Vacationing is such a hassle with the tyrannical rules placed on flying, entering attractions, and staying at accommodations, so where do you go?
Tourists have begun to catch on and are looking for a new experience.
In fact, our national parks have eager travelers flocking by the millions, making it almost impossible to get a peaceful space in nature – unless you follow this insider secret!
According to Travel and Leisure, the number of visitors to national parks has gone up by 60 million since 2020.
Of course, the big name parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite are getting the bulk of the traffic, but all parks have seen an influx.
If you don’t want to hike in a single file line or only get pictures under a waterfall after waiting 45 minutes, then beat the crowds by hitting up the park after dusk.
You may think you’ll miss all the breathtaking views visiting the park at night – but that’s when a whole new world opens up.
The National Park Service has adopted a fitting new slogan to encourage travelers to experience the parks in a whole new light, or rather a whole new dark – “Half the park is after dark.”
Here is a list of the best parks to visit with a flashlight and how to best experience the awe and wonder of nature after hours.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Sand can get hot – like really hot.
But taking a trip to the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado after dark lets you beat the heat and the crowds.
Open 24/7, the park becomes a giant playground once the crowds leave – allowing you to surf the dunes by headlamp or under the setting sun in pure bliss.
Just be aware that the evening winds will pick up, so make sure you wear protective eye gear along with long sleeves and pants.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
The most exciting time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains after hours is in early June when a countless number of rover fireflies light up the area with their bright mating dance.
Elkmont Campground is the most popular place to catch the light show, but tickets sell out quick – so book now!
A great destination close to the Smoky Mountains is Cherokee, North Carolina where the whole family can spend their days enjoying the Cherokee Bear Zoo or hiking one of their many trails.
Death Valley National Park, California
A place like Death Valley may not sound enticing, but the California national park has so much life to offer.
Summer temperatures stay roughly around 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the day which would not be optimal weather to observe the wildlife – unless your plan is to catch lunch and cook it right on the smoldering rocks like one national park visitor did.
At night the park is bustling with coyotes, foxes, raccoons, jackrabbits, and kangaroo rats.
You are almost sure to get a glimpse of wildlife in either the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes or Stovepipe Wells.
Whichever dark adventure you decide on, make sure you come prepared with a unique camping bag equipped for nighttime hiking.
You will need a couple of flashlights, spare batteries, long pants (don’t step on that hungry snake in shorts), and a guide to navigate the areas where trail signs will be tougher to see.
While exploring national parks in the dark presents its own challenges, it also opens up a beautiful world not many get the privilege of enjoying.
The starry skies await!
(h/t Proud American Traveler)