www.traveltrivia.com/best-places-meteor-showers/.
In the mood to celebrate autumn? The 27th annual Oakhurst Fall Festival will be held Oct. 11 to Oct. 13 in this town of 2,800 just outside the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. The family-friendly event includes, rides, an inflatable obstacle course, food trucks, specialty booths offering collectibles, a scavenger hunt, sampling of local wines and hand-crafted beers, and lots of music. Adults $3; kids under 5 free. Three-day pass $5. https://oakhurstchamber.com/fall-festival/.
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E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.